Where are they now? Chasing down... John Tomac


by Andrea W. Doray
John Tomac is no stranger to championship podiums. He was the 1988 national criterium champion. And back in the days of NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycle Association), he was the 1988 and 1989 overall NORBA champ. Then, 1991 brought success on the international circuit when he won gold in cross-country and silver in downhill at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. He also won the overall Wo
John on the podium after winning a world title in 1991
John on the podium after winning a world title in 1991
rld Cup title in cross-country that year.
At racing age 46 today, Tomac says he still competes “occasionally, for some special events”—a  testament to an illustrious career that earned him not only championship titles, but also induction into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1991.
Growing up in Michigan, Tomac started racing BMX at eight years old and by the time he was 17, he was racing pro-level BMX. After he moved to California to go to school, Tomac continued to race BMX, although he was already participating in mountain bike and road racing, finding sponsorship “limited” for pro BMX.
“I was riding mountain bikes for fun,” says Tomac. “I participated in a few events, but I didn’t have a lot of ambition at first.”
That was all about to change.
The Championship Dream:
Tomac already knew that he loved cycling, and was intrigued with both road cycling and mountain biking. “BMX races were short,” says Tomac, “and I liked the longer road and mountain bike events.”
Tomac didn’t know that he was embarking on a road cycling career when he was riding with his local club in southern California to supplement his training for pro mountain bike races. “I entered some road races and did well,” says Tomac. “Road cycling was interesting.”
Road cycling became so interesting, however, that by 1987 he was riding both road and mountain, and, according to Tomac, “training day to day to day was starting to pay off at the races.” In fact—no surprise—he says working so hard at his training is part of what made him successful: through the intensity of his training and the effort he put in, Tomac began to develop specific goals that included championship podiums.
It didn’t take John Tomac long to achieve these goals.
Earning a Spot in the History Books:
In 1988, he earned the title of national criterium champion. But he didn’t stop there…Tomac also rode to the top of multiple mountain biking podiums as the cross-country, downhill, and dual slalom champion on the NORBA circuit that year.
After his championship season in 1988, he began to believe “the sky’s the limit…I could do anything I set my sights on.” Of course, says Tomac, “I was realistic.”
For John Tomac, however, “realistic” meant repeating in 1989 as NORBA dual slalom and overall champion, as well as gathering titles in Europe as a cross-country champion. For good measure, Tomac added a national title in the team time trial.
In 1990, as a three-time NORBA overall champion, and while continuing to race internationally on the road for the 7-Eleven cycling team, and then Motorola, Tomac was also making his presence felt on the UCI stage.
By 1991, that presence was an explosion. Tomac added the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup title to his collection of gold-medal finishes, also bringing home gold in cross-country and silver in downhill from the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. Oh, and Tomac added the overall NORBA downhill win that year as well.  
Although Tomac had been combining mountain biking and road racing since 1988, he ended his participation in pro-level road racing at the close of the 1991 season to focus on his mountain biking career. Through the 1992 and 1993 seasons, Tomac earned additional spots on UCI World Cup podiums with second place finishes in cross-country and downhill.
Inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1991, Tomac followed Joe Murray and Ned Overend into mountain biking history books. In his biography, he is noted as having won more mountain bike races than anyone in the sport, at all levels and in all aspects: cross-country, uphill, downhill, and even trials.
Although he retired from racing in 2000, Tomac came out of his retirement to win the kamikaze at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in both 2004 and 2005.
Fast Forward to 2013:
Today, Tomac is coaching his son Eli in professional motocross, and Eli appears to be carrying on the Tomac need for speed, adding his status as both the 2012 West Coast Supercross Champion and 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Champion in 250 Class American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Motocross.
“Eli has grown up in the sport,” says Tomac. “It’s different but similar. The guidance I’m providing for Eli in a professional sport is to look at the long run, the whole approach, and not to rush his progression.”
Tomac has also “written the programs” for Aaron Gwin, who used his own motocross and BMX background to take first place in both the 2012 and 2013 downhill races at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships.
Tomac owns a working farm in Cortez, Colo., where he lives and continues to design mountain bike tires for Kenda Tires. He has also just licensed his name to U.K. Internet retailer Planet X for a new line of bikes.
Tomac says he can’t identify his most satisfying moment in his storied cycling career, and instead recalls: “My first road championship was very important. My first mountain biking world championship in 1991 was also significant because, prior to 1990, the ‘world’ championships were not UCI sanctioned.”
Tomac says he was helped along the way by his team sponsors, his road cycling club, his training partners and coaches, and even his brother-in-law, Robbie Rupe.
“Cycling is not an easy sport,” says Tomac. “It takes passion, patience, and a willingness to put in the work involved.”
It’s no wonder that the legendary John Tomac is considered one of the biggest names in the mountain biking world.

This Article Updated October 15, 2013 @ 04:01 PM For more information contact: