Way back in the day (a relative term in this young sport) Specialized arrived at the 1994 World Championships in Vail, CO. with a T-shirt that read "Ned Rules." Specialized may have been a bit optimistic for Deadly Nedly's chances at another rainbow jersey that year, but the point was well-taken and never once argued. Ned definitely rules.
While a half dozen hippies from NoCal to Colorado are considered the fathers of the mountain bike, many consider Ned Overend the father of mountain bike racing, a true pioneer of the sport. He's been spinning his knobby tires since the early days, up and down treacherous terrain, lapping competitors as he went.
We love hanging out with Ned whenever possible he's got that quiet aura of a champion... and plenty of stories. At the 2000 World Championships two weeks ago, he was flown in by the UCI for a special ceremony recognizing all past and present champs, and we had a hilarious bus ride back to the venue where he reminisced about the good 'ol days with John Tomac.
It inspired us, and we thought it was time for our programmers to go live with an interview we recorded last October. We had sat down with him in Hawaii to talk about racing in the XTERRA, and of course streamed the whole chat for your enjoyment.
Overend began racing mountain bikes back in 1984 when he joined the NORBA tour. Between 1986 and 1992, he claimed six US National Mountain Bike Championships titles. As mountain bike racing became accepted worldwide, Ned took his talents to the international level and his fat tire fetish really began to pay off.
During 1990, in Durango, CO, he became the first UCI World Mountain Bike Champion...ever! It's considered an historic event in the sport, and the true birth of international mountain bike racing. Within the same year, he was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
In the early '90s, he continued to race for Specialized on the World Cup tour and was a contender for several years. His career highlights include his two first place finishes during 1994 in Italy and Switzerland. "It was very hard to win in Europe," he told us. "I think I was one of the last Americans ever to win a World Cup period, much less a World Cup in Europe. The fields were tough then...so those were two very gratifying races."
"What's cool about XTERRA is that I have always been a big cross-trainer," he told us from his sun-drenched lanai in Maui. "Instead of just cycling in the off season, I've Nordic skied, been a mountain runner and, from the early days, I've always done a little bit of swimming. I like the idea of being a very well-rounded athlete meaning upper body and your hamstrings, not just your quads and I think for life-long athletes, multi sport is the way to go."
"Multi-sport racing is kind of exploding in popularity now and it's a great thing. I really like the well-roundedness that it develops in an athlete."
His competitive roots stretch back to 1979 when he competed in his first Iron Man competition. "I think there were 75 people that did it then and that was an open field. That wasn't a closed field only 75 people wanted to do it then."
Overend followed this up with a series of road bike triathlons in the early '80s and is pleased with the sport's growth. He's got the skills and experience to continue competing at the elite level, and finds the energy to do so year after year.
Whether he's swimming, running, or riding, Ned is quite comfortable beating the spandex off of everyone who cares to compete. "It was great to be involved with mountain biking as early as I was. I'm not burned out after 15 years of riding mountain bikes and being involved in the mountain bike industry," he smiles. He's been riding off road since the beginning, toying with racers half his age, a feat that not many can achieve.
Ari Cheren, Riding laps with Ned for MountainZone.com