By Andrew Hood
Myles Rockwell’s last run will be fun, he’s sure of that.
Whether or not he wins Saturday’s world championship downhill race won’t make that much of a difference to Rockwell. He’s just wants to make sure he goes out in style.
“This is the big show, so why not go out with a bang?” Rockwell told VeloNews in an interview Friday. “To me, the worlds are an opportunity to leave on a really high note. I’ve been watching the people’s faces a lot this week along they course. The fans here in Europe are screaming for you and want to see you go to the limit. I’m going to enjoy it.”
Rockwell, one of the most popular and laid-back riders on the circuit, decided he’d rather leave the sport he loves while he’s still on top rather than hang around and get bitter. Or worse, get seriously injured.
“The last couple of years it’s more and more difficult to be where I want to be, which is the top,” he said. “Retiring is a matter of self-preservation. Downhill racing is fun, but I don’t want to have to risk my life every weekend to make a living.”
Rockwell is known just as much for his penchant for injuries as winning and was wracked with broken bones throughout his career.
“That’s part of my story,” he said. “It makes it so much harder to keep pushing when you’ve been through the ringer a few times. You know how hard it is to come back, how painful it is, how much therapy there is. So I’m being responsible because people don’t want to see my hurt again.”
Rockwell says he intends to stay involved with racing, something that’s been his passion mountain biking’s first world championships in Durango in 1990. The downhill world’s changed dramatically since Rockwell, now 30, first started racing in his late teens.
“It’s turned into a much more serious sport. I still like riding for the feeling, not for the time,” he said. “When I first started, downhilling was completely different than today. The only similarity is that we race on 26-inch wheels with knobby tires.”
Rockwell said his career highlight was winning the rainbow jersey in 2000, becoming the only racer to beat downhill champion Nicolas Vouilloz head-to-head at the worlds. But Rockwell doesn’t see it that way.
“Sure, I beat him, but so did seven other guys,” he said, referring to Vouilloz’ eighth-place finish. “I don’t like to take all the credit for that day because other guys beat him, too. That world’s win was a valid win.”
Rockwell called 1995 his best season ever, when he won the NORBA title, the Kamikaze downhill, finished third overall in the World Cup and won the finale, held appropriately enough in Kaprun – the site of his last pro race.
“I don’t think I got the recognition I deserved, but I didn’t promote myself very well,” Rockwell admits. “I have infinite gratitude to have the chance to do this for a living and live out my dreams.”