I love Sarah’s new idea for Wednesday posts: going back through the mists to time to find old photos and the memories associated with them. And naturally, this post features me and a bike.

But not a road bike (I didn’t own a proper road bike until 2002). Nope, these were the days when I was riding – and racing – mountain bikes.

Rudi at Blue Mountain Bike Chase 1989
Me, my old Scott bike, the old team jersey and a lot of energy before a race.

With that, let’s go back to 1989 (at least I think it’s 1989 – the photo is a Polaroid of an Ektachrome slide that is buried somewhere in Salt Lake City at the moment). I was racing mountain bikes in the summer as part of my off-season training for ski racing. My dad and I would criss-cross Utah and Colorado to attend races. By this time, I was sharing some of the driving duties, much to his relief (or stress, it’s hard to say).

At any rate, July’s big race in the Utah Mountain Bike Championship Series was the Blue Mountain Bike Chase, a 25-mile ride up and down the Abajo Range west of Monticello, Utah. At 16, I was the youngest racer in the field by a few years, and didn’t really know what I was getting into. But I loved racing my bike, so my dad humored my request to enter this race.

The course climbs Abajo Peak: at almost 11,300 feet, it towers 4,500 feet above the farming town of Monticello. The course was a mix of paved roads, dirt roads, USFS roads and hiking trails, and involved a lot of climbing. The first 13 miles encompassed 95% of the uphill riding that would happen on the course, some of it very, very steep.

I don’t remember a lot of specific details of the course, other than I stopped to admire the view from the top of Abajo Peak after pushing my bike the last mile or so to the top, looking forward to the fast descent back to town. A couple of hikers and a county sheriff greeted me at the top, checked to see that I was OK, and cheered me on. I hopped back onto my bike, slipped my feet into the toe clips on my pedals (no clipless systems in 1989), made sure my knee pads were tight and flung myself down the mountain.

These were the days before suspension became de rigeur in mountain biking, so my arms took a bit of a pounding with all of the washboard road surfaces. But I finished without incident, some 5 hours after starting, hot, sweaty and happy. I had won the junior division (being the only entrant has its perks), and my dad was happy to see me back at the old, golden Jeep (seen in the picture).

After I cleaned up and changed clothes, we drove back to Salt Lake City. I insisted that I drive some of the route home, but my dad put the brakes on that (literally) when I found it almost impossible to keep my eyes open, so drained I was from the race.

That was a fun summer.