John Tomac

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John Tomac, 2007

John Tomac (born November 3, 1967, in Owosso, Michigan) is a retired professional cyclist who competed in multiple disciplines in road racing and mountain biking during a successful senior career that spanned twenty years. He is regarded as a mountain biking icon and was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1991. He is a true all-rounder, having won major national and international titles in four disciplines.

Early career

John Tomac first participated in cycle racing at the age of seven. He began to enter BMX events in and around Michigan in 1975 and continued competing in this discipline into his teenage years. By then, he had achieved title winning success at State and Regional level. In 1984, at the age of sixteen, Tomac won the National Cruiser Class title with the factory Mongoose team. He turned professional in 1985 and spent his last year of BMX competition contesting events as a privateer.

Mountain biking

In 1986, Tomac made two significant decisions: he relocated to Southern California, and left BMX competition in favour of mountain bike racing. He continued to ride for Mongoose. By the autumn of that year, he had won his first two major mountain bike events: the Ross Fat Tire Stage Race in Massachusetts and the Supercross Mountain Bike Exhibition race held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mongoose marketed a Tomac Signature Edition model in 1987, which reflected his increasing profile within mountain biking culture. Tomac achieved a few more notable wins during that year, including a second win in the Fat Tire Stage Race and three National XC Series rounds.

In 1987, John Tomac appeared in one of the first instructional mountain biking videos ever produced, entitled "The Great Mountain Biking Video,"<ref>"Video Guide to Mt. Biking," American Bicyclist & Motorcyclist, March 1989, p. 79</ref> produced by New & Unique Videos of San Diego, California.
File:John Tomac in Big Bear 1987 Photo by Patty Mooney.jpg
John Tomac Appears in "The Great Mountain Biking Video" 1987, Big Bear Lakes, California - Photo by Patty Mooney
File:1989 ned overend tinker juarez palm springs Photo by Patty Mooney.jpg
Ned Overend, John Tomac and Tinker Juarez Compete in the Cindy Whitehead Desert Classic, Palm Springs, California, 1989 - Photo by Patty Mooney
1988 brought Tomac national title-winning success. By achieving the highest combined points total from the National Off-Road Bicycle Association's (NORBA) Cross-country, Downhill and Dual Slalom championships, Tomac won the overall title of NORBA World Champion. He was ranked in first place in the Cross-country and Dual Slalom disciplines. The "World" status was a misnomer, however, as the NORBA championships were held only in the United States. The first true World Championships for XC and DH, sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, were held in Durango, Colorado, in 1990 where John placed 4th in the downhill. John is well remembered for riding road style drop bars on his Yeti mountainbike at this race which was a noticeable deviation from the other riders. This equipment decision was influenced by his recent experience riding for the 7-11 road cycling team in Europe where he was under contract.<ref>MTB World Championship Archives Retrieved on March 18, 2007.</ref> Tomac's results and rapid rise to prominence earned recognition from U.S. cycling magazine Velo News, which voted him the world's best all-round rider of 1988.<ref>MTB Hall of Fame Retrieved on March 18, 2007.</ref>

Tomac retained his overall NORBA title in 1989, and also won the NORBA DH Championship for the first time. In a season in which he competed at the highest level on both sides of the Atlantic, he added the German and European XC titles to his collection. In 1990, he joined Yeti Cycles' factory MTB team and the 7-11 road team, embarking on a busy program of events in Europe and the U.S. To facilitate his road racing career, Tomac based himself in Belgium, and regularly traveled between the two continents to compete in major road and mountain events. Although he failed to win any of the three individual NORBA series, he won the overall NORBA title for the third year in succession.

1991 saw a change of teams: from Yeti to Raleigh and from 7-11 to Motorola. A stronger mountain bike season culminated in UCI World Championship success in Ciocco, Italy, with Gold in XC and Silver in DH. In addition to that, Tomac won two events on his way to the UCI XC World Cup title, and added a second NORBA DH title to his 1989 win. The following year, he finished in fifth place at the DH World Championship held in Bromont, Canada, and had to settle for second place behind Switzerland's Thomas Frischknecht in the XC World Cup rankings (though there were two event wins again). An accident in which Tomac struck an errant spectator in the final event at Mount Snow, Vermont, prevented him from outscoring his rival and retaining the title.

In 1993, Tomac was the runner-up to Germany's Jürgen Beneke in the inaugural UCI Downhill World Cup and lost out to Frischknecht again in the XC rankings.<ref>Men's Mountain bike World Cup Retrieved on March 18, 2007.</ref> This was to be the last season in which Tomac would finish in the top three in the World Cup, but he continued to achieve notable results in the World Championships. In 1997, five years after his last World Championship medal, he finished second in the downhill event at Château-d'Oex in Switzerland.

Between 1994 and 1997, Tomac would win three more NORBA titles – two in DH and one in XC – as well as some notable individual events such as the Sea Otter Classic and Cactus Cup. He officially announced his retirement from racing at the Sea Otter Classic in 2000, but would later make an occasional return to competition. In 2004, at the age of 37, he won the famous Kamikaze Downhill held at Mammoth Mountain, California.<ref>2004 US National Championship Retrieved on March 18, 2007.</ref> Then, for good measure, he returned in 2005 and won it again.<ref>2005 US National Championship Retrieved on March 18, 2007.</ref>

Road racing

From 1988 to 1991, Tomac dovetailed professional programs in both mountain biking and road racing. He was the 1988 USCF National Criterium Champion and was part of the winning team in the USCF National Team Time Trial Championship in 1989. Tomac spent much of 1990 competing in European events with the Motorola team. Although he failed to win any major road titles in a season in which he entered more than 100 road and mountain events, his schedule included the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Giro d'Italia and the Paris–Roubaix. Tomac ended his participation in pro-level road racing at the close of the 1991 season, choosing instead to focus on his mountain biking career.

Team ownership

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2008 Tomac DH bike. Doug Bradbury sitting in the upper left corner.

In January 1998, John Tomac entered into a business partnership with Manitou founder and suspension engineer Doug Bradbury, whom Tomac had known since the 1980s. Together, they founded Tomac Bicycles, and launched a range of three full suspension bikes later that year.<ref>Tomac Forms Bike Company, January 22, 1998. Retrieved on March 22, 2007.</ref> Tomac spent the 1998 season competing on his new prototype design in DH events.

The brand name was later acquired by American Bicycle Group, which in turn sold it to Joel Smith, formerly a brand manager at Answer Products, in June 2006. He relocated the company to Nebraska and set in place plans to relaunch the Tomac brand with a new model range in 2007.<ref>Tomac Brand Licensed to Joel Smith, June 19, 2006. Retrieved on March 22, 2007.</ref> Tomac and Bradbury remain actively involved in the company and the design of its products.<ref>About Us Retrieved on March 22, 2007.</ref>


John Tomac has a son, Eli who is an up and coming pro motocross rider in the US 250 lites class riding for the Geico Powersports Honda factory racing team. Eli is noted for being the first true rookie pro ever to win a pro motocross debut at Hangtown raceway on 5/23/10 under John's guidance.<ref>Monday-conversation-eli-tomac2010.aspx</ref>

Primary sources

Notes and references