|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 36 - Wednesday, January 29, 2003
| Extreme Sports Cyclist Powers Ahead
by Thomson Fontaine
John Moorhouse is not your average Dominican. John competes in the extreme sports of Ultra Mountain Biking. Over the past few years, he has written and rewritten the record in his sport, and have received numerous awards and National attention.
This month, he was named “ Athlete of the Year” by Florida Sports Magazine. Today he has the distinction of been the only Black rider to compete at this level in North America, and his star is rising.
He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1970 to an American Father and a Dominican mother. He made his first visit to Dominica at the age of two, and was constantly given information about Dominica by his parents.
At the age of six, he was enrolled for one year at the Roseau Seventh Day Adventist Primary School, but returned to the US shortly thereafter. Seven years later in 1983, he was back in Dominica with his entire family, and at the age of 13 enrolled in the Dominica Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School in Portsmouth, where he completed his high school education.
Although not born in Dominica, John considers Dominica his home and speaks fondly of this when he says, “yes I do consider Dominica to be my home even though I wasn't born there”. He recounts the feelings of being homesick when he returned to the US after graduation from high school. Just after a year and a half in the US, he was back in Dominica.
John threw his heart and soul into the farming of bananas at his family’s property in Moore Park, and did some trucking of bananas for the Dominica Banana Marketing Corporation (DBMC). John was so good at growing bananas that he received the DBMC’s award for excellent field practices, and received local press coverage. He was to continue with banana cultivation until the beginning of 1993.
During that time, his love for motorcycles led him to open a small motorcycle rental and repair operation from his home, and he quickly gained a reputation as "the bike man of the North." He would become an excellent ‘self taught’ bike mechanic with a strong passion for bikes.
By the beginning of 1993, the banana industry was beginning to suffer, and John was becoming increasingly discouraged with the returns from banana cultivation. At the same time, his mother had begun to encourage him to return to the US to pursue higher education.
At first, he was unsure of which career path to follow, but eventually found out about a technical school in Orlando, Florida that specialized in training technicians for careers in the motorcycle industry. In December of 1993, he moved to Orlando and a few months later were enrolled in the Motorcycle Mechanic's Institute.
John recounts the difficult times he encountered having to work two part time jobs just to make ends meet while attending classes full time. His natural love for bikes however and his self-taught experience in Dominica contributed to his graduating a year and a half later at the top of his class as a technician with a factory certification from Suzuki Motors.
After graduation, John sought unsuccessfully for employment in Central Florida at the many motorcycle dealerships in the area. Finally, he accepted a position at a local bicycle shop, where he stayed for three years.
It was while there he became acquainted with exotic bikes and the bicycle industry. Sometime in 1995, he purchased his first mountain bike and fell in love with this newfound sport. His life would never be the same.
By the end of that year, he had entered his first local mountain bike competition. According to John, “it was very difficult, but I loved the challenge and the thrill of competition. I began participating in races locally very frequently, and within 2 years, I moved from being a total novice to the top of the expert level of the Florida NORBA (National Offroad Bicycle Association) scene. By that time I was also getting a bit bored”.
Always on the lookout for greater challenges, in 1997 he decided to enroll at a new type of event in which individual riders and relay teams attempt to complete as many laps as possible in a 12-hour period on a rugged off-road course.
“I signed up for the Solo category and to my surprise, I finished second in a pretty strong field. I was very happy with my performance and entered that race in 1998, where I again finished in second place. By this time, I started looking for other twelve-hour endurance events in the Southeast, and in the spring / summer of 1999, I competed in five 12-hour Solo endurance events in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio. I finished on the podium in first or second place all but once, where I finished fifth”.
By the end of 1999, John had gained a great deal of experience and many podium finishes in 12-hour solo events up and down the East Cast. Looking for an even bigger challenge, he entered a 24-hour event in Conyers, Georgia in October of 1999 for the first time.
He was the only Solo participant from the entire Southeastern Region, but once again, surprised himself and many others in the field with a 4th place finish against a top field of endurance specialists from all across North America. According to John “at this point, I decided to make 24 Hour Solo events my competition focus”.
With the help of a local businessman who took a keen interest in what he was doing, John was able to participate in several 24 hour events including the 24 Hours of Tahoe in Lake Tahoe California in August and the 24 Hours of Adrenalin at the 1996 Olympic Mountain Bike Course in Conyers, Georgia. In the Georgia race he finished third, which earned him a qualifying berth at the 2000 Twenty-four Hour Solo World Championships in Idyllwild, California. There, just two weeks after Georgia, he placed 17th.
Through his participation in the various 24-hour events, he became aware of the wealth of talent that existed in this emerging sport. He hit upon the idea of forming a one-of-a kind team comprised of athletes whose focus was the 24-hour solo event. TeamTwentyFour was born. By that time, he had also gained enough recognition to obtain a few sponsors.
John was now determined to be a top contender at any event he participated in, and worked hard at promoting and developing TeamTwentyFour. Between the beginning of 2001 and the end of 2002, TeamTwentyFour participated in over twenty-five endurance events in the USA, Canada, Costa Rica, and Australia and have received regional, national and international coverage in magazines and on the internet.
With the recognition gained from TeamTwentyFour’s success, John and his colleagues have captured the attention and support of some global corporations, and are working to build on this relationship. According to John, “while our current arrangements with these companies are at the ground level, I am enthusiastic about forging relationships with them that will grow and develop into something very substantial in the future.
Our list of 2003 sponsors include Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles, Inc (www.ellsworthbikes.com), Innominate Syndicate (www.innominatesyndicate.com), Shimano Inc (www.shimano.com), Light & Motion Industries (www.bikelights.com), E-Caps/ Hammer Nutrition (www.e-caps.com), Rudy Project Eyewear (www.rudyprojectusa.com), Dumonde Tech Lubricants (www.hgnr.com), and IE Bikes (www.iebikes.com). I am currently also negotiating with a few other potential future sponsors, including a Taiwan- based tire manufacturer who happens to be one of the largest such companies in the world”.
24 Hour Mountain Bike Racing is currently the fastest growing segment in competitive bicycling, and one of the fastest growing of all "extreme" sports. Extreme sports account for over $15 billon in sales each year in North America alone. As a pioneer in the sport who is the only West Indian and Black athlete to participate, John continues to ride hard towards greatness, all the time remembering those days working the banana fields in Paix Bouche.