If we go back to when mountain biking was in it’s infancy, before Sycamore, before Sugarbottom, before the Decorah trails - we can go back to what I call the first generation of mountain bikers - the guys fixing up old clunkers and bombing down Mt. Tam - Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Charile Kelly, Mike Sinyard, Tom Richie - Once those guys started actually producing and selling this new type of bike - the mountain bike - and people started buying them - and riding them… somewhere along the way someone said “I bet I can go faster than you…” and mountain bike racing was born.
Some of the first races in Iowa were held by the Mud Aces at Ahquabi State Park, Oleson Park in Fort Dodge, The Decorah Time Trial and Sugar Bottom Scramble. There were early trails at a couple of central Iowa ski areas as well. Sleepy Hollow Sports Park wove three or four miles of trail around it's east Des Moines property and five or six miles were carved into the front and back sides of the Seven Oaks Recreation area just west of Boone. While short cross country races were held at Sleepy Hollow, Seven Oaks hosted an annual 24-hour race.
Early racing began in the United States - the National Off Road Bicycling Association - or NORBA held a major race series in the U.S. Those that lined up to contest these races in the 1980’s were second generation mountain bikers. They were the ones who really got mountain bike racing off the ground and help shape it into what it is today - People like Ned Overend, John Tomak, Tinker Juarez and Julie Furtado - and these folks set the stage for the 90s - when mountain biking matured, similar to where gravel is today. While the UCI - cycling’s governing body - did host a couple seasons with some mountain bike world cup races - it wasn’t until 1990 that the first every UCI Mountain Bike World championships were held, which were in Durango, Colorado and it wasn’t until 1996 that the Olympics included mountain biking as an olympic sport. But it was in the late 80’s and early 90’s, as mountian biking matured - that people like Dave Wiens and his now wife, Susan DeMattei could actually make a life and earn a living at this young sport.
DeMattei, a recent guest on the Bike Talk with Dave Podcast, competed in early UCI World Cup races - as well as a couple of World Championships where she earned a silver medal. She was also selected to represent the U.S. at the first ever Olympic mountain bike race in Atlanta Georgia in 1996 - earning a spot on the podium and bringing home the bronze medal! She was also inducted into both the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.
As one of the early influencers in the sport of mountain bike racing, Susan DeMattei continues her passion for encouraging all people, especially women, to get on bikes.
"I'm big on what it does for women, and what it has done and what it continues to do. I've seen over thirty years of women finding the fun in themselves and enjoying something new - it's a great unwind!" - Susan DeMattei
Bike Talk with Dave is a weekly podcast and is available on Apple, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts. Past guests include Ultra Cyclists Heather Poskevich and Cory Rood, CEO of USA Cycling Brandon Quirk and professional gravel cyclist Marisa Boaz as well as episodes on events such as the Core4, Driftless 100 and the Golden Dragon Cup with Chris Daggs. Every episode is available for streaming at www.biketalk.bike
Photo provided by Dave Wiens