Brian Lopes is the same age as Lance Armstrong (37), but unlike the Texan, has never retired from racing since his early BMX days in 1975. The racer from Laguna Beach, California has won the 4X World Championships four times, is nearly unstoppable in dual slalom and was inducted into both the mountain bike and BMX halls of fame in 2008.
Lopes is highly competitive, and despite turning some heads when he signed with Ibis Cycles two years ago after seven years with the much bigger GT, hasn't lost his competitive edge or keen eye for organisation or detail. BikeRadar grabbed a few minutes with him ahead of this weekend's BikeRadar Live festival at Donington Park.
How do you feel this year as opposed to a few years ago?
I feel good! Definitely not as fit for 4X racing, but much more fit for endurance stuff. Since basically retiring from 4X I've not done any gate starts, sprint training, etc., but I have been riding much more than I normally had this time of year.
What's a typical day like for you?
Wake up, make coffee, eat, either head to the gym for some stretching and light workouts or on the computer doing work. Then I usually do a road or dirt ride at some point. Later in the day, depending on how much time I have, I'll do another activity: jumping, pump track, some downhilliing. Then I'm usually up late doing more computer work.
How many more race years do you have in the tank?
Well, I think I'll race most of my life, just at different levels and in different disciplines. Now I'm picking and choosing my events more carefully, keeping it fun and doing the events I want to do.
I don't have the desire to do every race these days, especially ones I've already won. I have the mentality now that if I've already won a certain race, then I check it off my list of accomplishments and find another to concentrate on winning.
Who are some of the up-and-comers we should watch? Any future Brian Lopes out there?
Well for 4X or slalom, not really sure as of right now from the USA. Hopefully there are some young kids, but I'm seeing more of these Avalanche/enduro-style races and events becoming more popular. This is the type of riding that most people naturally do, so I only see more of these events happening and gaining momentum.
What equipment changes have you made for the 2009 season?
WTB saddles are new for me. I worked with an old friend to come up with a cool graphic for a signature seat, which will be available next year. Other than that I have a new food sponsor called Raw Revolution and a new drink sponsor, E2 Hydro.
Lopes has designed his own signature saddle for new sponsors WTB
Tell us about the dual slalom bike you're racing.
I just built up a new Ibis Tranny hardtail. It has a custom frame that I just got, very similar to the one I raced last year on the World Cup circuit, but much lighter. My frame last year was overbuilt, super stiff, but a bit too much, so this new frame is not only lighter, but feels snappier. The only thing different from a stock frame is that mine is wrapped with a bit more carbon in a few sections to stiffen it up where I need it.
I have a Marzocchi 44 15mm fork; Easton stuff, including Monkey Lite XC bars, Havoc stem, EC70 seatpost and Havoc wheelset; Hayes Gram brakes with six-inch rotors; Shimano Saint cranks and rear derailleur; MRP new upper guide; Kenda Lopes 55 signature tyres; and Lopes 55 Chrono WTB saddle. Grips are ODI lock-ons.
Lopes's Ibis Tranny is similar to a stock frame but with added carbon fibre for stiffness
What's your race schedule for 2009?
Well, I may go to France for the Des Nations enduro downhill race. I will race Downieville, Crankworx Whistler and maybe Crankworx Colorado, and who knows what else. There's always something coming up and I might have a surprise event that I will attend!
Of course, you're coming to BikeRadar Live this weekend too. What's it like being back in the UK?
I guess last time I was racing in the UK was the Worlds in Scotland [in 2007], so if feels good to be back. I'm looking forward to a good course put together by Will Longden, and just hanging out.
Now that I'm not doing the whole World Cup series any more, I don't get to see some of my good friends very much. With Peaty [British downhiller Steve Peat] having a second kid he didn't make it over to Sea Otter, so it'll be good to go back to his house and meet the new arrival.
Who do you think your biggest rivals are going to be in the MBUK Eliminator?
I'm not sure. There are tonnes of guys who are fast that are going to be there. I can't really count out anybody. I guess we'll see in practice who's going fast and who the course suits.
Are you just coming to race or will you be hanging out and meeting your fans?
I'm here because the guys at MBUK invited me, along with Will [Longden], so I'm here to race, hang out, check out the festival and maybe partake in some of the other events. I'm looking forward to it!
BikeRadar Live takes place this weekend (30-31 May) at Donington Park. For more details, see the event website.