Ratboy is back, incoherent as ever.
And we got the full show of it, from another one of his unique podium renditions of God Save the Queen, to the somewhat questionable rumors of him shaking his dong at Gee Atherton.
Last year cemented Josh Bryceland as one of the very few riders with innate abilities on a bike that are above and beyond the rest of the field. He was the new Sam Hill—the guy who could ride fast and loose, and not only get away with it, but get away with it consistently.
And what he lacked in Hill’s line choices, he made up for in his well-documented off-the-bike antics.
Then Bryceland decided to huck-to-flat at Worlds, broke his foot, and threw away a winning run. Rat to Flat as the headlines read.
Months off the bike and the pressure of having nowhere to go but down brought an entirely predictable result. A disappointing start to the season had it looking like the Rat would join the likes of Stevie Smith and Sam Blenkinsop, riders who also hit the top levels, got injured, and haven’t been able to return to form.
But the Rat got back on pace with a win at Mont-Sainte-Anne by the narrowest of margins—less than ¼ of a second separated the top 3 finishers. The most impressive thing about this is just how quickly he came back. There were four races of fumbling around a bit, then a win in the 5th.
There are plenty of World Cup racers who make it to the top, then get injured. A few of them have managed to work their way back, but almost no one has come back so quickly.
Given Bryceland’s public persona as a goofy guy who likes to get rowdy and drunk, the proof seems to be in the pudding that his abilities are strong enough to keep him rolling to victory. Or if nothing else, he does a really good job of hiding the fact that he almost certainly spends a lot of time in the gym and doing interval sprints on a road bike.
I’m not sure that anyone was actually writing the Rat off this season, but it’s certainly clear now that he is still a contender.
But is he really back? Will we see a repeat win at Windham on August 8? Bryceland took it by a solid margin last year, and it’s the sort of track that seems to suit him. And it will be particularly interesting since Bryceland’s antipode (aka Aaron Gwin) will probably, like last year, be one of his main competitors.
(Video of that ride: Go to 1:56:00 to cut right to the Gwin / Bryceland duel.)
I’ll be tuning in mostly for the racing, but also for the chance to watch Ratboy lay waste to upstate New York in a snaggletoothed, cockney rampage.