By Les Clarke
After signing a new three-year deal with Santa Cruz and with a world record jump attempt coming up, Australian mountain biker Nathan Rennie will be making a flying start to the new year. The 24-year-old, who finished third overall in the world cup downhill series this season after missing several rounds through injury, is "sick of coming second" and very keen to have a big year in 2006.
Having recently resigned with the Santa Cruz syndicate, Rennie believes the security of a multi-year deal will enhance his performance, saying, "Its a good feeling knowing that you have a ride for the next year...I'm super happy to be where I am and stoked that I can work with a great company." Rennie has experienced a year of mixed fortunes in 2005 - injury, plus a crash in the world's race in Livigno has meant he hasn't taken the number of wins he'd prefer; this makes Santa Cruz's faith in him even more of a motivating factor for 2006.
The 2003 world cup downhill champion has also indicated he wants to target some freeride events, saying that it's a logical step "because I enjoy riding and jumping". He's stated it won't become his focus, but it'll definitely be on the agenda. In a similar vein, on October 31 Rennie is taking part in the Red Bull Mountain Gap event - an attempt on the world record jump of 116 ft - in the Painted Desert, about 30 kilometres from Coober Pedy, a small town in northern South Australia. The area resembles desert regions of the US, and with an abundance of undulations in the landscape there's no shortage of natural ramps.
"It's been at the back of my mind for a year, and always something I've wanted to do" said the Sydney-born rider. Red Bull backed the record attempt very strongly, constructing the 12 metre long, 3 metre high ramp, locating and organising the site, with the filming of a 30-minute TV programme scheduled to take place also. "Red Bull have put a lot behind it," said Rennie, and he's confident their support will pay off. Technically, the ramp they'll use for the jump will allow Rennie to build up plenty of speed before and during the takeoff. "The ramp is pretty mellow; we'll start off small and keep pushing it back until we get around that 116 ft range. I'm confident we can get over the record." He'll be towed in by a motorbike to get up to the required speed and use his Santa Cruz V-10 to attempt the record, adjusting spring weight and shock as necessary.
For the time being, however, Rennie is just trying to kick back and relax after a testing year, spending some time with his father in Sydney and racing at the Bicycling Australia Show mountain cross event. He finished in teh top four in the event even though he hadn't raced very often in the category during 2005, enjoying some fun on home turf before the serious task of the record attempt begins. He'll then spend some time at his home on Queensland's Gold Coast, where he'll begin gym work and preparations for next season, which, if the end of 2005 is any indication, should be busy and successful.