Elliott HeapEven at just 20 years old, Elliott has certainly made an impression on the sport since transitioning from motocross in 2013. In his first elite year racing DH World Cups, Elliott was a regular top-30 rider and has continued to show his intentions. After the CRC/Mavic team announced they'd be focusing their efforts solely on enduro at the end of 2017, Elliott had already built up a strong understanding of how to be competitively successful. Luckily for Elliott, enduro wasn't a new discipline and as we can see from his form in 2018, he's exceptionally talented. We caught up with Elliott to find out how his racing is going, what it's like being on a team with such legendary and seasoned veterans and how he feels about winning his first EWS title.
Who is Elliott Heap? Describe yourself.
I'm Elliott, I'm a 20-year-old lad who grew up racing motocross and I've always loved 2 wheels. I currently race the Enduro World Series on my Nukeproof Mega 275c and love every minute of it!
Where are you from and where do you live?
I was born in a town called Wigan (it's the meat pie capital of the world) in the northwest of England and I've lived in a little village called Abram all my life. It's not a very big place, and everyone kind of knows everyone. Wales is just over an hours drive away, but other than that, locally there aren't many big hills or many trails for me to go to. But I make use of what I've got and make it work!
When did you start mountain biking?
I started mountain biking in 2013 after racing motocross for 8 years. I managed to break three bones on separate occasions in what turned out to be my last year of racing the two-stroke bikes and I decided it was time to try something new. When I started mountain biking, I began by doing a few cross country races which was an accident, being new to the mountain bike world at the time! Me and my dad didn't have a clue what races to book me in. So I did 2 XC races and hated both of them on my 150mm travel Trek remedy! After that I did a Mini Enduro race at Caersws and got my first podium which I was stoked about and from then on, enduro it was.
Has anyone inspired you to get to where you are?
My main inspiration to get where I am today has got to be my Dad. He always used to say, "do something you enjoy son, don't end up stuck doing something you hate for the rest of your life," and he's given me every possible opportunity a son could ever wish for to chase my dreams and do something I enjoy.
He's carted me around up and down the country since I was 6 years old doing everything he can to give me the best chance at doing what I love.
After racing Motocross for so long it was a tough decision to put down the throttle and pick up a pedalled powered machine, but my Dad sold my motorbikes and bought me a bike to give it the best crack we possibly could. I really can't thank my Mum, Dad and my little bro enough for putting everything into getting me, here couldn't have done it without them.
What is your favourite type of riding?
The wettest, rooty, steepest, tightest, technical track you could possibly throw me down!
What do you think your strengths are? And your weaknesses?
I'd say my strengths are riding technical sections - the bits where you think 'is that even rideable?' I always manage to find a way that works for me also despite having a few mechanical issues this year I've ridden quite consistently, not making too many mistakes which is something I have struggled with in the past
My weaknesses are definitely a 4X start gate [Ed: check out Elliott's 'snap' here
] for 1... Another thing I need to work on is carrying speed through flat awkward rocky turns which I find quite hard. There were loads in Ainsa this year and the tracks where so dry it made it really hard for me to figure out how much front end traction I actually had.
What made you want to start racing?
I've always loved racing. When I was a kid I used to cry when I got second place - I was probably too competitive for my own good! I love the feeling of winning, it's a feeling like no other being stood on the top of that box after trying everything in your power to top the other guys. But yeah racing is something I've always done and I don't think I'll ever stop doing!
What was it like transitioning from DH to enduro?
The thing is, I raced enduro before DH so have always known what it's about. Going from the World Cup level of DH racing where everything has to be 110% perfect to do well, to enduro where everything is all about being smooth, consistent and riding at a speed you can carry through sections you don't know too well.
For me, training for one discipline has definitely helped my performance this year. One thing that does help the transition is my training now includes a lot of bike time and the only bike I train on is the bike I race on, so I know it so well and can ride it locally instead of having to go somewhere on an uplift with the DH vessel.
How did this year's racing go?
Ok. I had a lot of bad luck but that's how it goes. I managed to come out on top which is my biggest achievement in life so far. I struggled with illness in Ainsa which hindered my performance and meant it all came down to the last round in Finale which I just managed to win and take the overall.
Were you happy with all your results or could you have ridden better/harder/faster?
I was happy with most of my performances and obviously with only riding every track once mistakes are going to happen, but I'm getting better at managing them and am still learning so much at every race. I feel at times throughout the year I could have ridden faster. But, I always give everything I've got although sometimes that can make you slower! It's all about being smooth, consistent and carrying speed which in getting better at but still have a long way to go.
What are your goals now you've won the U21 EWS?
Mix it up with the big boys next year!
What's it like being on a team with Sam and Nigel?
It's awesome. I had the option at the start of last year to stick with downhill and try to find a deal elsewhere or stick with these boys and I'm so glad I made the right decision - every year with the team is awesome. Throughout the season I spend so much time with Nigel he's definitely more of a mate than a boss, that bloke has done so much for me over the last 4 years and I definitely would not be where I am without that guy!
Sam is he's one of the nicest dudes around, despite winning countless world titles he's a down to earth family man and I have so much respect for him. Being on a team with the best in the world to follow and learn from is awesome and a great opportunity for me! Cheers boys for putting up with the earache for so long!
So what does the future hold for you?
Hopefully a lot more bike riding and a few more trophies, we'll have to see!
Do you think you'll go back to racing any DH?
Personally, I don't think I will go back to racing every World Cup. I may race the odd few but I'm happy with the enduros and after racing an EWS you realise how little bike riding you actually do at a DH race. Granted that at the EWS you spend a lot of time pedalling up liaisons but you're still on your bike, pedalling and doing what you love.
What do you think the future of our sport – enduro and downhill – holds?
I think the whole bike industry is on the rise at the moment and it's always awesome to see more and more people out on two wheels. In terms of DH, I don't know what will happen with it some people think it's a dying discipline but it's the Formula 1 of mountain biking so it's always going to be around. But now we've got these enduro bikes coming into the mix, for example, my race bike has 180mm forks and 165mm travel rear, I can pedal that all day long, ride some of the gnarliest stuff and it just takes it all in its stride. I don't even own a DH bike at the minute I do everything on my enduro bike.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
I'd just like to thank everyone who's helped me along the way to get to where I am. I always appreciate every bit of help and support I get!Photo Credits: Nukeproof and Laurence Crossman-Emms