Sam Hill gave enduro racing a go back in 2015 at the Enduro World Series in Rotorua, New Zealand, where the five-time DH World Champion earned a respectable ninth place. It wasn’t like Sam needed a post-retirement hobby. Quite the opposite: after joining the Chain Reaction team, Hill was once-again smashing out World Cup DH podiums with that quiet, hunter-killer expression his competitors have learned to respect. Downhill fans had little to fear that Hill would jump ship to enduro—the flat-pedal poster child was tagged as a steep-track specialist who lacked the top speed to win on pedaling courses. Or, so it seemed.
The following year, Hill contended a number of EWS races in earnest, ruffling the feathers of the world’s trail bike meisters with a surprising, second place in Wicklow, Ireland, then backing up that performance with a win in Valberg, France. Turns out that the Aussie Downhiller could pedal a bike in earnest, and fan’s worries that Sam might switch to single-crown forks were Justified, when he skipped the final DH World Cup race of 2016 and missed the World Championships.
Hill charging for his first EWS victory in Valberg, France.
Hill’s commitment to enduro racing could not be ignored this year. Sam threw in for a full season of EWS racing for 2017 and set his sights on the overall title: Fourth place at round one in Rotorua, New Zealand; Third place at round two in Derby, Tasmania; Fifth place at round three in Machico, Madeira; Second place at round four in Wicklow, Ireland; a sixth at round five in Millau, France; and a first place finish at the most recent EWS held in Aspen, Colorado. Posting consistent results during a season fraught with torrential rains and dangerous conditions is a testament to Hill’s otherworldly skills on the bike, and also to his mission. With two races left on the EWS calendar
, Hill stands firmly within reach of his goal.Sam Hill // Enduro
We caught up with the man of few words before the EWS Canadian Open at Whistler Crankworx for a short interview about downhill, enduro racing, and what the future may hold.
When you decided to give the EWS a go, was there a vision that you could win this thing, or did you take a wait and see approach?
Yeah. I think, once I decided I wanted to race the EWS full time, I set my goal to try and win it. I know what I'm capable of doing on a bike, especially if I'm motivated and determined.
Compared with World Cup DH, which aspects do you like more about enduro racing? What do you miss about DH?
I just like riding and racing new and exciting tracks. With DH, I was just bored of the same schedule and venues every year. Enduro is new to me and exciting, and I'm having a lot more fun doing the EWS series this year.
You are famous for innovative lines and riding techniques. What have you learned, racing the EWS?
I think a lot of the stages in EWS, you never know one hundred percent of what's coming up, so you need to be ready to deal with riding things at race pace and making line choices on the go. That makes things exciting to me.
The EWS travels to some great locations. Do you take your family with you?
I'd love to be able to travel with my family, but unfortunately, it's a big challenge and expense with three small kids. Hopefully, they will get a chance to see me race at some stage.
Describe the kind of terrain and track that would be the perfect Sam Hill stage.
I just like it natural and technical, when you can be creative and make jumps and gaps off what's already there. I also enjoy just riding difficult lines off the main line that most people use.
Committing to enduro in 2017, Hill moved to the front quickly, with a solid fourth place at the greasy EWS opener in Rotorua.
Now that you're an established threat on the EWS circuit, are you looking at a second career?
I wouldn't really call it a second career, I've just found a different discipline that I'm enjoying a lot more. It's new and fresh to me, so I'm glad I made the decision to race enduro full time. I guess I was getting burnt out on DH a bit, so hopefully having fun racing the EWS will allow me to have a longer career doing what I love.