Mountain

VN Archives: CX nationals and 24-hour racing

We revisit an issue of VeloNews magazine from early 1999 that recapped cyclocross nationals and featured an in-depth look at the 24-hour MTB craze.

The last half century has produced countless amazing moments in pro cycling, and VeloNews has been there for almost every one. This year we celebrate our 48th birthday. With 48 years worth of magazines in our archives, we want to present some of the more memorable VeloNews covers, feature stories, and interviews from our past. Our hope is these curated snippets from our past help motivate you to pursue your passion for the sport you love.

For this week’s installation, we look back at the February 8, 1999 issue of VeloNews, which included a full race report from the 1998 U.S. cyclocross national championships at Fort Devins, Massachusetts.

Although the cover was devoted to Frank McCormack, who won his second of two national titles, the first paragraph in Bryan Jew’s story highlighted an up-and-coming rider, one who ’cross fans would come to know very well over the next decade:

At the finish of the Saturn SuperCup Cyclo-cross series finale, Tim Johnson (CCB-Volkswagen-Independent Fabrication) was cooked. He had just completed a three-day orgy of ’cross racing that began on Friday, December 18 with him claiming the national under-23 championship, continued on Saturday in the elite men’s championship, and ended with the SuperCup finale on Sunday, December 20.

“I was dying, dying,” said Johnson of his third race in three days. “It was one day of racing too long.”

Also, this issue included a feature story on the now-defunct 24 Hours of Moab mountain bike race, which is apropos, given that the 20th edition of 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo kicks off Saturday in Arizona. Here’s how Kip Mikler started his story about the late-90s sensation that was 24-hour mountain bike racing.

Utah’s desert landscape is still hidden by the night as clocks strike 6 a.m. The moon, 69-percent visible from the sandy floor, is bright enough to cast shadows; but the darkness shrouding this desert plateau, 15 miles south of Moab, remains humbling. Especially if you’re pedaling a mountain bike across this godforsaken setting, known simply as “Behind the Rocks.” It’s not the kind of dark where you can’t see your hand in front of your face; it’s the kind that makes you feel like you’re missing out on something. That nocturnal creature sliding through the sagebrush can’t be seen, only heard. And the Volkswagen-size rocks, dimly reflecting the moonlight, appear to change shape as you roll closer to them. As for the cactus, don’t even think about it.

Humans have no need to know what goes on here 364 nights a year. But on the night of October 10-11, 1998, more than 1,200 mountain bikers are interrupting the natural order of things to compete in the kind of race that the sport’s founding fathers never even imagined …