REVIEW: WON'T BACK DOWN - THE STEVE PEAT STORY Directed by: Clay Porter and John Lawlor
|As athletes we live more than any rich yacht owning motherf*cker could ever live in his life. When you risk your ass going down that hill and you stand on that podium. There's no f*cking drug in the world that gives you a high like that. And I've done a lot of drugs. And it doesn't even f*cking compare to that f*cking feeling of being the best in the f*cking world. - Shaun Palmer, Won't Back Down |
The most illuminating quote in the movie comes from Shaun Palmer. Now, that may seem a little contradictory considering the film in question is Won’t Back Down: The Steve Peat Story
(and not The Miserable Champion,
the Shaun Palmer documentary). Palmer’s quote, profane, and vitriolic, could never come from the mouth of Steve Peat. And that’s why Palmer burned so brightly and left so young. He loved the thrill of victory and the alpha male status that came with being the best. Peaty just loved (and still loves) riding his bike.
The very first UCI-sanctioned Downhill Mountain Bike World Championships were held in 1990 at Durango Mountain Resort, in Purgatory, Colorado. The podium was swept by Americans, and Greg Herbold was crowned as the very first World Champion of downhill. Purgatory.
It's a state of suffering in Christian ideology, and it's an apt term to describe how Peat probably felt when he finished second at the World Championships in 2000 at Sierra Nevada, or after his silver medal from Vail, in 2001, or perhaps in 2002 in Kaprun; or maybe it was in 2008 that he felt it, at Val di Sole, when it finally seemed as if luck was on his side. Sam Hill
crashed on his race run while holding a 6 second lead, and Peat held on to the hot seat with one rider left. Then Gee Atherton stormed down the course en route to his first World Championship win. Peat was 34 at the time, with three World Cup overall titles (2002, 2004, 2006) and four World Championship silver medals. Questions had already begun to swirl regarding his age and a World Championship curse that seemed unshakable. But then Peat did what he always does on race day, he rode as fast as he could, and took home the 2009 World Championships in Canberra, Australia.
Every die hard race fan, and most casual Pinkbike readers, will know something of the history of Steve Peat. It's a life story so deeply entwined with the World Cup circuit as to be inseparable, and that's what Won't Back Down
is: the complete history of professional downhill racing as seen through Peaty's eyes. Covering the evolution of a sport over the course of 20 years may seem like a daunting task, but it's one that's taken on with consummate skill by co-directors Clay Porter and John Lawlor. Porter is the man behind some of the most iconic DH movies of the past decade, and his filmography: The Spectacle
, The Second Spectacle
, Between the Tape
, The Tipping Point
, and 3 Minute Gaps
, spans from the pre-Youtube NORBA era all the way up to our current Red Bull sponsored World Cup live streams. Lawlor first collaborated with Porter on 2010's Three Minute Gaps
, and spent the past decade racing World Cups (he retired in 2006), and subsequently documenting them for Specialized, and Santa Cruz. You'd be hard pressed to find two more experienced World Cup filmmakers, they know the cold muck of a World Cup course just as well as the athletes.
Won't Back Down
|Vouilloz was Darth Vader, he was the boss. - Steve Jones, Won't Back Down |
is billed as the definitive story of Steve Peat, but how does one tell the life story of a man who has probably had more media coverage than any racer in history. You start at the beginning. The film covers Peaty's entire career, from his childhood in the town of Sheffield, where he gleaned his nickname Sheffield Steel (which, you'll learn, replaced his earlier monikers ''Pinball Wizard'' and ''Sketch Peat'' - he crashed hard and regularly), to the influence of Jason McRoy and the utter dominance of Nicolas Vouilloz, then to Shaun Palmer, Sam Hill, and an endless parade of World Championship silver medals. During that time Peaty started a family and became one of the biggest names in the sport, a three time World Cup champion, known for both his flat out riding and his good-natured personality.
Earthed, Sprung, Porter's own filmography. There have been a number of classic race movies made over the past 15 years, but to my eyes, Won't Back Down is the best mountain bike race documentary ever made. Porter and Lawlor have crafted something extremely rare in mountain biking - a film that tells a real story. This is a film that will appeal to those nostalgic for the days before working suspension (never mind 650b wheels) and the ignorant few, who know nothing of Steve Peat. Porter and Lawlor have gathered an incredible array of archival footage and still photos, and their interviews with the likes of Rob Warner, Shaun Palmer, Nicolas Vouilloz, Greg Minnaar, and Nigel Page (among many others), allow the characters to tell their own stories. The film, Peaty's life story, is perfectly bookended by his World Championship victory, and it's hard not to wonder if we would have ever seen this film without Peat's 2009 triumph. True to the movie title, Peaty never quit chasing his dream, and he still has plenty of great racing left in him, in April he finished 7th at the Cairns World Cup and beat riders half his age.
You already know the race results, so why watch this movie? Watch it for the history lesson, and the story, the characters, and the riding, but most of all watch it for Peaty. Won't Back Down
will make you feel as if you've spent two hours with the man, an omniscient spectator on his life's journey through victory and defeat. And really, who wouldn't want to go for a pedal and a pint with Peaty? At 40 years of age (in June), Peaty has spent 21 seasons racing, and amassed 17 World Cup wins, three World Cup overall titles, and one World Championship. But his life, and this film are about so much more than that. Won’t Back Down
is the story of one indomitable spirit, and the way that mountain bikes have shaped his life story. Nearly every piece written about him asks one of two questions: ''how do you stay motivated?'' And, ''When when will you retire?'' After 21 years of racing on the World Cup circuit (that's longer than Loic Bruni's been alive!), Peaty's answer remains the same:
Won't Back Down
|When I first started out in this sport, it was all about having fun - playing with my mates - with a bit of racing thrown in. Nothing has changed. - Steve Peat, Won't Back Down |
will inspire you to let your fingers off the brakes, and that's something Peaty, Porter, and Lawlor, should be proud of.
Download the film on iTunes
Review: Scott Secco
Film directors: Clay Porter and John Lawlor
Still Photography: Duncan Philpott