Los Angeles Supercross - Mountain Biking in the LA Coliseum 1985

Los Angeles Supercross - Mountain Biking in the LA Coliseum 1985

This race was John Tomac‘s very first pro mountain bike win. He was just a BMX kid from Michigan with a mohawk when I first met him at a downhill race in SoCal. His win took everyone by surprise since he was an unknown at this point. The race had such a unique format that nobody really knew who would succeed, motocrossers, downhill mountain bikers, cross country racers or BMX racers. In this photo you can’t see it but somebody was ahead of John at this point. I’m not sure who is directly behind Tomac here, but then it’s Kye Sharp, Joe Sloup, and then Jimmy Deaton. Here’s what Rob Rupe remembers : “Trying to get the memories straight in my head about the race-there were 2 correct?-...I Remember leading the first lap;J umping down the parastyle and feeling all the energy of the 60-80thousand Supercross Fanatics and being passed by my then young brother in law John Tomac mid flight. As my Sprinter legs kicked in and a hand full of other racers went by---those would be some of my memories.”

Los Angeles Supercross - Mountain Biking in the LA Coliseum 1985
Words By Curt Evans 

*Note Curt is a bike acquaintance of mine and posted the following on a Vintage MTB Facebook group. I requested and received permission to share it and have done my best with the formatting. This is some killer info on a very important event in the popularization of mountain biking. - jeff

When mountain biking was really new I came up with a concept to help promote the sport. Do a race during the intermission of a stadium Supercross race. I was working at JT Racing at the time, helping to develop some gear for the emerging sport. I got my buddies Byron Friday and Brian Skinner to help, both of whom I sponsored with the JT prototype pants. I knew Helen Smith from Stadium Motosports, who was instrumental in making the event happen. We had no clue which type of rider would dominate on this unique track, racing in front of 50,000 fans. This was the very first Supercross intermission race on mountain bikes, and people often confuse it with the race that followed the second year which motocrosser Mike Bell won. But John Tomac won this one, launching his mountain bike career. Bell got second though. 

L to R : Clark Roberts on a Ross, Jimmy Deaton, unknown, John Tomac. At the time, Jimmy Deaton was acknowledged as the fastest downhill mountain bike racer. Here’s what he had to say about the night: “I remember I was just as excited to watch the super cross as much as to race. My free hub broke right after the start and I had to ride the whole race without being able to stop pedaling. So I don’t think I did that well. I finished though.”

Race bib. Here’s what Perry Kramer recalls : “Yes I remember that race fairly well. I raced two races during the halftime of the Super Bowl of motocross at the LA Colosseum. I raced in the expert class and I believe I got second place behind Bobby woods. I was leading, but he passed me on the second lap fairly close to the finish line.” Note: That was the second race.

Hand written payout from the race. To make things more exciting we offered $50 to whoever could jump off the LA Coliseum peristyle the furthest. We even had somebody stand there for the race to measure who launched the furthest. Brian Berger was a BMX rider who got winded on the very first lap and after pushing his bike up the ramp, took a break at the top to catch his breath. A little later, all refreshed, he gets a running start and just launches to win the cash.

Flyers we handed out at local Southern California events to promote race.
Byron Fridayand Brian Skinner helped to co-promote the event with me. Also the very first mountain bike cartoon I ever drew. We ended up making T-shirts from that drawing for the race.

Rider testing the track during practice before the night show. One of the favorites, BMXer Stu Thompson, had a big get off during practice : “I ended up breaking my collarbone when trying to jump a pair of doubles at the bottom of the Peristyle up portion. From what I have been told I over shot the landing and crashed. I don't remember as I knocked myself out for a second. I do remember a super sore shoulder and spitting up some blood. I had modified one of my 24" BMX cruisers with gears in order to race the event.”

Official results Pro class.

More results. Check out the sponsor for #100 in Sport class Steve Boehmke “Yeah, Todd DeAngelis had some sort of “earthtones” deal. We had gotten jnto punk rock, joy division, sisters of mercy, etc... so we came up with “deathtones”! Haha.”

Official schedule for the evening. We had exactly 10 minutes for our two lap event

Ross team rider Joe Sloup took third overall in the Pro class. Here’s how Steve Boehmke remembered the Supercross course : “It was hard to go fast on the track. It was so chewed up from moto knobs, there was kind of “one line” that would kinda work if u could get into it. It felt a little embarrassing to go so slow compared to the motos, but we new how rad our sport was on the trails we normally rode, so it was ok to sacrifice ourselves like lambs to the slaughter, to expose our sport and the bitchen machines we had under our butts.”

Jim Harlow described the track like this : “I was prepared for smooth fast dirt conditions, but it was sandy spongy clay, like a sprint car track. And huge deep ruts!
I did okay in the "race" (I think?).” Note : Jim got 22nd overall out of 57 riders and won the Veterans class. This despite the fact that he was “still recovering from a bad crash by a fire truck in 1984 (broken bones). I think at the time of the event, had been off work since January. Did a lot of riding & training but still not 100%. “

Fresh off his 1984 Olympic victory, sprinter Nelson Vails was in the race. According to Steve Boehmke “Vails was Flails... I thought he crashed on the first jump and was done!” Actually BMXer Stu Thompson crashed out during practice and hurt his collarbone real bad, or shoulder.

Former Women’s Motocross Champion Sue Fish. Five women did the race. Sue said this about her bike “ I rode Parker’s personal pre Yeti prototype at LA ... it was WAY to big for me, 😂 lol” Nice shoes too.

I still have this old pit pass and holder from the LA Coliseum race.

Huge thanks to Haro for stepping up to be the primary sponsor. Another big supporter was Fat Tire Flyer Magazine and Charlie Kelly. Long time philanthropist Al Farrell also contributed some cash. Al’s behind the scenes donation to so many mountain bike events in the early years cannot be appreciated enough. RIP Al

That’s me racing during intermission of the USGP Motocross at Carlsbad 1985. In prototype JT Racing mountain bike pants.

RIP Mike Bell. An athlete who excelled in two sports. Took a second in the first year in 1985, then came back to win in 1986’s second race.