Let’s start easy Taylor, tell us some basics about yourself.
Yeah, for sure. I’m Taylor Vernon. I’m 26 years old and based in South Wales. I’ve been riding bikes since I was 5… that’s a long time!
What’s been going on with you in 2023 so far?
2022 was quite a good year and I was able to get some really decent support coming into this season. Timings were tight though and I wasn’t able to do pre-season testing on the new bike. I had to pretty much rock up to the first British National round at Rheola with not much bike time but it went pretty well! Got on the podium and that gave me a lot of confidence ahead of the Lenzerheide World Cup.
Tell us about Lenzerheide – you had a big off right?
Yep, I had a crash on the first day of practice and landed on my head and back. I tried to ignore the pain to begin with as I just wanted to crack on after such a long off season. Looking back I probably shouldn’t have done Quali’s and then the Semi-Final as well but I was so focused on making Finals and the new race format.
I had a big crash in the Finals. I hit my head pretty hard again and at the same point of my back as well from the earlier crash. I knew I needed to sit out and take some time after that.
Was it pressure to deliver that kept you riding when you maybe shouldn’t have?
It had been so long since we raced, it was such a long off season – like six months. I’ve been trying so hard to get the training in around work and really putting the effort in. So when I crashed on the first day… I needed to crack on and keep going.
After that second crash I realized I should let the body heal and rest.
Do you think there’s more or less pressure being a Privateer?
Yeah, obviously there’s less pressure in a sense because I don’t have people telling me I need to go out and ride. But from my point of view, I put a lot of work into this just to get to these races. I don’t make much money doing this stuff, racing at the top level and riding bikes is simply what I love doing – it’s sort of easier for me to call it a day if I have to because I know myself and my body.
Do you work better without the team structure then?
It’s a tough one to say! Again, the pressure thing is less for me. Plus, turning up to race after a week at work and beating a load of team riders feels pretty good. In a sense though, I do wonder what could have been… if I had the factory team spot/support what could I do?
There aren’t many Privateers in your situation and getting these sorts of results right? Especially with the new World Cup format.
I think I’m one of the only Privateers that have made it into Finals so far… It’s funny because Lenzerheide is not a strong track for me, I usually struggle!
Honestly, I was so relieved to achieve my goal for the weekend of making into Finals – I had to try and snap out of my happiness to get fully focused again. I pushed way too hard at the start of my Finals run though and had to hang back a bit and find the flow again. I’d actually done all the hard bits, it was just a slight lack of focus at the bottom and I pushed the front too hard.
I was really keen to get to Leogang and see what I could do on a track that suited me but obviously that didn’t happen in the end – I’m kind of sat here scratching my head wondering if I can back it up and just waiting to race again to confirm the speed.
Coming up though… National round at Llangollen and then Red Bull Hardline?
Yeah, this weekend is the first time back on a downhill bike and then we go straight into Hardline which is going to be an extreme week!
You podiumed at Hardline last year, you must be pretty psyched for this year’s race.
It’s a tough one to be excited for but it’s an amazing event. It’s always in my mind but when you’re there and all the boys are bouncing off each other and practicing the jumps… it’s a pretty cool experience.
What’s your game plan?
Exactly the same as last year. I held back all week, was probably the last guy to do the jumps and just watched everyone else’s approach which gave me a really good bearing for it.
Do you think you can improve on any areas of the track?
I remember last year, I was just so focused on just clearing those 2 big new 90 foot jumps that I actually forgot to practice all the bits in between! I feel like it is a lot more speed to be carried just in the berms in the middle and that little steep section… This year I’m going to try and push the pace all the way down.
You’ve been using invisiFRAME for ages right? Tell us about the rest of your bike set-up for this year.
Six years I think using invisiFRAME – nice to see it still growing as I remember going to the office when it was still in the back of a house!
This year I’m riding a Prime bike – it’s a Polish brand and they stepped in to support me right at the end of last year. I get to run whatever components I like which is cool – RockShox suspension and SRAM gears but I have to pay for that which feels pretty mental for what I’m doing.
What’s the future looking like Taylor? Big plans? Your motivation is clearly up there with the best of them.
Yep, the plan is to get Hardline done, then National Champs. I think there’s a bit of time off before going back into World Cups. Hopefully I can carry some more confidence going into them now.
Overall, I’m just going to keep turning up and trying. It would be nice to have more resources so I can go test in the winter or it would be ideal to not have to work in the week so I can spend more time training.
I do love what I’m doing at the moment though – keeping my circle small and turning up on the weekends to beat the big dogs!
Massive thanks to Taylor for answering our questions, look out for him this season and be sure to follow him on Instagram.
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