Kloser to be inducted into hall of fame
As you read this, Kloser’s probably dangling off a tower on Chicago’s Navy Pier as he competes in The Wild Onion urban adventure race, where his team runs around a city like we all have fantasized about, if nobody lived there. Imagine inline skating, kayaking the Chicago River and running the stairs of the Sears Tower to the observation deck on the 97th floor.
Imagine getting paid for it.
Kloser’s roots are far from the leaches of Borneo and adventure racing. The 42-year-old grew up one of 10 children in Dubuque, Iowa, and moved to Vail in 1979, when he was 19. Days of skiing the 500-foot high runs of Sundown Ski Resort near the border of Wisconsin and Iowa put the mountains in his blood. Tired of the flatland, he found a home in the Rockies. Here, he flourished in the mountain biking scene and became the first American athlete to go to Europe for the entire World Cup season.
His work in the mountain biking world earned him the world cross country championship in 1988, several silver medals and a spot as the athletes representative on the International Cycling Board for four years. He won the Vail Ultra 100 in 1999.
Now, Kloser’s being inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Crested Butte in October.
“I felt if I made it to the Hall of Fame, I thought I’d deserve it,” Kloser said. “I thought it should be reserved for those who retired. It’s a nice accomplishment to have on the record. Some people would die to be in it, like the Pete Roses of mountain biking. For me, it’s just a nice reward.”
From his mountain biking background, Kloser made the transfer to adventure races and is now considered one of the best, if not the best. With the help of promoter Mark Burnett, who produces the race and the television show “Survivor,” Kloser’s received international recognition for winning the 1998 Eco-Challenge in Morocco, the 2000 race in Borneo (leaches and all) and last year’s competition in New Zealand.
The seven-day, 500-kilometer course in Fiji this year will force Kloser and his Team Go-Lite/Eco-Internet through the thick Cambodian-style jungles, sans the bloodsuckers. He will not be able to attend the Hall of Fame banquet in Las Vegas due to the conflict.
“I think the biggest reason I still do this stuff is, one, I have a competitive drive and this helps fulfill this,” said Kloser, who’s wife Emily will be accepting the award for him. “Plus, I’m able to be at the top of this sport. The age factor isn’t such a big part of the success. It’s not like mountain biking, where I can’t compete with guys in the younger 20s.”
“The other thing is it allows me to diversify and include my family in my training exploits. We can go climb 14ers together.”
Kloser has two children, Heidi, 9, and Christian, 8, who are anxious to follow in their father’s footsteps, albeit muddy ones at that. His trail would be hard for anyone to track. At the Primal Quest adventure race in Telluride in June, his team won the 74-hour contest on 3 1/2 hours sleep. The incentive was more than just macho-energy. Included in the incentive was a quarter million in prize money.
“It’s dumbfounding,” he said. “We might paddle for 10 hours, jump on our feet for eight hours and get on our bike for 12 hours. You think, I’m doing this all in a day. It amazes me how much you can accomplish in a day, or how far you can traverse.”
But as far as Kloser has come away from the mountain biking circuit, he is still an important figure in the sport. He’s seen sponsors shy away from the field since the Olympics in 1996 and turn toward the Lance Armstrongs in road biking. He’s fine with that. He’s seen Mountain Dew promote mountain biking with radical-gnarly-dude spots during the Super Bowl, and says its good for the sport.
“It gives credit to us,” said Kloser, speaking of a national audience tuning in. “A lot of people say mountain biking is a fringe sport and the athletes are fringe athletes. I know a lot of people have no idea what it’s all about and what guys like Greg LeMond have done. But ads like the Mountain Dew one creates the sex appeal for the younger generation. I don’t think it hurts us any.”
These ideas and views have helped mountain biking creep up from the underground, although Kloser admits that bicycling will never be as big in America, at least not while the mainstream sports keep dominating the market. He’s seen Americans go from the best mountain bikers in the world in the sport’s infant years to returning, again, to looking up to Europe.
All in all, he’s seen enough and done enough to be in the Hall of Fame.
In three weeks, Kloser will be in Fiji with his team preparing for one of the world’s toughest sporting contests. The Eco-Challenge, shown on the USA network, is “Survivor” without the tiki-torch production sets.
“I do know we’re going to go against the toughest competition ever,” Kloser said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of paddling. We’re going to be sweating it out in the heat of the jungle. It will be like Borneo in that we’ll be on the water a lot of the time.”
The alternative is a cozy stay in Vegas. Instead of receiving the induction with old friends and family, he’ll be proving why he deserves it all.