by Steven Cummings
May 6th, 2010
Interview Originally posted by our friends at PGHracing.org
Last year a group of people were sitting around a campfire at a mountain bike race. Somebody mentioned about when Gunnar Shogren (who was sitting within earshot) was PRO. One of the younger people in the group responded “Gunnar was PRO?”…. How quickly we forget.
We here at Pittsburgh Racing are bringing you a snippet of Gunnar through some questions. The man has been living bike racing for decades. He could, and probably should, publish a book of his stories.
Why is Pittsburgh Racing interviewing you if you are from West Virginia?
I was born in Pittsburgh. Allegheny County General. Mom
and Dad were both at the Pittsburgh Seminary School, and yes,
apparently I met Mr. Rogers when I was very young, he and my dad were acquaintances of sorts.
In my early days the Zoo Crits were a *huge* part of gaining very
valuable racing experience.
From making the leap from winning a few B races to “getting” to do the
A race (I was actually late for the race and Mark (Powder, ACA club founder) begrudgingly let me race A, even though I was just a “decent” sprinter (ed: This is from a time when officials told you what race you were eligible for, not the other way around) .
To really contesting the overall series a few years, I was 2nd to Jay (Wolkoff) and pre-druggy Joe (Papp), in 1987 and 1998 respectively.
If you include the BMX days, I had been going up to Pittsburgh on
Wednesday from 1984-2004! Pretty religiously too.
Racing and traveling with Danny (Chew) and Hal (Chew, his late father), and all the other racers from “back in the day”. Very valuable and memorable times indeed.
And then all the West Deer races, the Spring Training races up North,
the various and sunday races around the Pittsburgh area, blah, blah,
Sigh… where have they all gone?
And in the pre-CX (cyclocross) days (yes kids, there actually was a time when there weren’t hardly any CX races within driving distance) Gary Bywaters put on the end-of-the-road-season Month of Mud races that the Motown posse would come up for. Pre-race a lap, race, post-race a lap, clean up in the puddles and streams, eat at Kings and then go home to nap.
And then when CX was starting to gain traction but I was no longer
living in New England for the season, old Gary B. kept the torch lit for us.
Good races between me and Paul Martin.
From 1992?-2000 or so, there was this little thing called Dirt Rag. Allowed me an opportunity to rant, rave, and write ridiculously about whatever. Boy that was all pretty neat. (ed: Gunnar had a column those years titled “wassupwidat”)
And of course if it wouldn’t have been for Pittsburgh and it’s cycling
community I would have never met Betsy. Yay Pittsburgh!!
And post DBR, who came to my aid? Gregg Dion. and Fort! What a time that was as well, being involved w/ the whole beginning of that
business, working w/ Czechs, the CX Wonder-Team years, feeling like I
was Pro again… more sigh…
Also Denny Dansak. and the whole GPOA thing, returning to those road roots, racing w/ the crazy kids all over the place and *still* racing mtb and CX. More good years.
Did you know that Joe Parkin describes you as a legend in your area in his new book?
In just *my* area? Darn. I thought I was larger than that.
What did it take for Joe to talk about you so much in his new book?
I raced. A lot.
Oh and I did well enough too. Must not have been very many others in
it then or something. (ed: There are lots of people mentioned, all of whom are “famous” in the cycling world. Gunnar gets a lot of recognition.)
And the timing. Back then road racers didn’t do much mtbing and
mtbers didn’t do much road racing. I did as much racing as I could.
It helped that I enjoyed both types of racing as well.
I’d love to race track if you guys would build me a velo!
When did you start racing?
I always wanted to race bikes, just didn’t get the chance to until
later in my life.
In 1984, in college here at WVU, I found out that there was a BMX
track in Hopwood, PA and a whole PA Series. I used my granny’s PA
address and raced the PA Series for two years. And of course the Wed.
South Park summer races too. 1984-85.
Got my first mtb then, a Ross Mt. Rainier and built up my first road
bike from used parts while working at Pathfinder.
1986 I was working at Mountaineer Schwinn, got a Schwinn Circuit,
built up another mtb (out of used parts of course) and was able to
race both that year, though not very much. I also finished school,
lined up a job as a Research Technician at Animal and Vet Sciences,
running a mass spec., and knew that in ‘87 I was going to get a USCF
license and start racing road.
In 1987 went from a Cat. 4 to a 2.
*Poof*, hook line and sinker.
In a season you were a 2? When did you become PRO?
We had a little road and mtb team in 1990, Team Tuffy Muffler, out of
Richmond, VA but riders from all over. In 1991 the mtb part of it
decided to go big, we got Cannondale as a sponsor but we all had to
have Pro licenses.
So in 1991 I started racing Pro. In our first Norba Nat Pro race, we
went out to Durango, CO, and really got our butts handed to us. What
an experience! Back then the women started a little after the men. I
think all but two of us got caught by at least Julie F(Furtado).
In 1992 I changed to Diamondback cause Whitetail Bikes didn’t sell
Cannondale. The DB rep asked me if I’d race for them, the timing was
right and I raced for Diamondback from 1992-1999.
Could you tell us about the mountain biking glory days some?
You haven’t got the time for that.
Things were different, times were different.
We all raced everything on pretty much the same bikes. Those crazy
Stage races, the fun of being part of something pretty new and
everyone wanting to get in on it.
Brings a tear to me eye.
What was your best result ever? World cup points apparently?
3rd at the Sea Otter MTB Road Race, 1995.
Me, Joe (Parkin), Steve (Tilford), and Don Myrah got in a break and stayed away. Ahead of all the Euro boys and USA kids. It was awesome and even more cool was actually racing on the Leguna Seca race course, actually hitting 50mph on the Cork Screw and of course climbing the hill up to it and seeing how crazy it would be in a car, to go up that hill and having to initiate the corner before you even see it.
Oh the race…
Steve (Tilford) won, Joe (Parkin) was 2nd.
I fell apart for the Short Track race later.
A few top 10 USA guy in a couple World Cup races, on the days when
most of the big guns would fall apart.
I won the Hedgehog Hustle in ‘96 (I think it was ‘96). Big race in AZ
held the week before the Cactus Cup, back when the Cactus Cup was
really something else. That was pretty exciting. Course I had been
in TX for a month or so prior to that, doing the once grand Tour of
A couple of the National Championships have been pretty remarkable.
Probably the highlights being the first CX one in 1998 (late in the
last lap I got all disoriented, the courses weren’t ribboned off and
all of a sudden I wasn’t certain whether I was actually going the
right way, it was a very strange feeling) and then this last one, the
Tandumb Nats w/ Betsy. That was very exciting and special for me.
1996 Naked Crit, Mt. Snow, VT
Wasn’t feeling all that great for the weekend and I knew it. So me, Willy (Geoghegan) and a few others decide to see what the whole Naked Crit thing was about (this was when they still allowed and encouraged campers at the main venue).
Crowds were big, things getting frenzied, old friends James B., Roger
(Bird), and GinO had already stripped and just somehow I got caught up in it. Going ’round and ’round before the race even got started. Then we all stop, decide that we’d better start the race before the buzz wears off, they draw a line in the gravel and we are off!
Afterward I went back to our condo, Joe was kind of asleep, he asked
if I raced, I replied “yeah”, he asked if I won, I said “yeah”, he
said, “that’s f__!*ing cool” and went to sleep. That night I lay in
bed wondering if I had somehow really messed up and would find myself
without a team in the morning.
I didn’t get anything for winning, but oh the press the next day…
It was pretty sweet.
Those posters are still out there…
Part II coming soon… stay tuned.