Won’t Back Down – The Steve Peat Story – Clay Porter and John Lawlor

Steve Peat I love a bit of mountain biking porn as much as the next man, but there comes a time when endless footage of riders pulling whips is no longer enough – what I need is a story, some larger-than-life characters, raw emotion and triumph over adversity.

Clay Porter’s Won’t Back Down is feast after famine, not one story but three wrapped up in a single handy package.  It’s primarily the story of the man everyone loves to love, Steve Peat, but also serves as a potted history of downhill racing and Peaty’s attempts to win the Downhill World Championship.  It’s a meaty one hour and fifty minutes, gripping throughout, emotionally charged and as a Hollywood blockbuster might have been considered far-fetched.

Steve Peat’s early story is told by those who knew him, particularly Will Longden and Rob Warner, using superb archive footage and family photos.  Warner is pleasingly throttled back, not the potty-mouthed loon of the World Cup commentary booth but lucid and engaging.

Striking off at a brave tangent Porter and John Lawlor turn their camera on some of the characters who influenced Peaty’s career.  Jason McRoy, the first Brit to break the american stranglehold on downhill racing, inspires Peaty and a generation of British riders to think big.  Nicolas Vouilloz, by contrast, is the thorn in his side, the driven professional and the man to beat.

From this point the film really builds a head of steam as the focus shifts irrevocably to Peaty and his struggle to win the World Championship.  His five year head to head with Vouilloz becomes ever more frustrating.  A telling quote from his diary after another defeat in 2002 simply asks “What do I have to do?”

The editing is tight, the soundtrack is superb and the interviews are both revealing and touching.  But it is the story that drives this film relentlessly with the last twenty minutes in a class of their own.  How many mountain bike films have you reaching for the tissues?  How many heroes, outside schmaltzy films, finally achieve a lifetime ambition when all seems lost?  Warner comes close to encapsulating the moment while still getting a dig in.  “A life’s work there in one run, well past his sell-by date.”

Few mountain bike films withstand repeated viewing, this one does.  Won’t Back Down combines a good thriller, a biography of a remarkable man and a love story.  Love story?  The opening footage is of Steve Peat winning at Fort William in 2005 and the crowd reaction says it all.  Steve Peat loves his fans and they love him right back.  This film is a fitting tribute to that ongoing love affair.

Won’t Back Down trailer here

Sheffield Adventure Film Festival is showing Won’t Back Down.  Info here.