The life of a privateer racer: pretty much every world champion and world cup winner has experienced it. Living off a shoe string, sleeping in your van after late nights fixing your bike before the race and sorting out your own training and diet plans! It can seem like a lot of time, effort and money just to race your bike, but for some it’s a way of life!
So, Shaun, who are you and where are you from?
So, my name is Shaun Richards. I’m 22 years old, and I live in a little village in West Wales called Cross Hands, otherwise known as farmers Country, haha.
How old were you when you first found your passion for riding bikes?
I started to ride bikes at the young age of 3 or 4 years old. I have brief memories of a number of incidents I had at that age due to learning how to ride, I remember shortly after getting to grips with the whole riding a bike thing. I had these plastic ramps in the garden, so I thought it would be a good idea to place them down the garden path, which is less than a meter wide with bricks build up on both sides. Anyway, long story short, I hit the jump, landed and almost shot over the bars! Luckily I managed to hold on to it and plowed into the corner of the garage and split my lip open, good times haha!
It all began from there really. My Grandfather (Lori Jones) which as of late passed away, R.I.P; and god bless his soul, taught me how to ride a bike. I have pictures and many memories of him holding the back of my seat and just walking around with me until he finally let me go without me knowing, and from there I just took off and took to it straight away. I will be forever grateful to my grandfather because without him I wouldn’t be doing what I do today, and that is riding a bike for a living. A truly blessed feeling so I can’t thank him enough for everything he has ever done for me!
What sort of trails do you normally ride when your at home?
The trails that I have at home are steep and very technical. The local downhill tracks that I can uplift, The Graig and Abernant were built by a big group of us, Duncan porter, Nick, Sam Robson, Tom Bishop and plenty more. People come and ride there with me and are just blown away by how technical the tracks are! The ground is a very greasy clay with a few layers of fresh loam on top, the tracks are full of big jumps, drops and chutes, you name it we have it. The local cross country trail called ‘The Hill’ was again built by the same group of us. Its just steep, technical, old school tracks, none of the flat out open easy tracks. Its just all raw and natural with features to scare you over and over again! Just riding them in the winter alone scares you enough, steep is an understatement. I’ve seen some big crashes on both the downhill tracks and also the trail bike side of the hill. So I guess you can say the local riding is absolutely amazing right now!
What made you decide to take up racing?
I get asked this one quite often! So, my friend and riding partner, Thomas Owens was racing the local races before I ever raced, and one day he saw the raw speed and skill that I had on a bike and basically asked me if I wanted to give it a go. I had to borrow his bike because I only had a Saracen hard tail at the time, which is ironic as they are my bike sponsors today! So I borrowed Toms spare bike which was a bright white Specialized Big Hit and we traveled down to what was known as the ‘UK Bike Park’ on a horrible windy and rainy day. I remember the track was a river and just so blown out due to the weather. I was a juvenile (1st year) and I raced it with no expectations and I won by over 9 seconds or something stupid like that! So, first race, first place and I was just hooked from there really! It was like this is what I want to do! I couldn’t let go of my big trophy all the way home, its in a very good spot in the house and whenever I see it I always remember the memories.
How did you find the step up to the elite category after getting some solid results in experts?
So all through experts I was constantly checking times and comparing and just generally keeping an eye but I feel like I started on the back foot in a way. Not by being unprepared or anything like that, its just times were so tight and any little mistake would put you back 3/4 places; especially at the World Cup, is just next level these days and you have to be 110% committed and have a near perfect, if not perfect run to be in contention or anywhere near the top, it’s amazing. I do feel 2017 was a much better season than the 2016 season as far as elites are concerned, and adapting to racing the best in the world! I’m still constantly learning my craft, from race approaches to actual race runs and calculating everything because at the end of the day, in my eyes you have to commit to the smaller details as much as the larger aspects to win races and so I’m plucking away at is slowly but surely. As I said, I’m racing the best riders in the world week in week out so I’m pushing and pushing to find the limits on each track, the bike and also myself! I’m just loving the process and can’t wait to be back on the box again this year. I’ve had a number of podiums these last two years in elite and yet to reach what I feel is my potential. 2018 is going to be a killer year!
I’m super excited for it! #yearofthesheep
Obviously, being a privateer you don’t have as much backing at races, whats it like competing at World Cups against the top riders on big budget teams?
It’s a challenge that’s for sure. I mean more of a mental challenge than anything else, because once your at the top of the hill, money and big budgets and all that go out the window, regardless of the name on your jersey! If your in the start gate and the beeps are counting you down you better be ready to do battle, that’s the way I’ve always looked at racing, no matter the name its go time, watch yourself haha!
But it is still very challenging when you’re racing against multi million pound teams and their resources, but I do have plenty of local support from companies and businesses such as Continental/Saracen, Madison clothing, Shimano, Lazer helmets, bliss protection, evolution gym and more who all support me! I would literally not be able to go racing without their support and that’s a fact. It costs so much money to go racing, especially now at the top level of the sport, of any sport for that matter, but it motivates me because at one stage everyone was here! I recently did an interview with GMBN and it was the same answer as I told them, everyone starts from nothing and its just a huge motivation that when you do beat the best in the world off your own back, even though you get support, it’s a huge achievement and just shows that I am meant to be here and it pushes me forward so, so much! Also, I owe a HUGE thank you as well to my mother and father; Julie and Ian as without them and their support week in, week out and just picking me up and rising above any challenge that is put in front of me, or getting me to the races since we said were all in committed since the youth days there is absolutely no way I would be here today! So I owe everything to them, my 2015 championships and 2016 Welsh championships all went towards them and just all our hard work to get here today, I love you guys!