A few years back, Mongoose BMX pro Greg Illingworth was approached by Monster Energy and Source BMX to assist professional UK race car driver Nicolas Hamilton in riding a bike for the first time. Even though Greg had no idea what to expect and no experience coaching someone with Cerebral Palsy, he jumped at the opportunity to hang out with such an impressive and talented person like Nicolas. Both athletes recently shared the inspirational film on their social channels, but we wanted to catch up with Greg to ask him a few questions about his unique experience.
First off how did this project come about with Nicolas Hamilton?
GREG ILLINGWORTH: It came about through Monster Energy really. Nic was on their motorsport team and wanted to learn how to ride. His team manager at Monster had a chat with the BMX TM and so the ball was rolling. I suppose I would have been the most qualified rider on the team with my coaching experience at Source BMX. Hastings is a perfect location too, with the smooth promenade and dialled indoor skatepark right underneath.
Did you know much about Nicolas before meeting him?
GREG: I had actually met him once before while doing some shows for Monster Energy at a Superbike race. I’ve been a fan of motorsport and particularly F1 my whole life, so I knew a little about him even before that.
How different was it teaching someone that has never ridden a bike before compared to teaching kids to do tricks?
GREG: I’ve taught loads of kids to ride bikes before too so had an idea where to start. Nicolas’ muscular difficulties were for more of a challenge. He’s naturally athletic, strong and determined!
That must have been an amazing feeling seeing Nicolas cruise on the bike by himself. How was the overall vibe after he did that?
GREG: It was absolutely unreal. I had goosebumps all over when he did it. Everyone in the park was buzzing!
Do you two have any plans to do more together? He seemed like he wanted to ride the bowl!
GREG: There were plans to take it much further but it never materialised for some reason. I assume Nic got busy with the racing season soon after that and time was limited. I’m up for helping him out again any time.