After the 1997 Grundig XC World Cup, Budapest was once more included in the World Cup calendar. It seems an unlikely feat to this day, given that Hungary has never been dominant in any cycling discipline, let alone mountain biking. But Dave Erickson, Mountain Bike Action Hungary’s editor-in-chief managed to make the seemingly impossible happen and bring the race to Hungary for a third and last time.
I remember the race vividly for two reasons. Firstly, this was the first time I have ever asked a girl out. At the time, I worked at a local McDonald’s restaurant and I used to work with this girl who was really into cycling. We went for a few rides together, I concluded that she liked cycling enough to invite her to the race. I mean can you imagine a more fitting venue for a first date? The plan worked like magic (not), we went to see the elite women’s race on Saturday, it was pissing down and I was pretty busy taking photos and we didn’t get to chat much. In hindsight, I can see why it didn’t work out.
The other memorable thing was that I was tasked to write the race report for Mountain Bike Action Hungary – which was a massive coup for me because the magazine was THE mountain biking mag in Hungary, so it was quite an honour to write for them. I can’t remember why they had thought it was a good idea to give me this job but I was very happy and nervous to equal measures, as this was my first ever assignment.
It went well, I did a nervous interview on Saturday with the Chantal Daucourt, the lovely Swiss rider who won the women’s race. We met at the bar of the official hotel and chatted for a while. She was very friendly and patient with me, the novice reporter.
Based on this experience, I thought the interview on Sunday with the winner would be equally easy. Not quite so. Thomas Frischknecht won the race and he was ecstatic as this had been his first World Cup win for almost a year. We agreed to meet up in his hotel after the podium ceremony but his hotel turned out to be quite far from the race venue, so it took me some time to get there. When I got there, reality exceeded my imagination: cycling legend Thomas Frischknecht was running around in women’s underwear and he kept necking a gigantic bottle of champaign. I was quite surprised and got a bit worried because it was obvious that the interview wasn’t going to happen – not in THAT state anyway.
I started chatting to his coach, who was pretty drunk by then as well. He insisted that I could ask all the questions I wanted to ask from Frischi from him and his answers would have been just as good as Frischi’s. As far as I remember, I managed to get squeeze a few words out of Frischi and then I chatted with his coach for a while, he was really nice, but he repeatedly begged me not to take photos of the intoxicated Frischknecht, which I didn’t do.
All in all, it was a pretty remarkable weekend, the only sad aspect was that we knew this was probably the last time we’d ever seen pro riders in Hungary. Unfortunately, that prophecy turned out to be true: that was the last time when the best of the best raced in Hungary.