Many sports enthusiasts will be familiar with the acronym GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) and, while it is thrown around a little too liberally at times, there are a significant amount of mountain bike athletes that fit that description. We created the Mountain Bike Icons series to celebrate the heroes of yesteryear, the pioneers who paved the way for the development and popularisation of the sport of mountain biking in all its forms and subcultures.
From cross-country mountain biking to downhill mountain biking and everything in between, we've gone through the annals and identified those who we feel have made a massive contribution to mountain biking and are in some way responsible for how the sport has evolved - especially here in Great Britain. Before Tom Pidcock and Evie Richards, the UK possessed a wealth of world-recognised stars led by Gary Foord, Barrie Clarke and Tim Gould. These riders jousted at the pointy end of their respective eras and garnered the respect of their international rivals.
But the Mountain Bike Icons series isn't just about telling the forgotten stories of some of Great Britain's greatest-ever riders but also the icons that dominated the sport on a global scale - past and present. As the series builds in the coming months, so will our coverage of contemporary riders still competing at the highest level so make sure to come back soon to read about how Greg Minnaar, Nino Schurter, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, Tom Pidcock, Evie Richards and Kate Courtney keep on top of the competition. Alternatively, you can subscribe to our newsletter on the homepage.
Mountain bike icons - legends from the United Kingdom
Below are the stories of some of the riders that charted the way forward for modern British mountain biking. This was long before the professional era when riders still had to hold down a day job while training and racing at the highest level.
tomac1.jpg, by Steve Thomas
Mountain bike icons - legends from North America
Considered the most complete rider to ever compete on the world stage, John Tomac wasn't just the most dominant of all mountain bikers during the 1990s but also the most prolific having raced road, BMX, cross-country and downhill. Then there was Ned Overend - the very first “official” UCI Cross Country Mountain Bike World Champion. Both of these characters popularised flat-bar racing in the States at a time when the Star-Spangled Banner ruled the roost.
Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja on the podium, by Steve Thomas
Mountain bike icons - legends from Europe
The rise of European dominance can be attributed to three riders who were at the top of their respective games - Norway's Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå, Switzerland's Thomas Frischknecht and France's Nicolas Vouilloz. While the former two dominated between the tape of cross-country racing, Nicolas Vouilloz made downhill racing his own, exiting the sport at the age of 26 with seven elite and three junior world titles to his name. Then there's Hans Rey. The German trials and mountain biking star became an analogue global sensation way before digitisation, social media and the YouTube era.
Mountain bike icons - legends from Africa, Australia and New Zealand
South Africa is well known for its pristine mountain biking, so it is no surprise that it has also produced some excellent riders. Below are some of them - including iconic Greg Minnaar, who has been at the top of his league for longer than some of his rivals have been alive.
Mountain bike icons - legends from Middle-East
You might also like: