Wednesday, October 17, 2007

1994 World Mtn Bike Championships

I honestly believe that 1994 was the peak of the sport of mtn biking, at least for me. The summer of 94 was one I would never forget. I was living in Vail and working at a small bike shop called Cascade sports. That summer in Vail so many of the World's best was spending time in Colorado prepping for the World Championships and trying to acclimatize to the altitude. The lowest part of the race course was 8100 feet above sea level. The local Wed night race series would sometimes see 25+ pros, half of them international. It was crazy. For a kid coming from the east coast, it was baptism by fire and I loved it. I remember some local Tuesday night races exceeding 500 racers! I wonder if a National event has that many racers today?

The start. You can see Daniele Pontoni getting the hole shot ahead of Tinker and Henrik. The Vail course was a clover leaf pattern, or 3 mini laps that made up one giant lap. Before you headed out to do each clover leaf you would have to ride through Vail Village, one of the best courses ever! Thomas Frischknecht was heavily favored going into this race, but the night before he collided with someone on the local bike path outside his hotel and broke his collarbone.

Pontoni really hammered it for one lap. Pontoni had an incredible cyclocross background and would go on to win the Cyclocross Worlds in 97. However the altitude and the distance would eventually see him fade hard.

Tinker and Henrik were the only ones that were consistently up front. Tim Gould from the UK bridged up to them for a while, but he either flatted or faded.

Tinker and Henrik starting to gap Gould. Gould was one of my favorite riders at the time. Gould was an incredible climber and excelled on technical courses. I think he has won the Mt Snow World Cup. One of the best racers of his time.

The chase was on! No one was climbing as well as Tinker and Henrik that day. They were really in a league of their own. The American you see here is Paul Willerton.

Ned Overend and Andre Brenes(Costa Rica). Brenes use to ride for Ritchey and really had some good results in the early 90's. They had a respectable race but it wasn't the fastest I have seen these guys race. Some days you have it, some days you don't. Earlier that year Ned won 2 world Cups overseas and was the last American to do so.

The Brazilian team spent most of the summer in Vail. We did many rides and races with these guys that summer. They would hang out at the shop often. They were a lot of fun. However on this day they suffered pretty bad. I forget their names, but not the faces. I believe this is his brother shouting encouragement. I think the the dropout rate was pretty low. Did I mention the crowds were insane, especially on the climbs. It was like a Tour de France climb with all the flags and cowbells. It was seriously insane!
The Mexican team also spent the summer in Vail prepping for Worlds. This is my friend Bo. Some races he could really hammer and some races I have never seen someone suffer so badly. We would ride and race together many times that summer.

This is Mark Nelson, originally from Australia but really a Vail local. He was one of the faster Vail pros back in the day. He still had Australian citizenship and scored a spot on the World's team. He hammered me into the ground at many Colorado races. He always had a smile on his face even when he was deep in the pain cave.

Paul Willerton had an incredible year in 94. He would finish 6th on the day. Second American after Tinker. He lived over the pass and would race every local race. Nothing like getting your teeth kicked in every week by this guy. Back then all the roadies were coming over to the mtn bike scene cause there was more money in it then. How things have changed. I think all the great mtn bikers of this generation eventually made their way back to the road. How I wished they stayed in the sport.

Local Vail hero Chris Doyle. I really liked Chris and he was always encouraging to the younger racers. He even gifted me the win once on the local Wed Night worlds road ride. He also scored a 6th place one year at the Mammoth World Cup. Back in the day Tony Rominger use to come to Vail to get some altitude training in and prep for the grand tours. Chris was the only cyclist that Rominger would ride with since he could keep up on with him on the mtn passes. Everytime Rominger came to town he would have Chris show him the best rides. His parents owned a diner across from where I lived and I would eat breakfast there often. I believe his sister is married to Todd Wells. Mike Janelle use to live with the Doyle family, now you know how Janelle got so fast.

Tinker and Henrik going up the last climb of the race. They would summit together, but Henrik would drop Tinker on the descent and win World Championships for a 3rd straight time. The saddest part was that he dropped Tinker without suspension. All he had was a soft ride stem.

Tinker finishing second and slapping high fives to the fans. The fans were crazy for Tinker that day. There was no way the fans wanted a Euro to win on American soil. I saw Tinker tear up after the race, he tried so hard for the fans and came up short and it got to him. He still is one of my favorite racers of all time!

Miguel Martinez winning the Junior World Title. He would eventually win the World Mens title, a bronze and gold medal in the olympics too. The dude is tiny, maybe 5 ft tall and acts like a Frenchman. When was the last time you saw that many people watching a Junior race? Seriously the crowds at Worlds that year was insane. Not only the climbs were packed with spectators, but it was a wall of noise too on the singletrack descents. Miguel went out partying in town that night with his medal. I guess when you have a gold medal around your neck you can get into the clubs and bars at 18 yrs old.

Julie Furtado started well but I believe she would fade to 4th. However in her heyday she was untouchable. She had already won a world title in Cross Country in 1990 but she would go on to win the World title in 92 in the downhill. Her and Tomac back in the day were complete mtn bike riders, something you don't see anymore.

Susan Demattei would come on strong and scored a silver medal. She married Dave Wiens. Thats one fast couple.

Alison Sydor led the race start to finish.

Alison can't believe she pulled it off. Julie Furtado was heavily favored going into the race.

One more footnote on the race. Some Africans came to Worlds that year. They couldn't afford to bring their bikes so they raced on loaner bikes from local shops. I even lent one of the guys a pair of my cycling shoes to race on. It seriously was a wonderful time for mtn bike racing.

Also the UK team spent the month before Worlds in Vail. I remember my best friend Knucklz who was and aspiring downhiller taking Steve Peat out on the local downhill trails. Knucklz would come back bruised but with a smile across his face telling me how he just worked the dude on some technical sections. Knucklz had world class talent but BS in the sport would see him quit. Also me and Mike Gibbs went to this race in Silver Creek CO. The entire British junior team was there. I remember going by them in the race and the coach telling them they had to finish the damn race, even if it took them 5 hours. I guess they were not use to the altitude and had yet to finish a race.


StupidBike said...

awesome post.

primetime formerly known as slyfox said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I was there too. Unreal weekend for sure. Watching the XC racers drop Baileys Bail out was nuts. I need to dig out some of my "in the day" photo's and get them scanned.

Forrest said...

Yeah Art, dig out the old school pics. I got a pic of my Brazilian friend running Baileys Bail Out, first time around he tried to clean it and it schooled him. He didn't try it again after that. Lots of carnage in that section. Remember how loud it would be when racers cleared it.

ScottyD said...

If I remember right Susan was the only girl riding Baileys. Summer of '94 in Colorado was great

Paul Willerton said...

Very cool! That was a special time for me - thanks for posting those pictures and commentary. Doesn't feel that long ago.. until you look at those bikes and helmets.

Anonymous said...


this is very good and accurate from what i've heard about mountain biking..

Unknown said...

Yeah, Susan was riding it. I dropped in on the first lap and ate shit, did a 3/4 flip and ended up on a Fox TV show called Things You Should Never Do, or something like that. My race was forgettable but Susan's was killer!

Anonymous said...

Hello from the UK,

Came across your blog. I was there in Vail for the '94 champs helping the British team as a volunteer as well as '92 in Bromont. You don't happen to have a link to the full results do you?

Also, what was the name of the band that played at the Rockshox after race party? I was there but very drunk so can't remember!

Cheers, John

Forrest said...

I dont have the full results or remember the band.