Endurance mountain bike legend Ned Overend received the Cycling Legend award at the Endurance Live! gala in Los Angeles Saturday night.
The gala highlighted many of the top athletes in endurance sports, including Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington and downhill mountain bike world champion Danny Hart. In an interview with VeloNews, Overend talked about how the unique event brought a variety of endurance sports icons together.
“All of these incredible athletes, that’s what makes this such an honor,” said Overend. “You talk about Dara Torres, there’s no end to it. Jim Ryan, Dave Scott, Chrissie Wellington. Crowie’s not here, but Chrissie and [Craig Alexander’s] performances were inspirational this year.”
In his prime, Overend won six NORBA national championships and the first-ever world cross-country championship, in Durango, Colorado. The Specialized spokeman hasn’t slowed down much, however; at 56, he is still winning world championships, and has already done so this year, at the Masters World Cyclocross Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. Overend attributes his victory at the 1991 mountain bike worlds and his lengthy career to his relationship with Specialized Bicycles.
“The pressure from sponsors can lead to short careers,” he said. “I’ve never felt that pressure from Specialized.”
Being a Durango, Colorado-based employee of California’s Specialized Bicycles gives Overend the ability to train in the area that he loves and at an altitude that suits him. Known as the “Human Lung,” for his body’s ability to process oxygen, Overend said he is grateful to be working for a company where he can pick and choose his races. With a packed schedule of travel to Specialized events and commuting back and forth to California, Overend told VeloNews that “not overtraining, and not being obsessive about training,” has allowed him to stay motivated to compete over the years while still loving to just get out and ride.
Where does Overend see momentum in the off-road disciplines?
“The marathon-style races are a bit more like the way mountain biking was 20 years ago,” he said. “And they really show people how much fun mountain biking can be.”
The gala awarded athletes from all corners of endurance sport, including Apolo Anton Ohno for his contribution to the Special Olympics, his Olympic accolades, and competing in his first marathon in 2011. Several triathletes, including Ironman winner Alexander, received awards as well. Overend is no stranger to that discipline; he is a two-time XTERRA world champion. In his acceptance speech, Overend thanked event promoters, saying there would not be professional cyclists if there were no professional event promoters to give the riders a stage on which to perform.
“Promoters like Dave Nicholas, who started XTERRA, deserve a lot of credit,” said Overend. “They provide the arena for professional sports.”
Sporting personalities don’t get more professional than Ned Overend. From his world championships to his presence in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and his product development with Specialized, Overend has shaped the mountain biking world more than arguably any other rider in history.