Wyn Masters needs no introduction. After 16 years on the UCI World Cup DH circuit, building a legion of fans with his uncanny ability to keep a bike on one wheel and his hilarious behind-the-scenes WynTV videos, the soon to be 37-year-old New Plymouth native has one of the biggest fan-bases in the paddock.  

Well-respected by his peers and those in the industry, Wyn’s become of the mainstays of the World Cup downhill scene, but as his World Cup career winds down, he’s become more focussed on helping the privateers.  

In 2021 he established a 15,000 GoFundMe account that awarded money to the fastest privateers at both the DH World Cup and select EWS rounds, putting money back into the sport to help the riders who need it the most. 

After four years of running this programme, in 2023 Wyn and his sponsors expanded the initiative into “The Privateer Project”, where the fastest privateer at a World Cup was given a full team experience – complete with a bike – at the following round.  

With 2024 likely to mark Wyn’s final year of racing at the World Cups, the dramatic upheaval in the DH landscape, his new privateer programme, and becoming a dad for the first time, we thought it was high time we sat down with him to get the inside scoop on everything that’s happening. 

Cheers for the chat, Wyn. First up, tell us about your Privateer Project. 

Basically, I built upon what I’d started with the Privateer Award in 2019. That initiative was run off donations through GoFundMe and some of my sponsors, and in 2022 we managed to raise up to 2500 per race for the best privateer. In 2023 we expanded it so that if you won the award, you were part of the team for the next World Cup race – we supported you with a mechanic, accommodation, food, everything. If you wanted, and depending on your sponsors, you could also keep the GT race bike afterward. We documented the whole experience, told the story of each privateer, and captured what it’s like to be with the team for a week.

Was 2023 as successful as you’d hoped? 

We’re pretty happy with how it turned out, and we managed to help quite a few riders. We were meant to have eight riders for the eight races, but certain rounds were challenging: we had guys get injured on their practice runs, but we just rolled with it and helped someone else. That was a bit tricky to document and tell the stories as we would’ve already interviewed the injured guy.  

Having the riders change bikes for the round was also a challenge, but we only had one privateer we helped who didn’t qualify for the semifinal, so we were stoked on that. 

How many of those privateers scored new GTs out of the programme? 

There are now five or six riders out there racing GTs at the World Cups, which is pretty cool. The aim is to try and build that image where everyone wants to ride a GT and have that support. All-in-all, it was a good first year, but we might need to change it up after 2024, just because the sport’s changing a lot right now. With the new semifinals and finals formats, unless you’re an absolutely insane rider, you’re not going to make the finals now, and after 2024 I don’t think we’ll see that many privateers at the World Cups. 

So, you plan to run the initiative again this year? 

At this stage, yes. I think it’d be easy enough to run the same programme again, but with the way budgets are at the moment, it might be tricky to build on it. If the World Cups become inaccessible for privateers, we might need to make some changes and look at other series from 2025; a lot of those fringe riders will probably turn their attention to those events to make a living and gain exposure.

You’ve been such a champion for privateers, and quite outspoken on the dramatic changes we saw introduced to the World Cups last year. Looking back, did your concerns come to fruition? 

I’ve always liked the fact that one of the fastest riders in their home country, could put their bike in a box, fly across the world, turn up at the World Cups and have a crack.  

We’ve all watched guys and girls who’ve gone from not qualifying, to qualifying, to then working their way to the top of the sport. Now that’s kind of gone – it’s now very elite and it does take away some of those stories of people who’ve just refused to quit. 

The current entry list is pretty insane and there were some riders who’ve never really struggled to qualify, and they never raced a final this year. While it’s still pretty open for privateers to make the semifinals, there were some mentally broken riders at the end of last year who couldn’t qualify. 

The UCI cutting the finals numbers down is a bad thing, as you get a lot less of the guys who’ve made their way to the top. They want the sport more elite, but I don’t think it’s the right way to do it. What they’re doing isn’t helping the sport.

“It’s now very elite and it does take away some of those stories of people who’ve just refused to quit.”

You’ve got to think that the changes will force quite a few riders to look to events like Crankworx, to make money and get exposure in the coming years.  

Definitely. Even for the young kids coming through, you have to question whether it’s even worth racing the World Cups now. Unless they’re absolutely dominating at home, it’s not worth lining up for them.  

Every country has a solid national series: the Portugal series is awesome, it only cost 20-30 euros to enter, and you still get UCI points there. If you actually want to develop as a rider, there are so many events you could do; going straight to the World Cups won’t help you. 

If there’s such a tight elite level to the sport, how will we see the new blood coming through into the World Cups from now on? Will it be through retirement of the elite riders or what? 

I’m not sure, to be honest. There must be some plans to build a feeder series to the World Cups. I could see a series like the IXS Cup develop something along those lines, where if you achieve a certain level, you earn a World Cup start. 

Why did you start the whole Privateer Award in the first place? Was it because you know what it’s like to uproot your life to try and make it in the sport?  

Yeah, that was pretty much the motivation for it. Because I’ve been through that situation, I’ve got know how hard it is for those riders, and when it works out and you become successful, it’s pretty cool. I’m also now in a position where I’m able to give back. Helping the riders out, seeing them achieve their dreams and make a career from it is almost as good as getting good results myself. 

“Helping the riders out, seeing them achieve their dreams and make a career from it is almost as good as getting good results myself.”

Speaking of your career, you’ve had a pretty solid innings at the World Cup level. What’s it been – 16 years? 

Yep, 2023 was my 16th year. It seems like a lot until you realise Greg Minaar has done 24 years, which is just insane. Even Sam Blenkinsop has done 19 years, and last year he did everything by himself, with no mechanic or team around him. For me, living in Europe, it’s quite easy to get to different European races – most of the World Cups are within a five-hour drive – so I’d like to stay here until I’m really done with professional riding, then move back to New Zealand. 

When we were chatting last year, you told me 2023 might be your last year, but it sounds like you’ve changed your tune a little. Can we expect to see you still line up in 2024? 

I was injured for half of 2023, after I overshot the last drop at Lenzerheide. It was the first race of the year, and I broke my hand pretty bad and had a big concussion from that qualifying crash. It was the first surgery I’ve had in Europe in 16 years of racing, but it set me back a fair bit.  

When I returned, I was off the pace, and I didn’t put in any decent rides until the end of the season. So yeah, I feel like there’s still a bit of unfinished business I need to take care of. 

The 2024 season starts at Fort William, which is a good track for me. And because it’s a month earlier than normal, the weather could be pretty shit, which also plays into my favour. If the UCI expands the finals to include 40 racers, there’s a chance I could make the cut. 

I’ll re-evaluate what the rest of the year looks like, after Fort William, but it could be an opportunity to look at doing other events that I haven’t been able to do, because I’ve always chased the World Cups. Doing a good job of WynTV is always pretty high on my priority list as well.

Yeah, WynTV always seems to be evolving and growing. What are you going to focus on this year? 

I’m actually running all my content through my own YouTube channel, with sponsor support, rather than through my sponsor’s channels. I probably should’ve done that ages ago, and if I’d done that from the start, I’d have a huge channel subscription right now. If someone wants to watch personal vlogs and footage, they’re not going to click through to a bicycle channel to do it – they’ll be going to the rider’s page directly.

“To anyone thinking about it, just go and have a crack. Race the IXS Cup, the French Cup or whatever – there’re loads of cool events outside of the World Cups.”

Nice one. Finally, imagine I’m a young kid with lots of potential, wanting to make a career racing overseas. What’s your advice to them? 

There are lots of young Kiwis coming through now, which is awesome to see, but it’s a hard time in the sport for young riders. You need to be the whole package – brands don’t just look at results or at the media you’ve generated, they want the whole lot.  

At the same time, my brother, Ed, and I have a lot of respect for the kids who try and have a crack off their own bat, without the help of Mum and Dad Factory Racing.  

To anyone thinking about it, just go and have a crack. Race the IXS Cup, the French Cup or whatever – there’re loads of cool events outside of the World Cups. People go to Europe to travel around in a van anyway, so why not race your bike at the same time? Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ve still had an OE with your mates, had a sick time, and you’ve come home with a bunch of good stories and life experiences.