every year, then we had a break. We came
back in ’04 and ’05 and had some national
races, and then we came back for a small
event a few years after that.
MBA: Can you tell us about the first
BC: It was 1985. It was—I don’t
want to say “primitive,” but that’s what
it was compared to today. It was, “Draw
a line in the dirt,” and it was a time trial.
Everybody lined up—not in single file, but
en masse—and we pulled people out, and
they raced to the bottom as fast as they
could get there, and we did stopwatch timing. They were 30 seconds apart.
MBA: So how has the event changed?
How has the Kamikaze changed from then
BC: Well, the very first year, we had a bit
of a detour going down a service road. In
year number two, ’ 86, we came down the
course as everybody knows it today. The
tweaks of the course are very, very minor.
It’s basically the same course that we ran
in 1986 that we run today.
MBA: Have the times changed a lot?
BC: We had some faster times in the
’90s—some very, very fast times—and
it really depends. I know suspension is a
factor, so we do get a little fast time out of
that, but it really depends on the texture of
the dirt. If it’s really rough, it slows down
the times, obviously, and then when we
have a nice, smooth track, guys can go out
there and pick off some pretty fast speeds.
MBA: Now, do you groom the track
before the race?
BC: This [past] year we didn’t have
to, because it was in great shape. We
groomed it earlier, so we didn’t do it right
before the race. A couple of years, we did
extensive grooming. I can remember back
in ’ 92, for one of the Eliminator races, we
groomed the track, and then we put a special surface down, a special additive to the
soil called a pine-tar mix. That made it very
fast that year, and we got some fast times
out of it.
MBA: I’ve heard guys have gone over 60
miles an hour. Is that accurate?
BC: We have had speeds of over 60
miles an hour, yes. We had radar guns.
MBA: Has anyone ever been hurt badly
on the course?
BC: We’ve had probably a normal
amount of injuries. I don’t know of anything
that was serious offhand. We’ve had some
collarbones and some bangs and bruises.
MBA: Now, what about the dual-slalom
racing? I believe you started that.
BC: We ran that race in 1985, and we
were looking for something to be filmed for
television or to be a bigger crowd-pleaser.
The Kamikaze was there. The cross-country was there. The trials were there. That
was a good crowd-pleaser, and we continued that for a long time, but I was trying
to put this race together that people could
understand, identify with and watch from
a single spot, and I just copied the world
pro-skiing dual-slalom format and brought
it into mountain biking.
MBA: That was the first dual-slalom
race anywhere, wasn’t it?
BC: That’s correct. That’s the first one
that anybody knows about.
MBA: How many guys signed up for it?
Do you remember?
BC: Well, they were tentative in the
beginning, and then Herbold and Tomac
and those guys jumped on it, and when
people saw those guys entering, it was an
MBA: Whose idea was it for bringing
the Kamikaze Games here the last couple
BC: It was my boss at the time, Rusty
Gregory, and the mayor of Mammoth that
wanted to get some additional tourism
going, and Rusty came to me and said,
“Bill, it’s a no-brainer. We can produce a
bike event, and we can get a weekend full
of people at an off-time in September.” So,
that’s where the push came from—or the
MBA: Very cool. How long have you
worked for the Mammoth resort?
BC: I’ve worked for Mammoth Mountain
Ski Area for 45 years now.
MBA: What did you do when you
BC: I started on ski patrol and went into
lifts. I’ve worked most of the departments
in the company.
MBA: What’s your position now?
BC: I’m currently senior vice president.
MBA: Why did Mammoth back off on
mountain biking events for a few years?
BC: The biggest reason was that back
in ’02—it was just after 2000—we had a
major summer of construction. We had a
gondola going in, we had all these stores
going in, and the grounds around here were
completely interrupted. We couldn’t put on
an event here at Canyon. That led to the
main lodge, and the main lodge at that particular point was going to be too much of
an interruption to the operations that were
going on up there. So that caused us to
delay, and that one year led into another. o
Cycling visionary: Mammoth Mountain’s Bill Cockroft is flanked by former downhill
world champions Greg Herbold (left) and Myles Rockwell.