At The Heart of The Matter: Scott Beaumont
March 30th, 2011
Associations are often the result of hard work, persistence and above all else, passion. Scott Beaumont has been a pro mountain biker for the last 14 years, specializing in the sports gated, multi competitor events from slalom to duel and now all the way to 4X. Scott has been there from the start and is pretty much synonymous with the sport itself both at home and abroad.
Beaumont senior was a successful grass track/speedway motorcycle racer and for the young Scott growing up, bikes and racing was a normal part of every day life. Scott started racing BMX at the tender age of 4 and finding his calling in bicycle racing has never looked back, carving a professional career that has spanned far longer than many of his competitors. Coming off a career in BMX, which saw him take the British title 16 times and the world title twice. Scott was hungry for a new challenge and in 1996, took a serious look at what mountain biking had to offer.
Scott signed with Kona in 1997 and in the years that followed saw him stand on 8 world cup podiums, winning 2 National Championship titles and taking the national series title 5 times. People may or may not have pre-conceived ideas as to who Scott Beaumont is and what he is about, but after a few minutes of bike chat, you soon realise there is far more to Scott Beaumont than many on the outside would even imagine.
Scott is beyond passionate about what he does for a living and for Scott, 4X and mountain biking has become far more to than just an occupation. The consummate professional athlete that Scott has become has taken him around the world several times over and today Scott is one of the sports leading advocates in 4X, a sport which is rapidly growing in the UK and across Europe, but it’s failing to grasp in other areas of the world is having a detrimental affect on the sports future. This is something Scott is working hard to change.
Interview: Olly Forster
Photos: Supplied by Scott Beaumont
Lets cut to the chase, mountain biking has never been helped by the physical location it takes place in with regards to covering it for TV, something which is essential for all involved. Back in the 90’s when all the BMX pro’s came into the sport, multi competitor racing began to take off. Slalom racing was huge in the US and ‘eliminator’ style race format was massive for a while too. Why has the introduction of 4X taken so long to truly manifest itself within the sport?
This is a huge question that I could talk about all day! Well, like any sport, it has taken some time to get to where it is today. Being the most recent discipline within mountain biking to be created, it has always had to play catch up. Ten years ago there were no tracks, specific bikes, riders or, organisations for 4X. It simply did not exist and started completely from scratch. It has taken a while because the sport has had to build from absolutely nothing. I can’t emphasise it enough!! The World Cup has run well in the 2000’s but the sport has operated, predominantly without any foundations. How were young, new riders able to access the sport? This has started to be addressed in the last few years with fantastic national series events being run in various countries around the world.
You also have to remember that 10 years ago the internet was nothing like it is now. So as the sport was trying to create foundations and infrastructure, mistakes were being highlighted at the same time as the internet was growing.
With the mass worldwide internet usage today, races are transmitted live through websites such as Freecaster, and riders have their own websites, Twitter, and Facebook which have helped the sport enormously to gain in stature, and popularity. However, on the other side of the coin, 4X has sometimes suffered at the hand of the internet, with negative press on forums etc ……. The more established disciplines of DH and XC took full advantage of the internet as their problems had already been ironed out. Whilst 4X, as the new developing sport, was an easy target for any mistakes it made on the new wave of forums and websites.
Ultimately, 4X is mountain bike racing. I am yet to hear an argument from anyone that shows any real problem with 4X. It is four riders racing against each other over jumps and banked corners. It is no more complicated than that. What’s not to like!!??
Do you think from the industry’s perspective that the infrastructure required for 4X with regards to the space and effort involved in track construction compared to DH is detrimental or is weighed out when compared to the ability for it to be televised and for spectator involvement?
All three disciplines require quite a large investment to organise. With DH, it needs a large mountain side and with that, come its own problems and huge expenses for race organisers. Gondolas/uplifts, first aid in several positions on the track, access, marshals…. The amount of hours spent by people building DH tracks is phenomenal and usually at world cup tracks, machinery is used on several sections to create the track. The list goes on but, to close a mountain for a weekend of DH racing, certainly is not cheap.
4X requires a relatively small space, normally at the base of the mountain. This is a manageable proposal to organisers. TV love it because it is action packed and requires a low amount of cameras, camera operators, cables, production equipment, etc..
Public entry can be easily controlled and they have everyone in a small area. This means food and drinks sales are very high. Crowd participation is high. Noise levels are high. With the crowd all being in a small area at the base of the mountain, companies have thousands of mountain bike enthusiasts/general public close to their trucks and displays, to be influenced on their next purchase. 4X gives organisers and the industry a great way to target thousands of spectators who can all hear the announcements, see the whole track, see all the sponsors banners and spend money at the food and drink stalls. This is a focused crowd.
It is no secret that 4X is liked by TV companies. There is however, an attempt every year to cover this up by several people on forums who say, “4X is over”, “4X is dead”, and “no more 4X next year.” The truth however, is the sport is beyond this. TV companies love 4X and that in itself, gives the sport enough momentum to move on beyond forum comments. 4X, gives mountain biking regular, live, TV coverage. For ski resorts, local communities and countries, this kind of TV coverage is gold and gives them the best returns possible when talking about legacy beyond world cup races for the venue.
As the sport has grown, it is no longer the case that new tracks have to be built for every World Cup. There are now many established World Cup tracks.
In 2011, I shall be racing in every round of the British, Euro and World Cup Series. Out of those eighteen races, only two tracks will be re-built or partially re-built – Pietermaritzburg and Windham. The rest are all permanent tracks! 4X has nearly reached the same point as other, more established disciplines, whereby, tracks do not need to be built from scratch but, simply maintained and enjoyed by all.
Surely for anyone looking to race mountain bikes competitively, and enjoy what it has to offer, 4X makes a lot of sense. The bikes are simper and the race format also equates to more time actually riding and racing. The bikes and gear is also far cheaper which is definitely a stumbling block for many with regards to DH, but this doesn’t seem to hold DH back with regards to racing and riders getting involved at an amateur level. What can be done to truly get across the advantages of 4X?
You have hit the nail on the head with your question. 4X does make a lot more sense for riders and the industry. Hardtails are good value and strong. They are extremely versatile for general riding and hundreds of thousands are sold worldwide per year.
At the races, you are right too. At national events, riders get to race all day, watch the other racing with family and friends, see the whole track, and have fun!
Away from races, hardtails are so versatile; they can be used at 4X tracks, downhill tracks, BMX tracks, street and trails. With the new incarnation of single front ring XC bikes, you can even do a lap of your favourite trail centre!
What we need to do is get more hardtail owners to try 4X. There are now a lot more tracks, riders and dedicated websites with information, so the allure of 4X is definitely growing.
What we also have to do is change opinions on 4X tracks and show people how much fun you can have riding them. A lot of people comment on 4X without riding a track! Mountain bike riders love feeling the flow of a good trail or track. 4X tracks provide this in abundance.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that there are forces at work, which mean to taint international level 4X racing, which is resulting in some of the sports top athletes re focussing on downhill racing. Without naming names, why is this happening?
First of all, a few comments on an Internet forum are not the reason these riders are cutting back on their 4X racing. 4X has helped to give these riders notoriety, hero status, signature products and great achievements in Mountain Biking. I don’t think they would be moving to DH because of a few forum comments! I’m sure they have their own personal reasons for their move back to DH, not that they dislike 4X.
Some people do not like 4X. Some people do not like Downhill. Some people do not like Cross Country. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
Despite there being a very small amount of negativity around 4X, the statistics show that the sport is growing in popularity. A handful of people have some negative comments on the sport and I am unsure why they are so adverse to it.
All I can say is – I love 4X, as many do, and I am happy to be involved in the sport at this time when it is growing and evolving so quickly.
The winter Olympics in Vancouver showed our industry, that the general public absolutely love the format of four riders racing down a man-made track, full of jumps and banked corners.
4X gives our industry the opportunity to feed the public’s appetite for four rider racing, bumping and banging, unpredictability and one-minute races. It was a proven success at the Olympics in the form of Boarder-X and Skier-X. The possibilities for 4X over five and ten year plans are very exciting and that’s why I am so passionate about the sport.
Lets talk about slalom and America’s love affair with this discipline. The US represents a leading force with a great majority of the industry being based there. Could this prove fatal for 4X and what can be done to rectify this?
Plenty of Americans love 4X and enjoy watching the racing on Freecaster but, they are drowned out by the forum heroes who know everything. Companies like Rocky Mountain, Fox Racing Shox, Fox Racing, Sun Ringle, Oakley, E 13, SDG, Yeti, Specialized, KHS, Norco, Evil, can all see the advantages of 4X.
European companies like Schwalbe, Ghost, KTM, DMR, Nukeproof, Author, BMC are all very aware of the live TV that 4X provides, the thriving sport in Europe and the high sales of hardtails.
Sending hardtails over 50 foot doubles at Windham, Leogang or Val Di Sole, is impressive. Riding hardtails at the speeds we do over some of the rock sections we are faced with, at tracks like Mont St Anne, is impressive. There is so much marketing potential in 4X. Some companies see it, and others don’t – yet.
Fox released the 831 as a 4X race fork. Yeti’s DJ has been made famous and desirable by Graves. Rocky Mountain use me to raise brand awareness not only within Mountain Biking, but outside of the sport, with the live TV that the sport provides.
The only thing from a ‘USA industry’ point of view that I feel needs changing is that some refuse to call 4X by its name – they are sticking to ‘Mountain Cross’ or ‘MTX’. Something, which just adds confusion.
Slalom is great fun and most riders enjoy competing head to head, but the problem is the racing just takes too long and TV viewers sat at home become bored and confused with the format.
4X, to a ‘non mountain biker’ watching TV, is great. Jumps, bumping, banging and the first two riders go to the next round – simple and enjoyable viewing.
As long as hardtails are sold, they will need wheels, brakes, chain devices, pedals, saddles, tyres, handlebars and stems. These sales mean that hardtails equal business for a lot of companies. As long as hardtails are sold, we will race 4X.
Do you think BMX racing’s inception into the Olympics and the subsequent boost to its stature is also having a detrimental effect on 4X, a sport which many will see parallels between?
Not at all. I love BMX – it’s where I started out. The Supercross format, and the Olympics have given it a fantastic boost.
Obviously, BMX has eight riders, 4X has four. Yes, we use the same start gate and yes, 4X has double jumps on the tracks. But the similarities between 4X and BMX end there. Some obstacles simply look similar.
Some jumps in BMX look similar to MX/Supercross tracks. Some supercross tracks have jumps similar to those in DH tracks. When there is a take off, you need a landing. The most ‘soil efficient’ way of doing this is a double jump.
Having double jumps does not make 4X similar to BMX. Saying 4X is similar to BMX is a lazy comment, where people cannot be bothered to find out more about the sport. It is easy for them to just label it as being ‘like BMX’.
Is BMX like Nascar because it has tarmac berms…………..?
I would happily bring my BMX to any World Cup and let anyone ride it if they thought they could RACE on our track with a BMX. I would also bring my bank details and bet plenty of money. 4X is NOT BMX. They are poles apart.
At race speed, you would not make it past the first turn at any 4X track. They are loose and rough. This argument that 4X is like BMX, is absolute rubbish. It is a lazy opinion that simply tries to draw comparisons between the sports. 4X is established and here to stay, as a sport in its own right.
When we were chatting about all of this, you mentioned 4X is booming pretty much everywhere outside of the US. Where are the hotspots for 4X right now?
Most countries in Europe are really embracing 4X. Czech Republic are really strong, Austria, Holland, UK, Poland, Belgium, Italy. Australia has a really good scene and has produced the World Champions in both men and women’s racing in the past few years.
America could easily become the hub for 4X racing in the future; it just needs one person or, one company, to have the vision of where it can go. There is no doubt in my mind, that someone will grab 4X in the USA and create an awesome series. The Woodward DH BMX race looked like an ideal 4X venue. It will happen soon….
How much of an affect do you think Dan Atherton’s re-focus on downhill in 2011 and indeed Jared Graves who has announced 2011 is his last year focussing on 4X, will have on the scene and it’s continued development as both these guys carry a fair amount of prestige with them?
Jared Graves is a phenomenal athlete and I feel one of the best all round riders in the World. He has won 4X, he has won BMX, he went to the Olympics and he continues to ride downhill. My guess is, and this is a guess, I believe he wants to win a World Cup downhill to complete his career as the all round bike rider. I was there at Angel Fire where he missed the World Cup win by 0.2 to Greg Minnaar. ‘If’ Graves is focused on winning a DH World Cup, then look out, because he will be doing everything he can to achieve it.
He is single handily responsible for raising the bar again in 4X and making a tough sport look easy. There is no question he loves 4X, he is simply a rider that needs a challenge in his life. Downhill is that new focus. Bare in mind he chose 4X over downhill, when he had to. Now, after dominating for 3 years, he needs a new challenge.
Dan Atherton will be a loss to 4X, as his ability to spot new passing lines was absolutely phenomenal. He again, made the sport of 4X look so easy and effortless. There is no doubt that his life changing accident last year has led him to re think his entire life and change his racing goals. Hopefully, he will race 4X again in the future.
I do want to say though, that Dan and Jared moving away from 4X, is not, and should not be a reason for the media to suggest 4X is ‘dying’.
It’s pretty common to hear complaints with regards to how DH is portrayed on TV, but the same can be said for 4X. On TV it’s pretty hard to see just how gnarly the tracks are and how dissimilar to BMX it really is. Is this maybe because people look at you all on hardtails and just think the tracks are smooth?
I think you might be right. Everyone rides hardtails to keep the bike weight as low as possible and try to get the best start they can. Leading a race makes it so much easier in any sport – MX, Moto GP, Formula 1 and 4X is no different. The riders have adapted over the years so they can ride hardtails over some of the roughest terrain and this should be applauded, not questioned.
TV camera angles can always be improved upon. Hopefully, this will happen as we all learn what looks good on TV and give feedback.
4X Track walk videos are something that will happen more in 2011 and I think this will help to give a better insight into 4X tracks and just how rough they already are. Plus show the actual size of some of the jumps and the technical terrain of a 4X track that so many are still unaware of.
Would taking the tracks to a new level of roughness, combining elements of downhill and getting you on full sussers, may change perception or is this notion nether here nor there?
You have just described an entirely new sport – not 4X!
In the last two years the 4X tracks have become a lot rougher. I think the problem is very few people ask the riders what they think of the current tracks. Sure the top one or two riders are asked but, very few of the others are. Most 4X riders now like the tracks.
The tracks are now not the problem at all. The UCI, race organisers and track builders have done an amazing job redesigning 4X tracks to be rougher. That goal is now accomplished and tracks are ‘rough enough’.
Going back to the 90’s, ‘Eliminator’ racing was getting pretty big and although it was mostly charging down grassy slopes or fire roads, do you see a modern take on this format as a stand alone race format being realised and it’s potential being successful for raising the sports profile, even as a one of event? 8 guys down a rough, long track with gradient and jumps to match could bring in the DH and maybe even the freeride guys, which could result in a ‘Redbull style’ event. What are your thoughts on this?
Again, you have just described an entirely new sport – not 4X!!! You’re on fire. Maybe you should organise some new races!! 4X tracks are now worked out and do not need to be recreated again!
Red Bull is the master of one off events. It will need someone like Red Bull to create a one off event, with big prize money to lure the DH guys to it. 4X riders are happy with the 4X tracks we have, and aren’t looking for any new track designs that involve fire roads, grassy slopes or eight riders!
For an event like this to succeed, you will need to get the DH/freeride guys there. I personally think this is only possible as a one off event, as there are enough formats around already that cover all the bases.
So what happens next? I know you have ideas up your sleeve and passionately believe that 4X is yet to achieve its true potential. What is going to happen and what needs to happen so this format doesn’t suffer and remain in downhill’s shadow?
Being in Downhill’s shadow will never be a problem if, that is what happens. 4X still has a lot of potential for growth though and that is very exciting.
This will be the first year that I am taking on a small organisational role within the sport. The Schwalbe Euro 4X Series in 2011 is going to be organised by Chris Roberts and myself. This is something that I am stoked about. I hope it will be a time that we can look back and be proud of.
So far we have been very successful in signing a title sponsor – Schwalbe; which, is a great step forwards. Schwalbe have also signed up as title sponsor to the British 4X Series.
This winter we had applications from nine different organisers who wanted to be a part of our five round series here in Europe. Turning four world-class venues down for the 2011 series really portrays the situation for 4X here in Europe. We anticipate the applications in 2012 to surpass these nine and the series will ultimately grow, with more rounds being offered. There is no better sign that the sport is growing.
As Chris and myself are founder members of the Fourcross Alliance (along with Zdenek Pol) we will be using the Euro 4X Series as a test bed for any new rules and ideas that the UCI have for 4X. We can test these out at our events and if they are successful, they can be transferred into the World Cup.
On the World Cup stage, more consideration needs to be given to the timing of 4X racing. 15 minutes after Downhill practice or, qualifying finishes, just does not work for the World Cup riders, photographers and journalists. Some DH riders still want to race 4X but are unable to, due to the schedules at races.
Better scheduling, I believe, would result in massively better coverage of 4X from World Cups. We want Journalists to be ready and psyched on covering 4X with little other work to do and DH riders given the opportunity to race 4X once more.
Lets talk about you. You’ve been making a living from this for a long time and through hard work and a solid work ethic you have made a great life for yourself. What advice would you give to any aspiring racers out there intent in following in your footsteps?
Initially, you have to love riding bikes. I have ridden bikes since I was 2 ½ and raced since I was 4 years old – I live to race bicycles. I can’t imagine any other way. As well as a love for riding bikes, you need to have some skill and have fun.
The life of a pro rider is, at times, fantastic, devastating, rewarding, painful, uncertain, fun and stressful. Usually, all those emotions are all in the same weekend, every weekend, between March and October! A lot of things happen at races and it isn’t for everyone. I feel the mental strain on riders is rarely talked about, but for anyone who has the talent, speed and personality, I cannot recommend it enough.
Your current sponsors are virtually a who’s who of what people want and a package any rider would be stoked to run let alone be sponsored by. Are you picky with regards to who you choose to represent and what does a potential sponsor have to represent to you outside of contacts and money?
I have a good idea of companies that I want to work with and usually pursue those to see if they would be interested in supporting me. I have been with most of my current sponsors for at least ten years, which makes things a lot easier. For example, I have been with Oakley now for twenty one years!!!! I try to provide good value for money to every single one of my sponsors.
I think it is important to have a professional image and I try to work with companies who are established, honest and genuine. One year deals are no good for either the rider or, the sponsor if it lasts for just one year. It needs to be a well thought out plan, that offers return on investment for the sponsor, over at least two years, so that the brand association can build and the brand/rider become synonymous.
The nickname, “Boom Boom” has been with you since the late 90’s. Can you tell us a little about where it came from?
Peter Graves used to commentate at every World Cup round. He was always coming up with names for riders and Boom Boom was one of his! At the Japan World Cup in 1998, I won my quarter final race and he just came out with it as I crossed the finish line. It has stuck from then onwards. I think more people probably know me as Boom Boom rather than my real name now!!
We’ve slightly touched on your involvement with the sport passed being a competitor and the passion you have for what you do, but it doesn’t end there. You’re a rider representative for 4X in the UK and you have a seat on the British Cycling Federation’s commission plus on top of all that you were one of the founding members of the Fourcross Alliance, can you tell us about all this and what it means to you?
Well, a couple of years ago it was really evident that the UCI were getting poor information about 4X.
After some talks with various 4X riders and team managers at the Schladming World Cup in 2009, we decided to form the Fourcross Alliance, which would give 4X riders and managers somewhere to voice their opinions and ideas. We would then, in turn, deliver these suggestions to the UCI. The Fourcross Alliance provides a platform to help further the sport’s growth. The Fourcross Alliance has a great relationship with UCI and stays in regular communication with them.
As you also mentioned, yes, I have a seat on the British Cycling Commission representing 4X in the UK. 4X actually has two seats on that commission, as Chris Roberts is there as well, as the organiser of UK events. It is again, a great opportunity to inform BC of the sport’s progress and growing numbers in the UK. British Cycling regards 4X highly and wants to help continue with its growth, through new tracks and increased participation.
It’s 2011 and you’ve been doing this a long time. They say when you know where something has come from your in a good position to know where it’s going, I think it was Churchill who said “A country which forgets its past has no future”. Strong words which runs parallels into everything. It’s obvious that you want the sport to flourish and achieve its true potential, but realistically where will it go over the next few years?
I think I have now raced in more 4X races than most other riders. I have been there since the start and seen the highs and the lows of the sport. I was also racing in the demonstration World Cup Dual Slalom events in the mid 90’s and in the World Cup Dual series in the late 90’s.
First of all, we need more mountain bike riders to actually see a current 4X race and give it a go. Some of the internet messages I have read relate to the sport four or, five years ago and so much has changed in that time. I think that would be a good start so that everyone sees the current tracks, riders and bikes and realises that 4X is so far removed from a big BMX track; it is not even similar.
Then, I would like to see the riders becoming more famous in the media. There are some 4X riders who have incredible personalities that the mountain bike world do not even know. We need to help these guys become stars of the sport.
Finally, we, (Fourcross Alliance) want to help organisers from around the World with information about the sport and support them to build more national race events and series. 4X needs to feed the World Cup with riders from National Series events. Now we have a better worldwide grass roots program, the sport is moving forward very quickly and we want to help other 4X organisers.
Where will Scott Beaumont be as we go forward, riders like Dale Holmes and of course Peaty are still kicking the kids in the behind and they’re no spring chickens. When do you think you’ll have snapped out of your last gate and what does the future hold for you?
As mentioned previously, I already have a few roles on the side of my 4X racing that I am giving some time to. The main one being, helping to organise the ‘Schwalbe Euro 4X Series’.
I believe in 4X. It is fun, exciting and unpredictable. So, I want my future to be very much about raising the profile of the sport and trying to give it foundations for the future. In terms of my last race, I just don’t really think about it. I think if I stay injury free, I could race into my mid – late 30’s. I still love it, like the first year and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.
Scott, it’s been a pleasure and I hope this helped get many of your thoughts and feelings with regards to 4X out there. Time for those shout outs!
Thanks for the interview and thanks for coming up with some great questions that may help people to understand a little more about what 4X can offer and the hurdles that have been placed in its way, over the past few years.
A huge thank you has to go to my parents. Without them I would not have achieved anything in racing, so a huge thank you. Holly, my fiancée, is the rock in my life and I can’t thank her enough for everything, on a daily basis.
All my sponsors over the years – Rocky Mountain are just an amazing company that makes me proud to be a part off. All the guys at Silverfish for all their support and making me laugh on a daily basis! Fox Clothing for the best kit, Fox suspension for smoothing out the 4X tracks around the world, Trixter for the best training bikes, Formula brakes, Schwalbe tyres, Fenwicks, Neoguard, USE, Bikesoup, Shimano, Sun Ringle, Buymymotorhome.com, Race Face, SDG, E13, Oakley, Mojo, SIS, ODI and Park Tools.
Thanks especially to Darren Mabbott, Charles Russell, Peter Valance, Pete Drew, D’Arcy O Connor, Aaron Hay, Brode Voslo, Wayne Dobson, Mark Fitzsimons, Mick Rice, Patrick Murray, Chris Hearn, Dave Taylor, Michael Kull, Jon Smith, Craig Bromley, John Cookson, Roger Sparrow, Richard Wood, Antony Auty, Kellie Parssons, and Scott McMorris.
Darren Roberts is a new member of my program and has brought a whole new world of shouting and screaming to my training! I am looking forward to a great relationship with him and my fitness going up a few levels.
Huge thanks to Chris Roberts for organising the best 4X events, Peter van Den Abeele and Chris Ball at the UCI and Roger Wilbraham at British Cycling for believing in the discipline of 4X. A huge thank you to the media that gives 4X the attention it deserves.
Finally, anyone who has ever stood at the side of a race track in the rain and cheered me on. It makes a massive difference.
Have a look at my website: www.beaumontracing.com
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