By Brice Minnigh
Photography by Anthony Smith
Brian Lopes might just be the most polarizing figure in all of mountain biking. People love to hate him, and the mere mention of his name can evoke some surprisingly visceral reactions.
But our gut-level presumptions don't matter that much. And, truth be told, Lopes doesn't really care what we think. He doesn't really have to care, because he's the champ.
“The Winner,” in the July issue of Bike, now available at a newsstand near you.
That's right--Lopes is the champ. He's the Muhammad Ali of mountain biking, mixing the same lethal cocktail of raw talent, unwavering focus and unshakeable confidence as the world's most famous boxer.
Like Ali, Lopes has blended his poise and stamina with a tactical approach to competition that has earned him more UCI World Cup wins and World Championship titles than any male racer in our sport's history.
Despite all of his World Cup successes, Brian Lopes still has to work on his own bike from time to time.
And at age 40, he's proven that he is still a force to be reckoned with, this season diving headfirst into the uncharted waters of World Cup cross country by specializing in the UCI's fledgling short-course format, the XC Eliminator.
“For the past 20 years, he’s simply been obsessed with winning”--and he has the checks to prove it.
In addition to winning the first Eliminator event and claiming third in the last race of the series, Lopes' high-profile participation helped garner global attention toward the new discipline--and his candid criticisms of the course designs fueled worldwide debate over whether the Eliminator format is even a good thing for mountain biking.
“From the gravity side of things, I’ve always prided myself as being one of the most in-shape guys, so when I first heard about these eliminator events, I thought they might be something I would be good at.” --Brian Lopes
We at Bike knew that Lopes' crossover into the XC arena would be meaningful to our sport as a whole, so we caught up with him before the season kicked off to produce an in-depth feature highlighting his views on racing and the general direction of our sport. His thoughts might be far from what you'd imagine.
Think you know Lopes? Doubt that he could ever be a unifying factor between our long-feuding gravity and XC factions?
“The idea of a sinewy, spandex-clad Lopes sprinting around a short XC track might come as a shock to fans used to seeing Flyin’ Brian soaring his way down a carefully manicured dual-slalom or 4X course….”
Find out by reading the entire feature in the new July issue of Bike magazine, which should be hitting newsstands right about now. If you can't find a copy at your local supermarket or Barnes & Noble, then check your nearest bike shop.
Or maybe just save yourself the trouble and get a subscription--or download it here
“For a long time people have thought of me as just a gravity guy--a gate racer--and I want to show people that I’m a good all-around cyclist.” --Brian Lopes