After 10+ years of racing, Team Wideopenmag has decided to retire. The team was our very own talent factory and gave us an opportunity to give back to the British mountain bike scene.
On the last day of 2021 we’re paying tribute to a team that’s helped define Wideopen for over a decade.
But first, here’s our final ever race video from the Team Wideopenmag pits. Filmed by Pete Archer at the 2021 British National Downhill Series final at Antur Stiniog:
The Story Behind Team Wideopenmag
Team Wideopenmag is the race programme behind Wideopenmountainbike.com and has been grafting away for over a decade to support young, fast, talented mountain bike racers.
“I grew up in rural North Wales, riding downhill and watching videos like Earthed and Sprung” team founder Jamie told us.
“For some reason, I was really drawn to the teams that those videos introduced us to – the DMR Bikes team, Global Racing, Animal Orange and just loved the idea of being involved with something like that. Road tripping, travel, adventure and working together to achieve something really appealed to me – and cockily I loved the idea of doing it in a way that was a bit different from what we saw out there”.
“Skip forward a few years and were running Wideopen in our spare time alongside day jobs and families,” team founder Jamie Edwards told us.
“We just loved the idea of fast riders representing our website and helping them to win races. I’d spend my early 20’s riding, digging and racing downhill. It wasn’t enough to just report on the races for Wideopen, it felt like we needed to be close to the sport than that. I wanted Wideopen to be at the heart of British downhill racing, not just looking in from the outside”.
The team started small. None of the guys behind it had any experience of managing athletes, negotiating sponsorship or running a race team. The riders started winning races and it clicked nicely with Wideopen’s UK and race focussed audience.
Two years later the team stepped up a gear, bringing on two elite downhill racers and attracting dream-come-true sponsorship from Nukeproof.
Jamie recalls his initial pitch to the brand being rejected and almost giving up. “I was working late, feeling pretty determined and just thought ‘screw it’. I emailed back to argue the point. It was about 1am and I almost didn’t press send”.
The second email sealed the deal and kick-started a relationship that lasted almost a decade and spanned 3 generations of Nukeproof’s bikes, starting with the Scalp downhill bike, then on to the Pulse and finally on to the Dissent. And of course, the iconic Mega alongside throughout.
“We were all just super determined and super hungry for it back then” Jamie jokes. “If you told us ‘no’ we’d work double hard to make you say ‘yes’… and usually be doing it in our lunch hours or in the evenings when we should have been doing something else! We’d look at big teams and just think “we can do that” and try out best to copy what we saw”.
From there, the team went from strength to strength and helped an incredible number of young racers to turn their passion into a profession.
The team’s first two elite racers, Rich Thomas and Jay Williamson, both raced full World Cup and British National seasons.
Rich scored a 50th overall in the World Cup and a 25th at the Fort William World Cup. He raced full world cup seasons, scored some great results at the British nationals and raced hard till he retired happy and became a fire fighter.
Jay won the overall British national series and stepped up to a career of racing World Cups and then on to coaching and rider development. It was around that point the Wideopen guys knew they were onto something special. At the same time though, the team made an important call not to do the obvious and chase the top of the sport.
Where most people’s dreams were to hit the very top of the sport, win World Cups and win World Championships the Wideopen team took a different approach.
They wanted to help riders reach their own personal goals, get faster and more well known… and then help them to move on to bigger and better things. The ultimate goal was to help them find Factory Teams and then go on to win big.
It’s no accident that this decision came around the same time the UCI changed their rules for junior racers (riders under the age of 18) at World Cups. Where juniors had previously raced alongside the elites, they were suddenly given their own event with UCI points that counted towards those coveted overall team wins.
Suddenly big teams were interested in junior racers and hungry for young talent. Wideopen’s value as a feeder team and in nurturing young talent and setting it up for bigger things became even more important.
“We noticed that our riders were suddenly getting more attention” Team Manager Dave Konstanz told us. “The British National DH Series was booming and attracting the attention of talent scouts from big teams. I recall Martyn Whitely standing at the finish line and watching our rider win, scribbling a note in his little black book and knowing we were doing a good job. I’m pretty sure it was Laurie he was watching that day”.
Over the next few years, the team brought on an impressive roster of young riders that went on to dominate British races and were quickly scooped up by higher-profile teams.
Laurie Greenland (now Mondraker), Charlie Hatton (now Atherton Racing), Mark Scott (now Santa Cruz Factory), Veronique Sandler (now freeride superstar on Santa Cruz), Kelan Grant (now CRC Factory), Chris Hutchens and Christo Gallagher (Contour Collective), Chris Cumming (Nukeproof Conti Factory Racing) all came through the team alongside many others across downhill and enduro.
“We’d never pretend those guys succeeded because of us” Dave told us “but we’re proud to have helped them on their way and feel really confident we gave them the best chance of doing well and helped their own talent to grow. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve helped some of those riders get to where they are now”.
As the team grew, it gathered more interest and even more sponsors came on board, first contributing product and then helping with the costs of running the team.
“We didn’t really know what we were doing, to be honest” Jamie told us. “Our very first sponsor gave us some goggles and we were blown away. Then it was some helmets. Later, two 4X frames came our way and it was like we’d blown up big time!”.
“Nukeproof showed us that we were really on to something and could ask for more than just small components. It showed me personally that you can start from scratch and create something you’re passionate about if you’re happy to just put some hard work in.”
Dave went on to tell us “The formula we applied was maybe a bit unique. We wanted to take a World Cup style approach to racing and apply it to British mountain bike races. We just looked at what the bigger teams were doing and copied it in our own way”.
“We had the best sponsors and equipment, we had mechanics to fine-tune the bikes, suspension experts, fitness coaches, the full works. The riders were treated like superstars, we had photographers and video guys to help shout about their talents. We’d even have a turbo-trainer at the start line so the riders could warm up in the same way you’d see Sam Hill or Greg Minnaar do at a World Cup race”.
The ‘behind the scenes’ element played a huge part in the team and as Jamie tells us “we were never satisfied just to support privateers, we wanted to give the riders proper support”.
“The team mechanics would guarantee bikes were as fast as they could be, team manager Dave would help riders approach race day fully prepared, warmed up and stress-free. The media guys would make sure the riders and sponsors had plenty of content to shout about their results to the world.”
“And, of course, every year saw a family of the racer’s parents, friends and family grouping around the team and pitching in to make it happen. It was all that stuff that just offered riders a bit extra and helped them focus on doing what they do best”.
But, as Jamie points out, it wasn’t all business. The team was built around having fun, first and foremost and about good times, good experiences and good stories for Wideopen.
“We really believe that stoked riders make for fast racers. If you’re having fun, you’re going fast. We tried to create a team where having a good time was the first priority then trusted our gut that the results would follow”.
The team wasn’t just about creating amazingly talented young racers, it was about having a blast and not taking things too seriously. The riders could jump to ‘business mode’ when it mattered and be back pulling skids and wheelies in the pits when it didn’t. If they won, the team celebrated, if they didn’t we looked forward to next weekend and celebrated anyway.
You’re probably wondering why the team is closing down and, we’ll leave that one to Jamie to explain.
“Closing the team was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make but at the same time just made perfect sense. We’ve all given so many years to it that it feels right to walk away strong and say ‘yep, we’ve played our part’ whilst we can and without compromising the quality of the support we give to riders. We’ve achieved so much with it that now feels like a good time to end on a high”.
“I won’t bullshit anyone though, the scene has changed. 10 years ago a British national had Greg Minnaar, Sam Hill, Wyn Masters and others on the start sheet – in 2021 you’d be lucky to see more than 5 World Cup racers at an event”.
“The perception and profile of the races has changed – and that impacts on teams like ours in the support we’re able to get from sponsors and the interest of our readers. I really trust that the people behind the British National Downhill Series are doing a great job, but they’re pushing up hill and have a lot of work to do to rebuild. For us, that’s a good opportunity to refocus what we do and step back before we can’t offer our riders the same level of support and have to cut corners. All that said, it’s super encouraging to see the number of young riders picking up downhill so, the future is almost certainly bright – and I really hope we can come back in some way and help with that again.”
And, that’s where we leave Team Wideopen. Ten years of road trips and racing, podiums and championship wins, hard graft and good laughs, lots of good times, a few tough times and plenty of unforgettable memories.
Wideopen and Team Wideopen would like to thank everyone that contribute to Team Wideopenmag over the years – first and foremost the riders. Then, the amazing sponsors that have made all of this possible – not least Nukeproof Bikes, FunnMTB and Hotlines.
Last but not least Dave Konstanz, James Farrow, Ian Lean, Chaz Curry, Ryan Stiling, Oscar Newton Mason, Ben Plenge, Pete Archer, Lewis Bradley, Luke Hough, Jacob Gibbins, Paul Roberts, Jim Smith, Pete Scullion, Jamie Edwards … and so many more.
And a final thanks to the final team lineup for Team Wideopenmag, the class of 2021 – Natasha Bradley, Elin Berry and Andrew Georgeson. Good luck for ’22 guys and girls!