20 YEARS AGO—FEB. 2003: LOPES RACES MINNAAR IN UNDERGROUND DOWNHILL RACE IN EAST GERMAN SALT MINE
Cedric Gracia, Steve Peat and Anne-Caroline Chausson enter the race, too
BRIAN LOPES BATTLES GREG MINNAAR 2200 FEET BELOW THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH
|700 meters below the surface
On Saturday night sixteen of the world’s best male downhill mountain bikers and eight of the top females competed at the Race Down in Sondershausen. The kilometer-long course was 700 meters (over 2200 feet!) below the surface in an old salt mine and featured jumps, curves, and wall rides, with a tunnel network more than 200 km(124 miles)long. With top speeds up to 70 km/h(43mph), the riders had to jump over diggers and lorries, taking care not to smash their heads on the only four to five-meter-high tunnel walls. Almost complete darkness and zero percent humidity created a truly diabolic atmosphere. “I have never been to a place like this before, not talking about racing my bike,” said Brian Lopes.
The invitational race with a total prize money of 10,000 Euro featured athletes from twelve nations. The competition format was held as a dual elimination system.
“I have claustrophobia,” said Cederic Gracia after the race, ‘so I should not think about where I am at the moment, among rocks four times higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.”