Kiwi Vanessa Quin, 2004 World Champion and ex Dirt Team rider, is today’s cover star!
World Cup downhill rider Vanessa Quin is one of only a handful of girls to grace the front cover of Dirt Magazine…we catch up with the super talented Kiwi to find out what she is up to these days and her memories of the cover shot, winning Worlds and racing World Cups.
Vanessa Quin. Dirt Issue 48. Nov/Dec 2004.
Dirt: Tell us about that day and what the rainbow stripes mean to you?
Vanessa: Les Gets, France 2004. Worlds Finals day was epic. New Zealander Scarlett Hagen won the junior women’s title then two hours later I won the elite. Everything seemed to fall into place and it will rate up there as one of my all time best memories. The stripes are pretty special for sure.
You were the first female rider to appear on the cover of Dirt, what are your thoughts about that? And can you tell us a bit about the shoot you did to get the shot.
It was cool to be the first woman to grace Dirt’s cover, I said to Mike Rose (Dirt Editor) after we won World’s he would have to pony up and get a girl on there. We got the shot in Las Vegas, it was over 100degrees and I was wilting like a flower.
What was it like being from New Zealand and being away from home, living on the road on the race circuit for a lot of the year?
I loved it! Leaving NZ every season with a bag and knowing you were off to race most weeks in different countries with all your mates was brilliant, I wouldn’t change any of it.
How did you pay the bills back then?
I didn’t really have any bills. Our sponsors were always fantastic and looked after us. Jeff at Intense has always been a really strong supporter of all his riders and Giant was the same before this. Moving on to Red Bull and Dirt was the best thing ever, it was just like a little family away from home.
What was your favourite track from when you were racing?
I always liked riding anywhere in the States, some of the early Norba tracks like Big Bear, Utah, Mammoth, Vermont …it’s a shame these guys don’t have a lot of World Cup racing any more. Fort Bill and Saint Anne will always rate up there. I used to be able to remember whole tracks and lines years after riding them but now I would struggle to remember much…I think they call it mummy brain?!
Which country did you enjoy being in the most (away from NZ? )
America and the UK for the racing and people. Driving across country in the race rigs when I first started out was epic, I got to see a lot of corn but also got to know the riders, mechanics and support crew for the teams this way. I will always be grateful to April Lawyer and Kathy Sessler and her family for putting me up every season while I was in the States. I loved living in the UK too, I think one of the reasons the best riders in the world keep coming from here is because everyone rides together and gets on so well. No one takes themselves too seriously and it makes for a pretty close community. It’s cool you can rock up to a national and have ex-World Champ Steve Peat, The Athertons, Danny Hart and Tracey M all pitting next door, sharing a laugh and a beer.
You must have some great stories from back then, can you tell us a good one?
Mate, where to start. I think Palmers house in Tahoe after a world cup in Squaw Valley would rate as one of the craziest parties I’ve seen. There were guys everywhere all fighting, a bonfire on the lawn with pit bikes getting thrown in, the whole place was trashed, Troy Lee was out cold in a shower, and in the middle of it all was Palmers mum on the couch just chilling.
You had high and lows during your racing career, and quite a few injuries.
Thats for sure, but I guess that’s racing. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced both at some point. Just getting to ride all week in places all over the world was amazing, the racing capped it all off. And the injuries, well, they just went with it.
When did you retire and what were the reasons?
I retired after the 2007 season and the reasons name is Jay. When I found out I was going to be a mum I was so happy, and I decided it was time to hang up the downhill bike for a while.
What kind of things do you miss from your racing days?
I mostly miss the people. All the girls I raced with especially. I would love to live closer so I could just pop in for a cup of tea. A few racing friends have made it down our way but, maybe next year we will get over to worlds or something…its been too long!
Vanessa today, with her son Jay.
How is life for you now? You are married and a mum (back home in New Zealand), a big change from downhill racing?
Life is pretty different for sure. I love being a mum, Jay is three now and we have so much fun with him everyday. We don’t really travel too much right now but I think I’ve come along way since my downhilling days.
What about you and mountain bikes now? You are working on a cycling programme in the primary schools so cycling is obviously still important to you?
Absolutely! I still ride most days. It might be at the BMX track with Jay, in the forest in Rotorua, on the road or with the Kids Can Ride programme in schools. And I’ve just added track racing to the list too, so the shed’s still full of bikes!
And what is this about track racing?
I’ve just taken it up to try something completely different. The racing is cool, really tactical. A friend Jeff Anderson, custom builds bikes www.kiwibikes.co.nz so he has me up a special little number for the track this season.
Do you still have an interest in World Cup racing, do you follow the scene?
We do for sure. I love to check up and see how everyone is going and cheer on my fav riders. It’s been brilliant this year with Brook, Sam, Justin and Cam all in the top 10. The Kiwi boys are flying! Looking forward to watching Tahnee Seagrave rip it up with the girls next year too.
Do you have any pearls of wisdom to pass on to the Dirt readers, or any thoughts and thank yous?
Not sure about pearls but I’d love to say thanks to everyone who ever cheered us on at the races, you only need to sit at the bottom of Fort Bill to see just how many people love the sport as much as you. And a massive thanks to all the friends and sponsors who supported me thought out my racing…you know who you are but to name a few… Toby Henderson, Kathy and Chuck Sessler, Jeff Steber, April Lawyer, John Dawson, Mike Redding, Andy and Fliss Kyffin, Mike Rose, Steve Jones, Alex Rankin, Nige Page, Dave Garland, Tony and Jo Seagrave, Markus and Lukas at MS Racing. Thanks guys. And thanks to Dirt for letting me reminisce, it’s been fun. x
And here’s what photographer Gordo told us about the cover shot:
Mike Rose, last-minute master, needed a photo of the newly crowned World Champ, Vanessa Quinn. It just so happened that she was going to be at Interbike and so was I. It was my first Interbike and I had Rose suckered into thinking I actually knew how to take photos, so when he asked me to get this done, I was super freaked out. I’d never met Vanessa, I’d never been to Bootleg Canyon, it was 100-degrees outside and would her bike fit in my 2001 Chevy Malibu? Would she laugh at my 2001 Chevy Malibu? She didn’t laugh (not to my face) and somehow we managed to get out to Bootleg with her bike and my friend Smiff.
Remember that part about it being 100-degrees? It sucked. It was so hot in that damned moon-landscape. I felt guilty for making Vanessa (who was super rad) push up a couple times. In fact, after I thought I had nailed shot in about 3 tries, she was like, “uh, are you sure you don’t want me to push up and get some more shots? I’m going to push up and do some more runs.” I took some more photos and eventually one of them ended up on the cover. I felt pretty stoked to make the first (and only?) picture of a girl shredder to grace the cover of Dirt. Is it one of the most dynamic Dirt covers ever? No, but the photo is about getting Quinn in the spotlight, which is rad!
What’s interesting is that once Rose figured out he could slack off and get Bootleg cover shots with blue sky, at the last minute, during Interbike, he petitioned Sven Martin to poach more scorching gravel photos for the next couple years. I think there was a shot of Kovarik skidding, Peaty foot-dragging and Minnaar whipping in jeans on Dirt’s covers. Sven still owes me 20% of those cover payments since Vanessa and I paved the way for his padded bank account.