Words by Nathan Hughes | Images by Nathan Hughes

An interview with the young guns of the World Cup; Greenland, Graham and Jones.

From the deep sea of talent on the World Cup downhill circuit, to make a name for yourself and stand out from the pack is no small challenge.

For three young guns, Mike Jones, Innes Graham and Laurie Greenland, the future looks more than bright and they have already begun their quest to leave a lasting impression on the international race scene.

Mike Jones follows team mate Joe Smith in high winds across Aonoch Mor.

Mike Jones follows team mate Joe Smith in high winds across Aonoch Mor.

 

Going head to head with their heroes has become nothing more than business as usual and despite an ever-expanding sponsor list, each one of them is shrugging the pressure to climb the ranks and become the household names of downhill that they always dreamed they could be. What the next years have in store for the trio is anyone’s guess, but determination and hunger for silverware and World-titles will be no problem. Time to find out more from the young senders themselves.


 

Innes Graham

19 year old, Innes Graham, is the youngest, possibly wildest, wheel of the four-part MS Mondraker racing machine. After plenty of podium time as a junior in 2013, Innes today is always out causing a stir on track with aggressive, wild, lines and full-gas crash saves. Following a top 20 at Fort William, he would head home from the last Swiss round with a broken collarbone on his birthday, but there’s no doubt he’ll be back and hounding at the heels of the World’s fastest all over again before the year is out.

Innes will be out with a shoulder injury following Lenzerheide, but see light at the end of the tunnel.

Innes will be out with a shoulder injury following Lenzerheide, but see light at the end of the tunnel.

Innes in front of his home, the famous Mondraker 'space ark'.

Innes in front of his home, the famous Mondraker ‘space ark’.

Happy healing to Innes after meeting a tree on his race run in Switzerland and taking home the lousiest birthday present ever - a broken collarbone.

Happy healing to Innes after meeting a tree on his race run in Switzerland and taking home the lousiest birthday present ever – a broken collarbone.

Innes Graham charging out of the gate into the heavy rain at Fort William.

Innes Graham charging out of the gate into the heavy rain at Fort William.

Are there riders you look up to and if so who?

For sure there are a lot of riders I look up to. To me Peaty is one of the most iconic riders of all time, Greg Minnaar for consistency and Gee Atherton as well. The British guys at the top especially inspire me and I want to be where they are. There’s also a bunch of up and coming riders that I have a lot of admiration for –  Mike Jones, Loic Bruni and Troy Brosnan.

How does it feel to compete against MTB’s biggest names?

It’s pretty mental… I didn’t think I’d ever be in this position, going head to head with them so soon. This year at the first BDS at Ae forest, myself and Reese Wilson qualified in the top spots together and we were all alone at the start gate after Josh Bryceland and the big names… It was so silent and so weird! Then I went and made a load of mistakes and finished 6th, but it was a great experience!

What do you see as the key to your present and future success?

It’s a bit of a cliché but I’d say ‘having fun’. There’s always training, but you can’t ride your best when you’re not having fun. It has to be the most essential aspect of racing DH.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

That’s a tough one, but for sure still riding bikes. Hopefully, finger crossed podiums… It’s a big shout but that’s where I want to be at least by the time 2020 comes around! I hope the tracks go and get more gnarly again like they were when I was growing up watching the videos with Sam Hill and that. I’d expect some major technology to be a part of it by then as well with telemetry playing a big role, more like F1 is today.


Laurie Greenland

1997 born, Greenland, is Trek World Racing’s not-so-secret weapon of the future. Already performing at a level that sometimes makes a lot of elite riders look over the hill, Laurie is a pocket rocket with style and a dead-cert for the junior podium every weekend. Under the guidance of Martin Whitely, Justin Leov and not least his senior TWR team mates there’s no doubting his threat level as he joins the big leagues next season. Watch this space!

Junior national champ and of course TWR's big name of the future, Greenland.

Junior national champ and of course TWR’s big name of the future, Greenland.

Laurie battling on with no more pedal power at Round 3

Laurie battling on with no more pedal power at Round 3

Perhaps outshined by Gwin's successes, Greenland too made the podium without a chain at Leogang.

Perhaps out-shined by Gwin’s successes, Greenland too made the podium without a chain at Leogang.

Greenland follows mentor, Brook MacDonald into the dark.

Greenland follows mentor, Brook MacDonald into the dark.

Greenland's fork fresh from servicing amongst those of the big names he's looked up to all these years growing up.

Greenland’s fork fresh from servicing amongst those of the big names he’s looked up to all these years growing up.

Greenland sticks to the Scottish woodwork in the forest at Round 2.

Greenland sticks to the Scottish woodwork in the forest at Round 2.

Are there riders you look up to and if so who?

I think the answers might be the same for most people, but no doubt about Steve Peat being up there for me… Sam Hill too, obviously. Those were the guys that really spurred me on for riding. Nowadays I have riders in my own team like Brook MacDonald, who always impress me out on track and can give me some solid advice.

How does it feel to compete against MTB’s biggest names?

It’s a surreal feeling actually, but maybe one of the best I’ve had from my racing so far though – getting close to some of those top guys… I think by the end of the season I’d be a fair way back, but I know I’m making good progress!

What do you see as the key to your present and future success?

I think a really good off-season is key nowadays and it’s really important to keep your training fun. I’ve found so long as I’m enjoying mine I keep doing it! To be on the right team is a big thing, atmosphere-wise. As long as you have a good group of people around you and you’re having fun there’s no reason why shouldn’t be giving it 100% and going for the top results.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Definitely I’m aiming to follow in the footsteps of someone like Bruni or Brosnan. I want to find my feet early on in elite and really become a staple name in the top ten. It’s easier said than done, but I’ll be giving it a good pop!


 

Mike Jones

Sixth at Windham in his first year elite and third place at Lourdes this season, there’s no escaping the fact that Mike Jones has arrived as a top-flight racer. Last winter Tahnee Seagrave’s former FMD team mate took on arguably the World’s ultimate off-season training program, travelling down under to join Sam Hill in Perth. That kind of tutoring simply can’t be bought and if he wasn’t fast enough already, as exemplified by his two junior WC wins, the rest of the racing world is surely sweating to think of what is next to come from the Welsh CRC dangerman.

Jones steps up to the podium for the first time in elite this year at Round 1 in France.

Jones steps up to the podium for the first time in elite this year at Round 1 in France.

Suns out, tinted lens out, Mike takes a very unusual outside line, possibly hoping Sam Hill never finds out.

Suns out, tinted lens out, Mike takes a very unusual outside line, possibly hoping Sam Hill never finds out.

With eyes on the prize in a sport where a determined mind is more than half the battle, Jones is set to far.

With eyes on the prize in a sport where a determined mind is more than half the battle, Jones is set to far.

Jones rides the classic boulder section of the legendary Fort William race track.

Jones rides the classic boulder section of the legendary Fort William race track.

As a welshman, Jones is no stranger to the steep and slippery. There's little doubting how important the valleys of home have been to the development of his skills.

As a welshman, Jones is no stranger to the steep and slippery. There’s little doubting how important the valleys of home have been to the development of his skills.

Jones walks the Swiss course with some fine company - Sam Hill - no less.

Jones walks the Swiss course with some fine company – Sam Hill – no less.

Are there riders you look up to and if so who?

Well there’s one sitting just next to me right now! It’s gotta be Sam Hill… of course a lot of the other riders on the top as well.

How does it feel to compete against MTB’s biggest names?

For sure it´s good to know that I’m not a slow rider anymore and to belong to the group of fastest riders in the World. I try to not get too ahead of myself and just to keep headed the way I’m going.

What do you see as the key to your present and future success?

Training is probably the single biggest part of getting fast on a bike. If you feel comfortable on what you’re riding and you have good people around you, you will always do well. Being on a top team means you can practice with people who have experience at the highest level of the sport and you can learn and feed of them.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

…  I want to be at the top, no question. I want to win World Cups and the overall, win World Champs…   I just want to be best in the sport.

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