Sam Hill, INTENSE Team Rider 2002
Back in 2002 a young Aussie rookie kid turned up and set the downhill world on fire. He’d go on to become one of the best, if not ‘the best’, gravity mountain bike riders of all time. That kid was Sam Hill.
We first heard about the 17 year old Sam Hill at the Downhill World Championships in Vail (Colorado) back in 2001. He was a first year Junior and had just finished mid-pack at the Mt St Anne (Canada) round of the World Cup a few weeks previously. In Vail he got his first taste of a world podium when he scored third place and a bronze medal behind Ben Cory and Julien Camellini. Aussie legend and then national DH coach Scott Sharples was a good friend of INTENSE and he had an eye for spotting up-and-coming talent. Sharples told us all about Hill and the deal was done, Sam Hill would be riding on INTENSE bikes for the 2002 season. It was a deal that would kickstart the career of one of the greatest racers of all time.
It was his victory a year later in Kaprun (Austria), on a monster of a track, that would really catapult Hill into the limelight. Having raced two World Cups in 2002 before this event you could see that his results were improving – a 23rd and then a 17th against the older Elites – but in Kaprun he finally got the result he was after. He piloted his INTENSE M1 (the undisputed King of downhill bikes) to first place, taking the gold medal and the rainbow stripes in the process. These would be the first set of rainbow stripes for an INTENSE sponsored rider. There was a buzz around the pits. You could feel it, something special was happening.
But it wasn’t really the result that made everyone stand up and take notice of Hill, it was the way in which he did it. Confident, he feared no one and was intuitive in the way in which he attacked any course. He rode with aggression, on the edge but totally in control. He would slide and drift into corners, picking lines that no one else could hold. He saw things differently. And you have to remember that at this point Hill was really just a young man, still a teenager. He’d only seen places like the European Alps in magazines or the odd glimpse on TV, he had very little experience of big mountain environments and all they could throw at you. He rode them like they were everyday, just like in the photo here from Les Gets (France).
There was no side, or edge or cockiness to Hill… it was just a confidence. He was confident in his abilities and of course he was confident in his equipment. He was a focussed individual that could make a bike do as he pleased. Riding in his trademark flat pedals he flowed with the bike, it was man and machine in perfect harmony.
Sam Hill would go on to become world famous. He once again won the following year’s Junior World Champs in Lugano (Switzerland), this time with a crash and a time that would have placed him in third in the Senior class. Every pro rider was now very worried. He went on to win multiple World Cup races, took the overall World Cup title twice, the Senior World Championship title three times and after switching to Enduro racing he has won the Enduro World Series overall for the last three years.
Sam Hill is phenomenal. We only had him for a short time during the 2002 season, but it was such a good time. We are proud that it all started here at INTENSE.