By Gary J. Boulanger
A highlight of Interbike for me continues to be the annual Mountain Bike Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where the core bicycle industry icons gather to celebrate those who’ve contributed to our fascinating sport. This year, two large conference rooms in the belly of the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas were filled with family, friends and well wishers to witness the induction of Bob Woodward, Monte Ward, Gary Sjoquist, Ruthie Matthes, and Dave House on September 19.
Since the inaugural induction of 10 pioneers in 1988, 125 individuals and nine groups have entered the Hall of Fame, curated by Don and Kay Cook, based in Crested Butte, Colorado. This year New Belgium Brewery provided the liquid, while the crowd provided the ambiance.
Custom trophies created by 2005 inductee, photographer Tom Moran. See how they were made here.
This year, several Hall of Fame categories were represented. Oregon resident Bob Woodward was inducted as a reflection of his editorial support and promotion of the sport, dating back to its origins in 1980. He was the first journalist to write about mountain biking in the outdoor press, and continued to write and ride while increasing the awareness of the budding sport on the pages of Backpacker and Adventure Travel Magazine, before authoring “Mountain Biking” for Sports Illustrated in 1991.
Southern California resident Monte Ward ran a bike shop in Costa Mesa while exploring the state on knobby tires in the 1970s. He shared saddle time with fellow inductees Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly, and Gary Fisher, even loaning his first-generation Ritchey mountain bike to BMX Plus editor Dean Bradley for what is reported to be the first mountain bike magazine test. Ward also became one of Bradley’s favorite models for several hundred photos in the `80s, working quietly behind the scenes to develop public policy for trail access and use.
After catching the mountain bike bug in 1986, Minnesota resident Gary Sjoquist, a motorcycle racer at heart, turned his passion into a vocation by 1998, when he became the bike industry’s first full-time advocate. Hired by Quality Bicycle Products, Sjoquist took his experience nationwide, co-founding Bikes Belong in 1999, which led to the formation of the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC the following year. A tireless worker, Sjoquist has also launched a Trips For Kids chapter in Minnesota, and recently became director of the Minnesota High School Cycling League, under the umbrella of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). Both he and his wife Connie continue to race and ride the trails of their home state, many created by Sjoquist.
Minnesota High School Cycling League director and Quality Bicycle Products’ advocate Gary Sjoquist, with members of NICA.
“Connie and I have kind of a unique story,” Sjoquist said. “Her ability to handle things on the home front meant freedom for me to make things happen within the industry, the National Bike Summit, Bikes Belong, BikesPAC, Cuyuna, and now the Minnesota High School Cycling League. I absolutely could not have done what I’ve done without her.”
Idaho native Ruthie Matthes raced for 19 years, both on the road and in the dirt, where she won the UCI Cross Country World Championship in 1991 racing for Team Ritchey. The following year she was Grundig World Cup champion, and added five more national cross country championship jerseys to her war chest in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001. She was a 12-time member of the U.S. world championship team, and raced in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. She knew from the age of three that she was destined to participate in the Olympics after watching Jean-Claude Killy win a gold medal in ski racing at the 1968 Winter Olympics.
Magura ambassador Ruthie Matthes is all smiles as she accepts her trophy at the Sands.
“I’m dedicating my MTBHOF induction to my Dad, Paul,” Matthes told me after the ceremony. “He passed away earlier this year. Although he supported me from a distance, Dad never missed a TV showing of the races and he kept every postcard, souvenir, poster, press article I sent from my world travels.
“I was touched by the loud applause at the ceremony, and because it was at Interbike I was fortunate to have friends in the industry there as well,” she added. “I still vividly remember winning the World Championships in Lucca, Italy, 21 years ago! I also remember the final race for the `92 World Cup title in Vail, finding the courage to ride off of Bailey’s Bailout when most of the women’s and men’s fields dismounted to get down the ‘cliff’. Another highlight was having my mom Susan and brother Ernest, and dear friend Louis Viggio travel to Sydney in 2000 to support me in my 32-year dream to compete in the Olympics.” Matthes continues as a brand ambassador for Magura Direct.
Ruthie Matthes and her lovely trademark smile, alongside Decline publisher and fellow 2012 inductee Dave House.
He may rarely actually ride a bike, but veteran magazine publisher and southern California resident Dave House understands the thrill his readers get from the sport. He launched Super BMX magazine in 1980, followed by Mountain Biking magazine in 1986. Flow followed, before House and his wife created H3 Publications and launched Decline Magazine. Known for his trademark curls and constantly burning cigarette, House is also heavily involved in local advocacy and the development of a southern California bike park.
Dirt Rag publisher and 2002 inductee Maurice Tierney (L), mugs with 2001 inductee Steve Boehmke.