Team Aston Hill is a regular fixture on the UK downhill circuit these days. But this year’s group of full-throttle riders comes with a new name, Aston Hill-Lovelo.

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This is a team that trains at one of England’s most demanding downhill centres—and it shows.

Aston Hill-Lovelo are strong in depth, with a membership spanning from Youth right the way to Grand Veteran categories. And after early-season podiums at the National Downhill Series, expectations are at an all-time high.

“My personal ambition is to be on the podium at every round of the British National Series,” says team manager Joe Killner. “As for the team, I would like the same for them, but mainly I want to see our riders progress, push themselves and enjoy it.”

Joe Killner – Team Manager

“I came into mountain biking very late after a holiday in Les Gets in 2010 gave me the bug to ride. My 1st race was in Sept 2011 and 121 races later I’m still loving it. I joined Team Aston Hill as it was then in 2012 and took over managing the team in 2015. It’s a big challenge sorting out all the sponsors and support but helping the young riders progress is worth all the time and effort.

When I’m not racing I will always be out on some form of bike, Downhill, Enduro, jump bike and its even been known for me to be on a road bike, but that’s our secret.”

Josh Mead – Junior Men

“I got into biking when I was younger after I never got into football or any other sport. My mum and dad got my brothers and I into Sutton cycling club where I began riding every weekend.

Not long after joining the club I started racing XC and cyclocross where I won the southern XC champs and came 3rd in the London cyclocross league. Then, after a trip to Leogang in the summer, my dad bought me my first DH bike and we went straight to Aston Hill for the first time. Since then I got hooked on it.”

Ellen Flewitt – Junior Woman

“I’ve been riding downhill since 2014 and competing since 2016, but I’ve been riding bikes for as long as I can remember. I used to ride track and gradually transitioned to mountain biking in about 2012 and haven’t looked back.

I’ve been on Aston Hill for a year and a half now and my time on the team has helped me develop into a more able and competitive rider. If I’m not riding a bike, which is rarely, I like to listen to music and read books but most of the time you’ll find me on my local trails.”

Jeremy Coe – Youth Men

“My first race was at Penshurst bike park on the 18th of May 2014. Since then I have been riding and racing. In 2017 I started to enter some bigger races like the Pearce series and a few nationals. At the beginning of 2018 I joined the Aston Hill-Lovelo race team.

As for this year I am entered to do all the nationals and the Pearce series and am hoping for top 10 at most events. I am competing in the youth category. When I’m not racing I ride my local hills most weekends.”

(Photo Credit: Friction Media)

BIG AMBITIONS

Last year was as a tough one for UK downhill, but there’s still plenty to get excited about in 2018.

“The team this season have bonded and become very close,” says Joe. “Each rider has been using their strengths to help other team members overcome their fears and weaknesses, which has improved the speed of all the riders.”  

And that ambition is infectious—Junior team members Josh and Ellen have their sights fixed on World Cup entry.

“I have applied to race a few of the World Cup rounds,” says Josh, clearly keen for a strong year. “I’m always looking to improve and I feel like I am now stronger and more experienced, so when it comes to races I am better prepared.”

“I just got accepted to race at the Fort William and Leogang World Cup qualifiers which is a big boost!”

[WATCH] Aston Hill-Lovelo’s 2018 team video edit…  
  

Ellen will be hoping she can shake off an early-season shoulder injury and maintain the form that saw her grab second place at Cwmcarn in April…

“I’d definitely like to think I’ve upped a level from last year, my fitness has got a lot stronger through putting in the hours, and my technique is getting better all the time. Looking forward into 2019, I would love to compete in a World Cup, it would be an amazing experience!”

Podiums and wins at Nationals and Pearce Cycles races are obviously vital for Aston Hill-Lovelo in 2018. But for the team’s youngest rider, Jeremy Coe, the priority is to simply keep training hard and absorbing every experience.

“I really want to push on this year and I’m hoping for some good results. With the new team and bike I feel like my riding is maturing. I ride every weekend too, and intend to keep doing so.”

WHAT HAPPENS ON RACE DAY?

Aston Hill-Lovelo have been training with the coaches at Firecrest MTB, so we got them talking about race day routines and their biggest lessons from off-season…  

“I only really like to do one practice run on race day,” Joe mulls. “Most of my practice gets done the day before, because I know if I make any mistakes on the pre-race in Sunday practice it will play on my mind going into the run.”

Joe has an experienced head on his shoulders. And after picking up his first ever podium at a national race this season, you get the sense there’s definitely more to come.

“It [Cwmcarn] was a short track and had large jumps which have always been a weakness of mine. My strategy was to maximise the top and middle section of the tracks and do the jumps as quick and efficiently as I could.”

(Photo Credit: Sally Ross Photography)

When it comes to events like this, it’s all in the mind—something the team have been working on to reach their peak.

“Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learnt as part of the team was about stress,” reflects Ellen, a rider most at home on technical routes.

“It can be quite a high pressure environment at the races, so a big thing for me was learning to control that! It’s been huge for me to realise that when you’re relaxed, you ride smoother and faster. This year is all about putting down the best time I can and having the most fun possible, which I think is a much healthier and happier way to compete.”

“It’s also about being able to focus and look for the positives in a bad result,” adds Jeremy. “I’ve always enjoyed the more technical and steeper tracks with lots of corners, rather than the faster straighter ones. You just have to accept the mistakes you make and learn from them.”

(Photo Credit: Sally Ross Photography)

Another way to conquer unwanted stress on race day is watertight preparation, as Josh Mead knows only too well…

“I always make sure I have my kit and bike prepared the night before so I don’t have to do anything in the morning. I try to eat a good breakfast and usually get two runs in max before my race, then chill out. I’ll also take my trail bike and go for a little spin with my headphones in before I go up to do my warm up at the top.”

Josh nods to staying smooth and relaxed as his biggest strength in the saddle, but admits he has a weak spot on rocky runs like Fort William.

“I like it when it’s steep and the ground is soft with ruts you can slide into. Fort William will be a challenge at the next round of the National Series, but as long as I just relax and only worry about myself, rather than those I’m racing against, I should be fine…”

RIDING WITH MICHELIN

The Aston Hill-Lovelo four are riding on Michelin tires this season, putting their trust in tried and tested models such as the Wild Grip R and Wild Rock R2.

“They’ve been outstanding,” says Joe. “They have so much grip, are easy to set up, tubeless, and give good predictable feedback as you ride.”

It’s been a promising few weeks for the team, and Josh believes the tires are helping him to give it his all on race day: “I just find they give great support, which means I have the confidence to push my bike to the limit.”

(Photo Credit: Sally Ross Photography)

Meanwhile, Jeremy noticed a difference in his riding almost immediately…

“I noticed a change when at an event after changing tires, which I hadn’t ever really noticed before. I feel like I can trust them in all weathers.” 

And it’s that cross-terrain and weather consistency that’s impressed Ellen the most. “They’re super grippy. Even riding on the wet, icy chalk at Aston Hill, I’ve never had issues with slipping out or anything. They’re a good all rounder and are fast rolling in the dry too.”

(Photo Credit: Sally Ross Photography)

ON THE HUNT

It’s been a promising start to 2018 for Aston Hill-Lovelo MTB Racing Team.

As the Ellen and Josh look to take the next step in their MTB journey, youngster Jeremy chases valuable experience, and veteran Joe goes on the hunt for more podiums, we can definitely expect more impressive results in 2018.

And with some big events coming up, including tough tests at Rhyd-Y-Felin, Rheola and Bringewood in the British National Downhill Series, there’s definitely a lot to look forward to!

You can stay up-to-date with the team’s progress, including full race day reports, on their Facebook page here.

Want more like this? Read: Cecile Ravanel: “I’m addicted to adrenaline.”

What's your MTB alter ego?

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