When you think about racing and Cube Bikes, the first thing that will surely pop into your mind is enduro. A discipline they embraced a few years ago and if you follow the exploits of the their enduro team, you will know that they don't mess around and have a trophy cabinet to prove it. But for 2016, Cube have their eyes set on another gravity discipline, this time the hotly contested and highly competitive arena of World Cup downhill racing. Cube, who until now, have not fielded a team in downhill, have partnered up with Bliss Protection in 2016 to the form the Cube Global Squad.
Representing a completely new team, the formation of the Cube Global Squad reinforces the importance of this discipline for manufacturers. But more than that, it's the opportunity for the fans to see some new bikes at the races and with them, some new faces as well. Joining this German power house are two of the sports fastest up-and-coming riders. First, a former privateer and 'Vanzac' regular, New Zealander Matt Walker, who joins Scotsman, Greg Williamson, a rider who is no stranger to life on a factory race team. Putting these two talented yet contrasting riders on a brand new team and on an as yet unproven bike will only boost the hysteria surrounding the 2016 UCI World Cup race season. And with that in mind, we caught up with Matt and Greg to find out more...
How old are you?
I'm 25. Where are you from?
I'm from a small town in the north island of New Zealand called Kawerau. Do you have a nickname?
The nickname "Waxer" has started to stick lately with mates and before you ask, no, there's not a weird waxing story behind the name, ha-ha! How long have you been racing DH?
My first race would have been the 2006 pre-worlds event in Rotorua, which I raced on a hardtail. I just crashed my brains out the whole time, but loved it! Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
I was the 2-time, under 17, New Zealand sheep shearing champion. What have you been up to during the off-season?
After World Champs in Andorra, I flew back home to New Zealand and got straight back into working as an electrician in Rotorua to pay the bills. I managed to get sick of that pretty quickly and decided to do something about it. With 2 rounds of the City Downhill World Tour left I talked to the event organisers, sponsors and racked up the credit card bill some more to roll the dice with racing and try winning some good prize money to get myself out of debt after the World Cup season.
A 3rd place at the round in Bilbao (Spain) wasn't enough to pay all the bills, but it was enough to cover the flights to Taxco (Mexico) to give it another nudge! An epic trip to the last round and another 3rd got me out of the red and meant that I could afford to move to Queenstown, which is where I will be based untill the start of the 2016 season. I'm surrounded by amazing riding, have a new coach and solid crew of guys down here. There is nowhere I would rather be, leading up to this season!
So, a new year and a new team - how did this all come about and were you nervous about racing on a new and as yet, unproven bike?
With the success of the Cube enduro team, I knew a venture into World Cup Downhill racing was always on the cards for them and when I received a message from the guys at Bliss saying they had teamed up with Cube to form the Cube Global Squad and they wanted to talk, I was stoked! Nah, no nerves. We've been doing extensive testing with Cube and have been tweaking and developing the bike and set up to be the best it can be and along with the calibre of components we are running, this is going to be one dialed race machine and I’m really looking forward to this season! Can you tell us about the new bike?
We've recently been on a team camp in San Romolo (Italy) where we tested different frames and suspension set-ups, all with Freelap timing and full telemetry data recording, so we got actual numbers to put to it rather than just relying on rider feedback and a stopwatch. I'm confident we’re now on the best set-up we can be, so I'm excited to see how it goes on the World Cup circuit. This is Cube’s first foray into World Cup downhill racing – what’s the ‘game plan’ for the new team?
The game plan is to keep things pretty simple this season as we're a smaller team. We have a good environment where we can do our best, enjoy it along the way and just smash it when it counts! The teams sponsors and supporters have been chosen on quality not quantity, so with the bikes we're on, there's nothing I want to change... Going from the Vanzacs squad to the Cube Global Squad is a big step – how do you think it will be different at the races and will the rest of the Vanzacs still talk to you now you’re on a factory team?
Once a Vanzac, always a Vanzac! There’s no way they’ll stop talking to me. If anything, they will be hanging around even more now - like a flock of vultures waiting for usable scraps! There’s definitely going to be a large step up in professionalism, but there will always be times to have a laugh and some fun with the lads!
As a Vanzac, it’s definitely a struggle at the races. Having to work on your bike, try to find spares and doing DIY fix jobs on parts was really hard work and it does give you a major disadvantage, straight off the bat, both in consistency and quality of results. There were times at World Cups where I would miss big chunks of practice because I was trying to find parts so I could get back riding... I'll always have respect for the guys going after it as privateers! But with the Cube Global Squad, I’m really looking forward to having the quality support I need in my corner for a change. It’s going to take a huge load off my shoulders and allow me to focus on racing and doing what I know I can!
Did you know Greg before signing with Cube?
The World Cup circus is a pretty small scene so after a few seasons of begging for old tires or rims, you do get to know most people around and I was stoked to hear I'd be riding with Greg as we got along pretty well. I reckon I could learn a lot from his experiences of being on TWR for a few years, so hopefully we can both push each other and bring different things to the table and help develop each other's riding! Aside from the World Cup series, what other events will you be attending?
I'm frothing for all kinds of riding and racing, so I want to do it all! But aside from the World Cup series, I'll be attending the 3 stops of the Crankworx series, selected European Cups and some EWS rounds where possible. Hopefully I’ll get to some City Dowhnill World Tour events and what ever else I can make work this season! Which single race or event in particular, are you most looking forward to in 2016?
That's a hard one! There are too many good races throughout the year to call just one and they all have their own unique pros and cons, and with so many variables on the day that can swing how you feel about it. But, if I had to choose one, I'm thinking Val Di Sole (Italy) for World Champs. It's a legendary track, has a great atmosphere and hopefully they'll bring back that Italian System of a Down cover band to play at the after party too, ha-ha! Who or what would you say has influenced your riding over the years?
For me, my influence has not always been about who’s the fastest or the best in the world, it's the people around me who are having a good time and actually enjoying what they're doing. So my biggest influence I guess, has been just to have fun riding my bike! Whether I get that enjoyment out of pushing my limits at a World Cup or just throwing in some goon bike park laps with the boys, it's all good in my books! What are your personal goals for 2016?
I would definitely like to improve my consistency with racing. I feel I’m capable of being a constant top 30 finisher and the ultimate goal of a top 10. I’m now working with a coach for the first time and pushing myself 10-times harder than ever before with my preparation for this coming season, so I'm feeling like it's going to be a good one!
You’ve been traveling the world and racing bikes for some time now – what’s been your most memorable moment?
There have been far too many amazing moments, which have happened in some amazing places and when you sit back and take it all in, you just think, "life doesn't get much better?" I'm also glad I got to share these moments with some really good friends, but the most memorable was a weird one, that's for sure!
It would have to be this one time, back in in 2013… We had been driving in a van convoy for hours and it was about 2am when we decided to stop for the night. We found a spot behind this petrol station on the side of a highway. We set up for the night and everyone fell asleep. About 10-minutes in, this station wagon pulls up right behind us and after hearing the classic horror stories about bad stuff going down on the side of highways over night, myself and Tom Matthews decided to have a little sneaky watch out the side window to see what was going on.
The area was dimly lit, but there was enough light to make out shapes and movement. There was a younger guy - maybe in his mid-30’s pushing 5 old homeless/ drunk/ drugged up looking guys out of his car - one of which was even in a wheelchair! They have some ratty blankets and cardboard and set up on the ground a few meters away from our van in the dark shadows and most of them just lie down and go to sleep, except one....
So we just sat there, watching him out the windows and mirrors. He must have been drunk or something, stumbling around the vans and annoying the other guys trying to sleep on the ground. We couldn't understand their murmurings so we didn’t have a clue what was going on, but either way, one of them was getting sick of him. After a bit more arguing they broke into a little scuffle and then out of nowhere, we hear this loud 'thump' and he’d been hit over the head with a big rock by this other guy!
Blood starts pouring out of his head and we were in shock of what's going on only a few meters away from us with no idea what to do. We had no working phone to call from, no idea where we were and no idea what this other guy - the one who drove them there - would do if we caused a scene. So this old guy stumbles away, covered in blood swaying even more now and we were just expecting to see him collapse and die, it was crazy. But for the next half an hour, he just kept shuffling around the car park, around our van and just mumbling to himself the whole time...
Eventually he lay down in the grass and by that point we were so tired after a big day it didn't take long for us to crash out while trying to keep watch. I woke back up at about 6am when I realized that I’d fallen asleep. We got out of the van to check and they were all gone. The only evidence left behind were a few spots of flattened grass from where they’d slept and the smears of blood on our van. Oh, and an electrical box where that guy had been trying to write a message with his blood! I still have no idea what went on that night or what that whole situation really was, but it stuck with me and it would definitely have to be the most memorable things to happen to me! So, how’s your German?
What is Germany?
How old are you?
I'm 23. Where are you from?
I'm from the Black Isle, Inverness, Scotland. Do you have a nickname?
Unfortunately… It's G-willy, Igor, Geezy and Willyskin, ha-ha! How long have you been racing DH?
9 years. Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
Uh, I dunno? I kind of have an addiction with peanut butter, its pretty serious...
What have you been up to during the off-season?
Well, typically my off-season starts with some time to rest and reflect on the season, which turned out to be a pretty big learning year in 2015. It's always a good time to chill with family and friends, enjoy the end of summer and have a few nights out!
And then of course, get back into training. This off-season, I've been getting into some cyclocross racing, hitting the gym and lots of road cycling too. I like to go to Southern Spain when winter hits hard here and it’s pretty wet and cold in the UK right now. So, a new year and a new team - how did this all come about and were you nervous about racing on a new and as yet, unproven bike?
I’m excited… It came about when Matthias (Team owner) contacted me saying they had plans to start a team. I was on the market and interested so shortly after a few talks with the team, I flew out to Cube’s HQ in Germany where they gave me a tour and met the guys, which included Michael Prell (creator of the TWO15 DH bike) who played a significant part in my decision to join Cube. He expressed some pretty knowledgeable information during our first test session on the new bike and was very helpful with a great attitude. Flying home, I didn’t have much to be nervous about. Can you tell us about the new bike?
For sure, so during my visit to Cube's HQ, we went to a local test track with the new ‘TWO15’ DH bike. First impressions were how great it turned corners and how easy it was to place wherever I wanted it be. After a decent day’s testing we found some small improvement’s we could make, which lead to a prototype. We then followed this up with a week’s testing in Italy where we continued to put it through its paces and yet again, we had the same good feeling and a faster race bike!
This is Cube’s first foray into World Cup downhill racing – what’s the ‘game plan’ for the new team?
I’ve said this already to a few guys, but it’s cool for me because It’s a blank canvas… The start of a new team so I’m going to make the most of it and hopefully begin some great history for Cube in UCI DH racing. Going from a large team to one with just two riders, how do you think the ‘team dynamic’ will differ?
I like it. With a smaller team, it’s a bit easier for a rider to focus on the job at hand. As a team, we have some great resources so I look forward to exercising them at the races this year. Did you know Matt before signing with Cube?
Yeah I did, I’m pumped! He’s a talented rider and good laugh so I have no doubt we’ll have some fun and hopefully we can push each other up to that next level this year. Aside from the World Cup series, what other events will you be attending?
Some UK races, British National Championships, Dirtmasters, Crankworx and some EWS.
Which single race or event in particular, are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Lourdes, France… I’ve definitely got some redemption for that course ha-ha! Who or what would you say has influenced your riding over the years?
Well obviously the guy’s at the top of the sport, the ones who are always winning – they have something about them that gets you think thinking… How could I improve things to be in that position? In the earlier days, I guess having Alex Rankin and Clay Porter DVD’s to watch really influenced my riding as I remember watching them on repeat, over and over again, before and after riding, just wanting to be in them! What are your personal goals for 2016?
As always, I’m just going to enjoy myself. I just love riding my bike and racing is my way of expressing it. I will go through my pre-season training as planned then turn up to the World Cup’s and give it my all. You’ve been traveling the world and racing bikes for some time now – what’s been your most memorable moment?
It’s got to be my my 20th birthday at the Fort William, World Cup I got my first top 10 there too and in front of my family, some of which had never seen me race let alone like that - it was really great moment for me. So, how’s your German?
Scheise en housen!
Here's the official press release from the team...
Cube Bikes are well known around the world for their full suspension trail bikes, but have been absent in the downhill scene for a long time. In 2016, with their all-new Two15 DH bike, one of Europe’s largest bike manufacturers has joined with BTC Racing to strike back and form the Cube Global Squad. From the get go, the main objective was to build a competitive bike that can compete in the World Cup circuit. Because of his, kinematics expert and head engineer at Cube Bikes, Michael Prell, has put a huge amount of effort into its development:
|The goals that we wanted to achieve with the development of the new Two15 DH bike was to build a race ready bike for the DH World Cup, but would still be adaptable for the needs of different riders. This decision helped us to decide upon aluminium as the material of choice and help to keep it both reliable and lightweight. - Michael Prell|
Greg Williamson from Scotland and Matt Walker from New Zealand will ride in 2016 under the flag of the Cube Global Squad. Greg is only 23-years old, but has managed to already get some solid results under his belt. Along with Matt Walker, the 25-year-old privateer for the last couple of years, the Squads roster is complete.
|Greg and Matt are great individuals and I'm more than stoked to have both gentleman on the team. Matt impressed me in 2015 when he managed to nail down an 11th place finish at Windham out of nowhere. I knew from the beginning that I wanted this guy on the roster. Along with Greg who has proven many times he has the momentum to gain frequent top results and has some experience being apart of a professional race team, the Cube Global Squad is complete. It's gonna be a hell of a year. - Andi Nitsche,Team Manager.|Greg Williamson (United Kingdom)
During his young career, Greg has achieved several top 30 positions including a 9th place finish at the Méribel World Cup in 2014:
|I was honored to be approached by Cube Bikes/Bliss Protection and proud to be representing such a good family of people and from what I have seen already, it's enough to put my utmost trust in them and now, all that's left is for me to give back the results I know I'm capable of. Joining 'Cube Global Squad' as the new factory team is cool for me because it's a blank canvas in World Cup downhill racing and I'm really looking forward to loose on the new 'Two15' DH bike at Lourdes, France, for round 1 of the 2016 World Cup series. - Greg Williamson.|Matt Walker (New Zealand)
Matt is a man of many faces. From City Downhill, to Crankworx and the UCI downhill World Cup, he does it all:
|After doing all the hard work as a privateer, I'm so pumped to be on board with the Cube Global Squad and to have the support needed to race consistently and competitively at the highest level. Straight away I feel at home on the bike and with a dream build and ultimate support from the team's sponsors, the bike is dialed and 2016 is looking to be a great year! I'm hoping to improve on last seasons results with more consistency and with the correct preparation that I now have in place, I feel like 2016 is going to be my best season yet! - Matt Walker.|
Frame: Cube Two15 HPA Cube Global Squad anodized
Fork: Fox 40 Float
Shock: Fox DHX2
Stem: Atlas DM 35
Handlebar: Race Face Atlas 35mm
Grips: Cube Fritzz Grip
Brake: Magura MT7
Crankset: Race Face SIXC
Wheelset: DT Swiss FR 570, 240S Straight Pull hub
Tires: Schwalbe Magic Mary Super Gravity 27,5 x 2,35
Tubes: Schwalbe Pro-Core
Saddle: SDG Fly Cube Global Squad Edition
Seatpost: SDG Micro Carbon
Chain Guide: MRP G4
Pedals: Crankbrothers Mallet DH/Race
Cables & Housings: CapGo Race Division
Cube, Bliss Protection, Schwalbe, Fox, Magura, RaceFace, 100%, DT Swiss, CapGo, MRP, SDG, Biknd and Crankbrothers.