Sam Gale has had a great start to 2020 with a 2nd place overall in the New Zealand National series and, with his sights set on a top 20 overall for his first year as an elite rider, he has some big ambitions for the rest of the year.
We caught up with Sam to talk about how he got started in downhill, his new deal with Pivot and what he hopes for the future.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I’ve been raised and brought up in Nelson, New Zealand my whole life in a small village 20 minutes from Nelson called Wakefield.
Who do you ride for?
This year I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to ride for Pivot Cycles, which I’m stoked on! Bike's unreal!
How did the deal with Pivot come about?
Bernard got in contact with me and asked if I would be interested riding for Pivot this year with some factory support at the races which is awesome! So I happily said yes and got the bike at Crankworx just gone and met everyone else on the team because I already knew Kurt, Ed and Matt. And it’s sick, such a cool group of people to be hanging around with and it’s just a good vibe.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Usually, I’ll go to work depending on what type of work I’m doing at the time, then come home and do about 2 hours of training whether that’s in the gym, intervals, out riding or road cycling. It depends on what my trainer has set for me.
How did you get into downhill racing?
I used to race motocross but I’ve ridden bikes my whole life. I used to ride the local tracks on my BMX bike because I didn’t have a mountain bike back then, and as soon as that started I loved it so much I got a mountain bike, and then it’s just grown ever since then. I got my first mountain bike in 2013, so it’s pretty cool to look back on and see how far I’ve come since then.
What are your strengths?
That’s a hard one, I’d say my strengths would be finding good lines, and riding smooth. I usually can keep a pretty good flow down the trails, so that would be in there too. I’ve ridden jumps my whole life so I’m pretty comfortable in the air too.
What are your weaknesses?
I think my weakness would be sometimes I get to the bottom of a run and I feel like I haven't pushed hard enough. I’m still riding fast, but to be on the podium you need to be on the edge and sometimes I think I’m going fast enough when I know I can go faster and still be riding within my limits.
What’s been your worst crash?
Last year in April I was riding in Queenstown and I made a mistake on a jump and ended up breaking my collar bone, ball joint in my shoulder, eye socket, bruised my lungs/ribs and knocked my self out while splitting my temple right open. I can’t remember how it happened or much about that day at all, but it wasn’t a fun time that’s for sure!
Do you have any big projects or trips planned for 2020?
Not really any big projects at the moment, but I’m going to be heading to all of the World Cups with the Pivot boys, so that would have to be the biggest trip/trips this year.
Where’s your favourite place to ride?
Well, you can’t beat home! Especially in Nelson, there’s just such good riding for all types of mountain biking and I love it when I come home and get to shred the local trails I’ve grown up on. But if I had to choose another place it would be either Coronet Peak in Queenstown or the Andorra World Cup track. Track's insane!
What bikes are you riding right now?
I’ve just made the switch to Pivot cycles, so I’m riding a 2020 Pivot Phoenix 29er which I love! I’m waiting on my trail bike to arrive, but I’m not sure what one it’s going to be yet. My guess will be a Pivot Firebird 29er. And I have my road bike, which I train on a lot and my BMX bike which I ride when I have some free time.
Who or what inspires you?
The people who inspire me would be my parents. Just the way they treat other people and are always so willing to help out motivates me to treat others in the same way and make them as proud of me as I can.
What do you doing away from bikes?
When I have some free time I try to get out and ride my BMX at the skate park a lot, and the skateboard too. Also just hanging out with my mates getting up to dumb stuff and chilling out is always good.
What do you do to rest and recover after a race?
I try to just chill out for a day or 2, do a lot of stretching and eat some healthy food so my body can recover and get back to training as soon as I can!
What advice would you give to someone trying to get into racing?
I would say just start slowly and build yourself and your skills up gradually. If you go out and try to ride the hardest tracks straight away you’re going to either end up hurting yourself or scaring yourself away from the sport. Just go out, have fun with your mates and work from there.
How do you get focused before dropping into a race run?
I have the same warm-up I do before every race so when I’m doing that I know I’m going to be prepared well. Then 10 minutes before my start time, I visualise the track and myself riding it. Then I roll up to the gate and spin my pedals backwards while the clock counts down, think positive thoughts and hype myself up then go send it!
This is your first year racing in the elites, how have you prepared from the move up from juniors?
Yup, it’s my first year so I’m excited. I’ve just been training hard, and doing as much as I can so I know I’m coming into the season well prepared. It’s going to be a tough season for sure as the pace is so much higher, but I’ve had some good results this year so far and I’m happy with how I’m riding so I’m excited to get the World Cup season started!
You’ve had a great season so far this year, what are your hopes for the rest of the season?
It’s been a pretty awesome start to the season for sure. I just want to continue riding good and be happy with my races. My goals are to try and be top 20 overall this year, because I feel like that would be pretty cool as a first-year elite rider.
Where do you think future or downhill racing is headed?
Tough question haha. I think it’s going in a good direction right now, the vibe at every race is so good and everyone is just happy to be out there riding their bikes and having a good time. The tracks are changing, the bikes are evolving so I think the next 5 years will be very interesting to see where it goes.