Interview: Back Luck Strikes Oli Beckingsale


Talking to a legend in off road racing including cyclo-cross, Oli Beckingsale (EnduraMTB) who’s recovering from a nasty Xmas ‘present’.

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Not racing at Shrewsbury next Sunday will be a legend in off road racing, Oli Beckingsale (Endura MTB). With only a few races to go before he hangs up his wheels, disaster struck while out on a ride with friends before Xmas. Riding through a puddle, a stick was thrown into his front wheel and he face planted.


Oli in the Trophy leader’s jersey last season. He went on to win but a crash has halted his challenge for a repeat win this season.

Knocked out and waking up with a lot of pain in his neck, Oli has had to play a waiting game to see if he was going to be fit to race. A test session on Thursday said no and as he explained, after having knocked himself out, the last thing he wants is to land on his head again in a race which on the slippery courses the riders have at the moment, is a very real danger.

So the lap of honour around the country he’s been doing is on hold. No decision yet on the British champs but he has his fingers crossed he’ll have recovered fully from the smack in the face by the road and that he can challenge for a medal in Derby.

In the meantime, Oli has his fingers crossed that he can hold onto a podium spot in the National Trophy. He’s currently second but knows there are several riders who are challenging him for a podium spot overall.


Over the year’s, he’s battled hard to be the country’s number 1 in MTB XC with the likes of Liam Killeen, as well as podium in World Cups but where ever he rides, the race is always a better one for his presence whatever the result. Oli has been racing the 2013-14 cyclo-cross National Trophy season as a last hurrah and went into the season with high expectations of himself.

Making a podium in a National Trophy event was expected (and achieved) whilst winning a round was the big goal. He adds “Paul Oldham has been in really good shape and there isn’t much you can do about it. In the first Trophy, I had a really good fight for the win with Paul, one of the best fights I’ve had which went right down to the wire.”

Asked how keeps motivated knowing he’s going to retire, Oli replies “I have been doing this as a job for 16 years and always done my best so I’m not going to stop doing my best now. I am really enjoying the cyclo-cross. I have only done it in little bits before and last year (Trophy winner) was my first full year so I am quite fresh. If you’d done 16 years winter and summer, you’d have had enough and would be wanting to have a Xmas sat on your ass but I had that.”

“So I’m enjoying it and want to go out with my head held high”. Unfortunately for Oli, it’s the smack on the head injury which is now his big challenge and has halted his bid for the Trophy series.

“I really wanted to win the series overall but what I really wanted was to win some races. I want to win one before I stop! The main thing is I want to do a good National Championships. These races are great; good crowds, good atmosphere and I think the cyclo-cross racing scene is really healthy.”


“The National Champs is always a big race. Last year I didn’t have a great ride but I’d like to medal.” Oli explained today that he knows Ian Field and Paul Oldham are certainties for the podium but also there’s a group of riders including Ian Bibby, Nick Craig and himself also challenging for a medal. What he doesn’t know is whether he’ll be fit to ride and if he does, how his racing fitness will be after a short break since the crash.

“I’d also like to get a World’s spot” Oli added when we chatted pre-crash. “If that was my last ever pro race in front of 50,000 drunk Dutchies, it would probably be a good way to go out!”

“So I still have plenty of motivation. I have never won the cyclo-cross nationals so I’m going to give that a good try (if able to ride) and there are still new things to do right up until the point I hang up my wheels.”

Asked to recall a memorable moment from the current series, Oli says “Abergavenny was great. I like the circuit there as it’s a bit lumpy. You’re never going to get a hilly cyclo-cross circuit but it’s really grippy and it was a mud bath that day. Paul and I went head-to-head and it came down to the last lap. We were still together at the bell and I think there was one ramp where he was the stronger and he got away.”

Photo: My abiding memory of Oli is race up the Tumble in the Welsh Grand Prix this year ahead of the top pros in the country.

Oli’s Cross Roads
Turning the clock back to when he was 21 and the choices he had to make in cycling, Oli explains the choice at the end of the day to go with off road racing was quite easy. “The road scene has changed so much” he says. When I was a young pro, mountain biking was where it was at and contracts were knocking around.”

“There was no career path on the road; no World Class and it was still a European dominated scene. You had to do it the hard way back then. Guys like Charly Wegelius, David Millar, Roger Hammond; they are hard bastards. They moved abroad to make it happen. Back then you had to immerse yourself in that culture, live in a hut, learn the language and had to be better than the European guys.”

“There was no Sky or GreenEDGE, just European teams so it was a hard road. I was sitting there, 21, liking all cycling, and it was like, do you want to ride mountain bikes and go to cool places like Aspen and have a contract or do you want to go and live in a hut in France. It wasn’t a difficult choice!”

“I wish I’d done a little more on the road though”.

Working for Endura Designing Clothing
Like a lot of riders heading towards retirement, Oli has had his mitts on various options and one of those has been working for Scottish company, Endura.

“It’s my third season working with Endura and it’s been really cool. It’s been good to ride for a UK company and I really enjoy spending time up there with the guys like Jim (McFarlane) the boss and part of my role from day one was to develop some mountain bike clothing”.

“I was amazed at how much involvement I had. I have worked with Giant and Scott and it’s more marketing than product development. But the MTR kit range  for Endura was a blank sheet and designing all the way through. The jacket I’m wearing now is from the designs that were created from that blank paper”.

“Even though I’m not racing this year, I wanted to stay involved with the company and they wanted to stay involved with me so I’ll continue to do some product development as it fits in well with what I am doing”.

2013 – A Mixed Bag
Asked about this year, Oli says “I came back from a really bad injury in 2011 and won the national trophy 2012/13 and during the XC season, we did the nationals on the Commonwealths circuit. I got myself into good condition and was well up for it. Two weeks before I was riding around Abervgavenny and riding up the Tumble in good shape (to put it mildly) but the MTB circuit for the nationals wasn’t really suited to me. It was very twisty and Grant Ferguson, who I have done a little work with mentoring, was riding well and we had a good battle that day.”

“So, as far as highlights go for 2013, not so many as I really like winning big bike races. I have been alright but not winning has made stopping easier. If I’d won the National Champs on the Commonwealth Games course, then everyone was going to be looking at me and asking why aren’t you racing.”

“My days of doing World Cups and throwing myself down rock gardens are over though. The sport has changed a lot; it’s more technical and dangerous and I was never the best technically. I was okay but it’s become a far more technical sport. My strong point is power to weight. I have a decent engine in a light body and can climb. But I’m not a loony and having had a big crash two years ago, that took the edge off that even more.”

So Oli will stop racing but will keep riding as he loves riding his bike. “I have a lot on the go as I started some things well before I was planning to stop racing which makes sense. I have got a cycle shop (BW Cycling) in Bristol which has been going for a year now. That is a big business and will be the focus”.

“And I am doing more coaching and that will build. I’m really enjoying that. Helping my customers get the most from their bikes whatever they do with it. It’s a great replacement for the racing … I still have my goals but its more using the head rather than the legs.”


Career Highlight?

Finally. Its been a long career for Oli so the money question that had to be asked was ‘what’s been the highlight?’
“2005” Oli replies “I had a lot of fun that year. In 2004, I had some okay rides, went to the Olympics, left world class when they told me I was done, and I thought I really want to do a Commonwealth Games (2006, 2nd) and I realised I had to pull my finger out and I did.”

“I worked bloody hard self coached until I picked up a coach and I went to the first World Cup sponsored by Scott UK, a domestic sponsor. I rocked up having driven there with my dad and started 78th on the grid at Spa (Belgium) and rode up to 13th.”

“That was a special ride with World Team riders there too. I backed that up with sixth at the Europeans 30 seconds off a medal and was then ninth at the worlds. That was a nice little collection and I was then signed by a world team (Giant)…”

Oli continued to race at the top for many years to come. More top tens at the Worlds followed as did a ride at the Olympics in Beijing. Oli was and still is well capable of riding at the highest level in Britain, much the same as another legend in the sport of off roading, Nick Craig. But a new future lies ahead of Oli and we can only hope he’s able to recover from his crash and finish that career on a high at the British Champs.

Thanks Oli for the memories and the chats …



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