The Cyclocross Legend Made His Mark on the Booming Sport »Albuquerque Journal

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Like cyclocross trophies, Laurence Malone collected nicknames.

At the start of his career he was known as “the technician” and later, “the king of the cross”. In Europe, thanks to his rabbit-jumping exploits which allowed him to overcome obstacles that others had to dismount to pass, he was called “Der Springer” or “The American Kangaroo”.

And in the 1990s, he got the nickname “The Grandfather of the Cross”.

A man with many nicknames, Laurence Malone will be remembered as a cyclocross legend. (Courtesy of Shaheen Rassoul)

From 1975 to 1979, Malone dominated the burgeoning sport of cyclocross, winning five consecutive US National Championships. It’s a feat that stands alone and remains a goal for today’s runners.

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Perhaps best described as mountain biking on a handful of steroids, cyclocross pits riders against the elements in the most devious and careless way.

And Malone, a resident of Santa Fe since 1987 who then moved to Chimayo in 2003, was able to negotiate those elements with a practiced ease that has left him unmatched in the annals of cyclocross.

Malone, 68, and a member of the American Cycling Hall of Fame, died on May 17 in a head-on collision with a truck near Lancaster, Calif.

Since he was a youngster, local public defender Shaheen Rassoul knew Malone as a coach, mentor, coach, father figure and sometimes as that endearing but unconventional uncle that every family has and loves.

“Laurence has been a big part of my life. He has become a kind of father figure and accomplice, ”said Rassoul. “Back then, cycling was a bit more eccentric sport than it is today. Previously it was an individual pursuit with long hours alone on a bicycle. New Mexico was a great place for this. All kinds of eccentric guys, mavericks, people who fight their demons and turn to the bike to exorcise them.

You go to the races, sleep on the side of the road, camp, eat dirty food, jump into the races if you didn’t have entrance fees.

That, he said, pretty much sums up Malone’s youth.

“He was known for it on the west coast,” said Rassoul. “He avoided the rules and set the standards. He had a finesse and grace that belied his size. He weighed 6-2, 160-170 pounds, but he had a certain grace and elegance that filled his compatriots.

But to think of Malone as a mere cyclist with a wacky, freakish streak specializing in some obscure form of riding would be doing him a huge disservice.

From 1982 to 1986, he coached the United States national cyclocross team, but also competed as a professional mountain biker. He had stints as a road racer and nearly clinched a coveted place in the Tour de France in 1981.

A prolific writer, Malone has covered all manner of cycling events and provided how-to articles for magazines, displaying a thoughtful style that went to the heart of the matter. He also brought that same prose to other subjects and genres, Rassoul said, putting a deft hand in poetry, history, historical myths and lore, commentary on popular culture.

“Very poignant writings,” he said. “He sees it from an incredible point of view.”

Across Santa Fe, “he was known as a cyclist in town, and he sold foil-wrapped tabuli lentils and burritos which he put in his locker and sold to gallery owners,” Rassoul said.

“He was very affable, chatty,” he added. “He sold burritos and stationary bikes. He was a bit of a bicycle evangelist. He viewed America as backward and stagnant when it came to bicycles.

Malone also enjoyed making unannounced appearances at local races.

“He was known in Santa Fe for going in numberless races, like the Santa Fe Century, and sneaking and meandering, talking to anyone who had the time,” Rassoul said with a chuckle. “He would ride an old steel bicycle, pants rolled up and no helmet. On his way up Heartbreak Hill, he was just chatting.

For a while, he bought and repaired bikes, then took them to Mexico – where Malone’s 8-year-old son lives with his mother – for poor young people to own.

It was just his way of doing things, says Rassoul.

Tim Rutledge, who created the Redline cyclocross line and was a former old guard racer as Malone summarized in an in-depth CycleCross magazine article from August 2012 by Robbie Carver.

“What I love about Laurence is that he’s’ American Cross,” Rutledge said in the magazine. “The American cross is about boys, girls, moms and dads, everyone goes out to have a good time. We are not exclusive, we are inclusive. It is the spirit of the American cross, and Laurence is its father.

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About Jeffrey Wurtsbach

Jeffrey Wurtsbach

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