A relatively new face in the scene; Juan Diego Salido aka Johny Salido. Juan was the silver medalist at Marzocchi Proving Grounds last month earning himself a spot at this year's Red Bull Rampage. We had a quick chat to pick his brains on the event and his future schedule.
Juan, is this your first time in Wales or the UK? How are you finding it?
Yeah. It's cool, it's super beautiful. I didn't imagine it was going to be like this, but yeah first time and so stoked to be here.
You thought it was going to be wet?
I thought it was just going to be different - I really can't explain how, but I didn't expect this. I'm really surprised but really stoked.
Please can you give us a brief summary of your riding career to this point?
I started racing downhill a couple of years ago in Mexico. I always loved to jump and do tricks so I started making my way into freeride. Then mainly concentrated on that, but I always snuck in a couple of races in the year because I've always loved racing too. This is the perfect venue for me - big jumps and racing.
How are you finding the course and event?
The course is gnarly, I'd say its the gnarliest trail in the world for sure just because of the combination of massive jumps - and I mean massive, like 60ft plus jumps. And then the parts between the jumps is super gnarly, like way gnarlier than the jumps. So its super fun, scary but super fun.
How was it putting a full run together?
More exhausting than scary, once you get your lines dialled it's all good. But it's such a hard race, you start getting arm pump right at the top. So it's pretty hard, right at the end I was telling myself to let the brakes go and just finish the race. And I managed to do that so I'm pretty happy. Whilst I didn't qualify I was glad to finish a timed run, my ankle is still sore from an injury and I want to look after it for Rampage. So happy to be down in one piece really.
What is the most challenging feature to ride?
I'd say the most technical part is between the jumps, on the GoPro it doesn't look steep. Once you're through these parts I'm like, wow the jumps are easy once you get the right speeds.
Looking at the overall picture, what's the most challenging aspect of this event? The speed, the mental game...?
I'd say the mental part, just because it's so exposed. You can really have a bad crash and a bad accident at any time. It's important to stay focused on your run, not like a racing mentality but just to finish the course with no crashes. Maybe lower your level down a bit, and I think consistency is what wins this race.
What's your favourite thing about the event?
The vibe. It's just so cool, the Red Bull guys killed it with the event. They've been taking us around, just having a good time. They took us to a rugby match, we got way more beat up at the rugby game than we have here at the mountain. But it's super cool, the vibe, the people. Definitely coming back next year!
With no World Cup experience, how does it feel being pitched against some of the best racers in the world?
It feels really good, it's so cool that some of my idols like Gee and Fairclough are now my rivals. It's like I never imagined when I was a kid that I'd be here. It just makes me want to go like 100%.
Have you had to change much on your bike for this event versus Red Bull Proving Ground?
Yes! My set up for Proving Ground was stiff, like as stiff as it can get. A lot of PSI in my suspension, a super stiff spring on my rear shock, tyres were like 40psi in each.
Coming here I had to change the spring - to a way lower spring, take down the PSI in the fork, take my brake levers up - because I had them set up for tricks. Dropped the tyre pressure and a couple of tweaks to the bar position. So yeah I'd say completely different!
I change my bike set up a lot depending on what I'm riding. I'd say Hardline requires a stiffer set up than my usual go to downhill set up but not as stiff as Proving Grounds, or as what I'll be running at Rampage next month.
Are all the components the same?
Yes, I ride the same bike and components.
Are you ready for Rampage?
I am! It's my dream come true. I went into Proving Grounds hoping to do my best, but not expecting to go to Rampage. Then I did, and I was like woah! Dream come true. So yeah I go to the desert in a month, already got my building crew ready and everything.
So I guess you're pretty happy with the new Rampage format, introducing Proving Grounds rather than invite only?
Yeah, totally. I think it's a good thing just to make it grow. Just because, I won't say impossible, but it was close to impossible to get into Rampage if you weren't already there. So this gives us the opportunity to prove ourselves and go big with all the boys! So stoked to be heading out there.
It was great to meet you Juan, well done on your efforts and best of luck for Rampage!