On the Cover // Sam Hill and his return to DH

The cat is finally out of the bag: Sam Hill has set his sights on a return to DH racing after a 7 year hiatus which saw him focus on enduro racing and of course he also added a few more World Titles to his resume.

We recently caught up with the champ for a chat about his plans and preparation for the 2023 season. 

Mate it sure has been bloody exciting to see you on a DH bike this past Summer back here in Oz! What has that process been like for you switching it up and spending so much time back on a DH bike? 

Cheers, yeah it’s been pretty cool relearning to ride a modern day DH and it’s been really fun lining up in a few DH off season races. Right now my main focus is just getting healthy and strong again after ruining my shoulder (at Crankworx Cairns) and getting back to full speed and comfort on the DH rig.

There’s been a lot of speculation about you returning to full time Downhill World Cup racing in 2023, but without wanting to try and pin you down to make a statement about your long-term plans, can we just ask if there’s a decent chance that we’ll see you lining up over in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, at the World Cup opening this coming June?

Haha yes, I’m definitely planning on trying to race a couple of DH World Cups this year. I’d also really love to be selected to race for Australia at the Downhill World Champs later this year which are going to be held over in Fort William, Scotland.

Man that would be so epic! No doubt you’ve been following the World Cup’s each year, does it seem like the scene has changed much since you stepped away to race Enduro’s?

For sure, it’s definitely changed quite a bit. The bikes and style of tracks have changed a little bit, I think. But at the end of the day it’s still got 2 wheels and you gotta go as fast as you can so it’s the same thing.

Can you tell us a bit about the DH bike that you’ve been riding. Chatting to you at Cannonball we learnt that it’s a ‘yet to be released’ Nukeproof – how much different is that bike and how it rides compared to the bike you raced in your final ‘full’ season of DH back in 2015?

That’s right, it’s a prototype Nukeproof and we’re still working on a few parts of it before its ready to go into production. It’s been good for me to get some time on it and pass on my feelings and feedback. But I’m pretty stoked on it, I think it’s a great bike. It tracks the ground really well.

Have any of the key spec on your DH bike changed since you were racing DH full time 7 seasons ago?

Yes and no I would say. For sure the suspension and brakes have progressed. Also, the 29” wheels for DH and mullet wheel set-up are now a thing. The last time I raced DH 27.5” had only just started to appear! 

It certainly doesn’t appear that you’ve lost any of your raw speed and signature style on the big bike – hitting sections all guns blazing, and your creativity of linking up lines down the tracks that other riders don’t see or try. How has the transition been for you getting used to the big bike and all that comes with it?

It’s mainly just been getting used to the DH bike, the race mindset and approach isn’t a lot different from racing enduro. Like I said mentioned before, it’s really just been a bit more of a process trying to get my body strong at the same time as learning the DH bike again.

Over the past couple of months, clips of you riding at various races around Oz have been sending the internet into melt down. Clearly there’s still a massive, overwhelming ‘buzz’ from fans of the sport, us included, who are desperate to catch a glimpse of you back racing DH on the World stage. How does that make you feel at this stage in your career to know that there’s still that much excitement from the fans for you?

I’s honestly an awesome feeling, my whole career I feel like I’ve had great support from fans around the world. I know there’s been a lot of excitement from people for me to race DH so hopefully I can make that happen this season and get people fired up! 

Absolutely, everyone will lose their minds! Mate for someone that has achieved so much and won so much, at this point in your career where you’ve essentially got nothing to prove are there still some racing goals that you’re hungry to try and achieve in the sport?

There definitely is, I think my personal goals have always been what motivates me. I know I have achieved a lot and I’m obviously getting closer to the end of my racing career but I’m still excited to go racing and I have a couple more things I’d like to accomplish still.

Well good luck with everything mate. We’re stoked to have you on the mag’s front cover and back on a DH bike after all these years! 

Thanks guys!