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Ridemonkey Interviews Thomas Vanderham with Sterling Lorence Photos
Thomas spoke with us on a few topics, including his recent and upcoming projects, his thoughts on the delta and DW suspension systems, a mid-travel Evil bike, his training regiment, and the PGA tour. Read on for more!
Interview by David Peacock
Photos by Sterling Lorence
Style is a tangible thing; it is possessed by some and completely lacking in others. Although it morphs as opinions change, there is always a constant, stable ground zero to which mountain bikers gravitate. The manifestation of the word style can be seen in the riding of Thomas Vanderham, formerly ďThe KidĒ. With years of competition and filming experience, Thomas is no longer near the shadows of his mentors, and he is no longer the kid. Catching up with Thomas is something that never happens on the trails, but fortune smiled upon us over the Internet, and we were able to grab some of Thomasí thoughts for this interview.
Hey Thomas! How has your season been thus far? Can you give us a short summary of where youíve been since the end of last year?
TV: Hey Ridemonkey, my season so far has been very busy. It started with some spring filming for Follow Me and recently I was in Italy and Japan.
Remember to click the photographs for a larger image!
In Italy you attended Lago di Garda; it seems like a pretty cool festival, but we donít seem to hear much from it in North America. What about it attracts you and other top professional riders?
Garda is a huge European festival, it attracts close to 20,000 people every year. Itís very participation based, so we are there to ride with people and take part in some of the small events.
Do you have plans to compete in any slopestyle events this year? Now that courses have become more analogous to dirt jump tracks do you see yourself focusing more on filming, or has that already happened?
TV: I havenít been competing in slopestyle events for a couple years. I really enjoyed some of the older events like Monster Park, but courses have definitely gone the other direction. My main focus has really always been on filming. Itís what got me started in the mountain bike industry and what still keeps me inspired.
You still race DH from time to time, do you still enjoy the competitive environment that racing provides?
TV: Absolutely. I grew up racing try to do a couple races a year, mainly for training purposes. Racing really helps me a lot physically and mentally. I donít think there is anything better for your bike skills than going as fast as you can.
Training seems like a mandatory element of racing and riding at a high level. Does your strength training translate directly into increases in speed and confidence? How does the program you follow compare to that of top WC riders?
TV: I started training for rehab after my first major injury. Previous to that I had never enjoyed going to the gym, but I started working with a trainer who made workouts fun and challenging for me. So for the last 4 years or so I have been working in the gym every offseason. Of course itís going to make you feel stronger on your bike but my main concern is when I come off!
Style is often controversial, yet Iíve never heard someone say that they donít like your style. Are there particular elements of your riding that you work on consciously to achieve this, or does it all come naturally?
TV: Thatís a good question. Growing up I looked up to riders who had good style and tried to emulate them, so I am conscious of it for sure. Style is a tough thing to work on though; there is definitely a natural element in everyoneís style.
Are there any freeriders that you believe are bringing good style to the table right now, and how does it compare to that of racers like Brendan or Sam?
TV: The best quote I have heard about style is that ďStyle is making the difficult look easyĒ. That translates weather you are flying down a racecourse or through a set of jumps. Brendan Fairclough and Brandon Semenuk are two guys that make things look easy in their respective disciplines.
Follow Me was just released this spring, and a sizable portion of the film was dedicated to you and Sam Hill riding together. Was it enjoyable shooting in such inclement weather, and do the shots feel more rewarding when things like that are working against you?
TV: It was not particularly enjoyable to shoot in that weather, but we had no choice but to shoot every day while Sam was in town. All you can do in that situation is hope that the difficult conditions translate on film to the viewer.
In contrast to a shoot like that, where the weather was wet and wild, your Life Cycles shoot seemed to go very smoothly. Working with Derek and Ryan must have been a change of pace, what were your impressions of the project?
TV: Yes, that shoot did go smoothly. It was wild to be up all night and sleep through the day; we ate breakfast at 3 in the afternoon. It was time consuming as well, those guys have an unbelievable vision for their film. Itís taken a lot of time bit Iím really looking forward to seeing the final product.
Are you excited with the visual look of riding the bike park at night?
TV: Definitely, we were a little limited by the fact that we could only light up about 50 feet of trail at once, but overall it was a great experience. One I will probably never have the opportunity to do again.
You also seem to have done some covert filming for a mainstream TV commercial for Degree, when was that filmed and how did it differ from shooting with mountain bike film companies?
TV: (laughs) Yes, I have been hearing a lot about the degree commercial. It was filmed last summer and was the first time I have ever worked on a big production like that. It was way different that shooting with a mountain bike film. I had my own make up girl and people watching over my every move.
Will you be filming for any major projects this year?
TV: No plans yet.
12. Do you think that television coverage is a medium that will feature DH races or slopestyle contests in the future?
TV: That could happen; I think it would be great if done correctly. Downhill is a bit tough to broadcast and slopestyle, as a format, is not quite ready. Maybe one day it will happen but I donít think itís absolutely vital to the future of the sport.
One event that still encompasses the versatility of mountain biking in its entirety is Red Bull Rampage. Are you excited for that, and do you have any idea of what weíll see from you come October?
TV: I have no idea! The Red Bull Rampage is a new animal every year.
I understand that the top 15 finishers from 2008 are prequalified. Being among that select group must be a bit of a relief, especially after the tight qualifiers in í08. How will that modify your approach given the extra time to focus on finals?
TV: The Rampage is a serious mental grind every year. For me in the past, qualifying has always been more stressful. I remember not getting a minute of sleep before the first ever Rampage. Last year, weather forced a one run qualifier and I rode so conservatively that I almost missed the finals. So I for one am happy to be prequalified.
In 2008 there were some criticisms about the format, and riders not having enough time to properly test out their lines. Do you agree that allotting a greater period of preparation time will raise the level of riding while simultaneously lowering the risk of injury?
TV: I think that is the intention behind the format changes and itís good to see.
Now that youíve spent a full season riding and filming on the Evil Revolt, how does it compare to the Sunday that you rode at the last Rampage? From your standpoint, is delta a significant improvement on the DW design?
TV: Itís a completely different bike; it is very hard to compare the two. I prefer the Revolt because of the adjustments it allows and the more bottomless feel of the suspension. It has been awesome to work with Weagle on the Revolt, his knowledge of suspension is on another level.
Are there plans to develop a mid-travel bike based around the delta design? What do you use right now on all-mountain trail rides?
TV: Yes there is a mid travel bike in the works. Currently I am riding other bikes when I go for a pedal.
Where do you see yourself from a riding standpoint in ten years? Will all-mountain riding begin to replace the stunted madness that has filled much of your career thus far?
TV: Iím thinking about making a run at the PGA tour when Iím done with riding. No, not sure yet, Iíve got some ideas. I hope to be riding some sort of bike for a long time.
Thomas, best of luck this season and hopefully weíll see you at Crankworx or sooner. Thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us!
TV: My pleasure.
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