UCI World MTB Champs Sierra Nevada Spain 2000
UCI World MTB Champs Sierra Nevada Spain 2000

The first in a new series where we get the inside story behind a ‘moment in time’. Photographer Geoff Waugh takes us back to the year 2000 and the battle for the World Championships downhill title in Sierra Nevada.

From Dirt Issue 124 - June 2012

Words by Geoff Waugh. Photos by Geoff Waugh.

Britain’s Steve Peat hangs over his bars, gasps for breath and ponders what might have been after being beaten to the fabled rainbow jersey by a measly tenth of a second. A blink of an eye, the speed of a thought, the flick of a light switch; but in the high rarefied air of the Spanish Sierras it was the all–American Myles Rockwell who had just claimed and won the biggest prize in the sport of downhill.

World Champs form–wise the Giant rider came out of nowhere to end the five year winning streak of Mr ET himself, Nicolas Vouilloz. The Frenchman was not himself this year, missing out on all three steps on the podium. Nico would go on to win two more World titles, whereas Rockwell’s star was at its zenith and would go no further.

Perhaps it was the nature of the course. At altitude and so barren it made the moon look positively inviting. The night before the race it snowed and early practice runs were made out of a gate bristling with icicles. Pits that weren’t secure got mangled and spat down the mountain in the high winds. In many ways it looked like a set for a spaghetti western and in some ways the two main protagonists were like gunslingers on bikes. The track was a rocky, pedally dustfest that favoured the long levers of men like Peat and Rockwell or Dutchman Gerwin Peters who had already laid down time of 3.56.53. He was beaten into third place by team–mate Mickael Pascal on a 3.55.69. Rockwell shaved minutes off his third–placed seeding run to take the hot seat on 3.55.01.

Peat, fastest in seeding, blasted out of the gate, visor–less for any possible aero advantage, but was already 1.29 seconds down at the first spilt. Putting his fitness and determination to work in the lower sections he reeled back valuable seconds. At the last jump under the chairlift pylons you could have spilt the two with a proverbial Rizla paper, but crossing the line the clock showed 33.55.59. A spilt second; a slip of a pedal, that’s all it took.

Unfortunately for Steve this was the first of three consecutive runner–up spots, the next two behind Nico who took his tally to an incredible seven golds. It would be another nine years and one more second place before the Sheffield man wrote his name in the annuls of history.