Cedric Gracia,UCI World MTB Cup Leysin, Switzerland 2001
Cedric Gracia,UCI World MTB Cup Leysin, Switzerland 2001


The power of marketing, Cedric Gracia and the ‘muscle’ suit.


Words by Geoff Waugh. Photo by Geoff Waugh

“Ha, ha, look at me. Look how young I am! And look…how ridiculous?" This is Cedric Gracia when he was a top flight downhiller racing for the massive (at the time) Volvo Cannondale outfit that contained many of the sport’s leading lights. Roadie Mario Cipollini, like Gracia no shrinking violet, had already made a few ripples in this muscle and sinew head to toe piece of lycra, and now Cedric brought one into the fat tyre domain.

“The skinsuit was big at that time and I was totally against it. But my manager made me wear it saying it would be good marketing. I was pissing myself laughing at the start gate and looked behind me and there was (Shaun) Palmer. He said, ‘What the f–k is this?’ In my perfect English I told him it was fashion and to f–k off. We both laughed so hard. It was a minute before my start. For the record I smoked him".

Cedric’s fancy–dress must have scared his nearest rivals off that day. After finishing seventh in the semis, he raced the 1.83 mile course to the third step on the podium, some 10 seconds behind fellow Frenchman and Be One rider Mickael Pascal. Sandwiched between the two was Greg Minnaar of Martin Whiteley’s Global Racing team who took his first series overall title and broke Nico Vouilloz’s grip on that particular title.

“I do look stupid but my manager was right; we got a lot of publicity and after the race we sold it for a lot of money for charity," explained Cedric. We can only speculate that the crazy ‘muscle’ suit offended the UCI Commissaire’s sensibilities so much that it put the eventual ban on tight lycra into motion. The wearing of tight fitting skinsuits was outlawed some seven years later.

It was an unusual results sheet that day. In the women’s race Finland’s Katja Repo beat Volvo Cannondale’s highly decorated Anne Caroline Chausson into second spot. Maybe Anne Caroline Chausson (Cedric’s team mate and wonder–racer) turned down the ‘power of the suit’.