Tuesday, May 22, 2012

1987 Championnat Du Monde VTT

by Ned

In June I will be travelling to France for the 25th anniversary of the "Championnat Du Monde VTT". In 1987, there were two World Mountain Bike Championships, one in the USA in Mammoth, California and one in Europe at Villard de Lans, France. That French race was my first experience bike racing in Europe. The promoter of the event paid for me, Joe Murray, Jacquie Phelan and Mary Lee Atkins to travel to Villard de Lans, and he put us up in a small house complete with a chef and a spectacular view of the French Alps.

The course was one big loop, with long stretches of narrow, rocky single track. I remember one exposed single track section had netting rigged up below the trail to keep riders from falling down a cliff, if they should happen to ride off the trail on the downhill side. 
One thing that was a little unnerving was the start, which was on a futbol field in the center of town. The Start Line stretched all the way across the center of the field and virtually everyone was on the front row, 200 in the Senior Men's class. It was a mad dash to get out of the stadium, through town, and onto the single track. I won the race, Joe Murray was second and Jacques Devi was third. Mary Lee Atkins won the women's race. Mary Lee and I both rode for the Schwinn team that year, and I started with Specialized in 1988.

Here is a classic podium shot
(I'm the one not wearing "hot pants")

Here is an example of the vintage iron I was riding that day

I was recently reading through the results and I noticed Silvia Furst was 7th in the Women's race. Silvia was on the Specialized team for several years and won the 
1993 World Championships in Bromont, Canada.

The day after the race the promoter arranged for me to be on a morning news show in Paris. He had chartered a flight for the journalists and I joined them on the flight back to Paris. It was an old propeller plane with poor ventilation and about 40 passengers. As soon as the plane was in the air every single passenger, except me, fired up a cigarette. The smoke was  so thick you couldn't see down the aisle to the front of the plane. I tried to roll down my window.

In 1987, I was fortunate to win the USA Worlds in Mammoth, California along with the European Worlds in France. Then in 1989 I won the US Worlds in Mammoth and was second to Mike Kloser at the Euro Worlds in Switzerland, so it was hard for either of us to truly be considered World Champion. In 1990, the UCI sanctioned the sport of Mountain Bike racing and took over the scheduling of a unified World Championships, which were held in my hometown of Durango and which I won.

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