The short story of a typo in Dirt #36

Can you spot the mistake turned good?

Today we are in a world of email, FTPs and downloads, all zeros and ones. It hasn’t always been that way though, when Dirt was still in nappies the internet was merely a glimmer in the eye of its inventors. Photos were shot on film and chosen on a light box, more Kodachrome than iPhone.

Without being too nostalgic, those days were golden, the stories witnessed and told through the pages of the mag are the stuff downhill is made of. There are some classic tracks, Kaprun was one such ribbon of dirt. It lies along the same longitudinal line and only one valley south of the World Cup track in Leogang, its name synonymous with the late 90s and early 00s downhill scene.

Dirt #36 November/December 2002

I’ll set that scene for you, it’s 2002 and a lot happened that year. Chris Kovarik destroyed Fort William putting 14.02 seconds into his opposition. Rennie was on Yeti, Gracia aboard the mighty Volvo-Cannondale team and the French master Vouilloz was dominating. Other names to pepper the top 20 of that season nearly 12 years ago were Nigel Page, Rob Warner, Bas De Bever and Kirt Vories.

Steve Peat took the overall title and won the last race in Les Gets, however it was the previous week that holds a tighter grasp on the memory of Sheffield’s steel. World Champ for Peaty was the title that eluded him for so long, a story epitomised in the recent Porter/Lawlor collaboration, Won’t Back Down. The photo that defines this funny little story was taken before race day at Worlds in the Das Alpenhaus hotel in Kaprun.

Das Alpenhaus was the place to be, everyone stayed there and those walls witnessed some serious partying as well as supporting the drain pipe access to your balcony after hours, Steve Jones gives us an idea of what it was like 12 years ago.

I climbed in through Andy (Kyffin, Peaty’s mechanic) and Fliss’s (Andy’s girlfriend) window each night, the Baum Bar was carnage, Mike (Dirt Editor) was sometimes cross, he had a bad cold god love him…   – Steve Jones


Most likely written from experience Steve Jones sets the Austfah rules.

Not ones to be outdone, the Austrians had invested a considerable amount into hosting the 2002 Worlds showstopper with a marvellous spread of timber work and bridges. Pasture became race track, the town turned into a deafening arena.

The Brits had advanced a barn load of hope on the event, everyone was praying Steve Peat would finally put to bed his bogey race after many, many years of trying. Lester Noble from Orange was camped on the edge of town, the BBC were all over the event, the expectancy had enveloped nearly everyone. This was Peaty’s race, the greatest racer of all time, Nico Vouilloz appeared to be still coming back from injury, Steve was trucking towards his first World Cup title, surely all he had to do was roll down the hill right?

On race day Peaty towed out the silver Orange 224, Vouilloz a black and white V-Process of his own design. Soon into the run the Yorkshireman got involved in a skirmish on the upper slopes, at the finish there was a hint he might not have done enough. He raised his arm anyhow just in case. Vouilloz – who simply wouldn’t have turned up if he knew he wasn’t capable of the win – was in confident mood, he knew this race, he understood how to avoid errors in compressed time, and he as much as anyone recognised how much the race meant to Steve and the pressure he was under to deliver. Take a look at the movements and poise of Nico’s race run on the video, it’s not the run of a man riddled with doubt. In the end the margin was half a second over five minutes. Blink and you’ll miss it.

– Steve Jones

Editor Mike Rose was in Kaprun shooting the race with Steve, like any Brit they were no doubt pinning their hopes on Peaty taking the title. The pressure of a big race like the Worlds is often relived on a hotel room bed in front of the TV. Mike had gone to get a shot of Steve before the race and found him in his room chilling next to his trusty Troy Lee lid. The shutter flicked and that was that.

My memories are pretty vague about this shot. I do remember that I wanted something a bit different, something a little ‘fly on the wall’, behind the scenes. We were good friends of Peaty’s and staying in the same hotel as him meant that good photo opportunities would arise. This was taken around midday in the week leading up to the race. Peaty was just chilling out in his room watching TV. I moved his lid into a better position and took the shot… simple. You have to remember that this was back in the days of film (I used to carry bags of the stuff around with me waiting to get home to get it developed). I would image that this is 400ASA, 16mm, shallow depth of field. Great times.

– Mike Rose

Peaty went on to come 2nd the following day, another Worlds title snatched from his grasp by his nemesis Nico Vouilloz. So what’s all this about a race 12 years ago?

Well, I’m sure you have, every now and then, come across a mistake in Dirt? It happens, sometimes you proof, proof and proof again. However the more you look at a group of words the less chance there is you will see the mistake.

As with today’s mag it is the collaboration of a lot of different photographers and writers often dotted across the globe. Back in the day they were developing their slides wherever possible and writing up the notes from the race before sticking it all in the mail to the Dirt office. I know, it was madness!

All this lands on the desk of a designer, in 2002 that man was Justin Day. Steve put the words together and contributed photos to the article along with Mike and Hiroyuki Kaijo. With all this ready, there was one thing missing, a headline. So what do you write when you don’t have one as the pages are going back and forth between editor and designer? Well, ‘waiting for a title’ of course. The gravity of those three words and a letter didn’t really register during the proofing process and when the finished mag landed on Mike’s desk it all heaved into focus.

The headline that never was, and it was never really needed.

If you haven’t already worked it out, Peaty was doing just that, waiting for a title. It had been 9 years since his first World Champs in Métabief, France and it would be another 7 years until he was finally awarded the crown in the opposite hemisphere. Canberra 2009 was a long way in the future and the relationship Peaty has with the World Champs title is now as famous as one of his custom TLD lids that follows him everywhere.

So there you have it, like a World Title that took 17 years, every now and then the 1000s of words that form our magazine slot into place at just the right moment.

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