September 21, 2007 09:10 ET

Mountain Biker Sets New Downhill World Speed Record

Austrian Markus Stoeckl Reaches Speed of 130.7 mph

SANTA MONICA, CA--(Marketwire - September 21, 2007) - Red Bull athlete Markus Stoeckl, 33, set a new world speed record in the series downhill mountain bike class this past week on a renovated high-speed snow track at the La Parva ski resort, located in the Central Andes of Chile. The Austrian shattered an eight-year-old record by an incredible 14 mph (23 km/h) when he hit a speed of 130.7 mph (210.4 km/h).

For years, there was very little news to report in the world of speedbikes on snow, the world's fastest vehicles without propulsion. In the 1990s, there were a number of classic, unforgettable duels between two Frenchmen, Eric Baronè and Christian Taillefer. The two set a series of world records as they sped down the French Alps clad in rubber suits and aerodynamic helmets with spoilers attached to their bodies while riding on futuristic speeding projectiles that bore only a faint resemblance to bicycles.

The only other racer who came even close to keeping up with the French duo was a young man from Kitzbühel, Austria -- Marcus Stoeckl. Because he could not afford an expensive prototype bike at the time, Stoeckl rode in the series bike class and managed to set a world record in that category at 116.2 mph at Les Arches, France, in 1999. Eric Baronè's record in the prototype class of 137.9 mph has stood since it was set at the same time.

In the following years, interest in France dropped off and, as Stoeckl explains, "No races, no championships, no runs." Since then, the giant nicknamed "Hercules" (he weighs 220 pounds and stands 6 feet 4 inches tall) has taken part in "normal" downhill races, founded his own company and set up his own World Cup team, "MS Intense Racing." Stoeckl was on an assignment in Portugal when he learned that the old speed track in La Parva, Chile, was being renovated. He didn't hesitate and quickly jumped on a plane to South America after hurriedly packing his old helmet, his speedsuit and his new Intense M6 bike.

Just seven days later, on Friday, September 14 at 11:18 a.m., Stoeckl was standing at the highest possible starting point, directly beneath the cliffs above and in front of a 6,500 foot, 45 degree slope. The conditions for the record run were far from ideal. Because South America's springtime weather had melted away much of the snow alongside the slope, shrinking it to a narrow strip between bare mountain cliffs, it wasn't possible to gradually raise the starting point for the test runs. The final test run took place from a spot that was a few hundred feet below the starting point where a top speed of 110 mph was previously recorded.

In addition, the protective visor on Stoeckl's helmet kept fogging over, so he was forced to hold his breath for the entire 40-second run. "I knew that this would be my only chance," he said. The record run went off without a hitch. There were no problems whatsoever, and, despite hitting a speed of 130.7 mph, Stoeckl made it look effortless.

"At the end of the run, I had the feeling that I was somehow watching the run myself," said Stoeckl. "The planning for the trip to Chile was so hurried that I ended up having to wear my street shoes for the world record run."

Now that Stoeckl has tasted success in the series class, he wants to try to break the other age-old prototype class record set by Eric Baronè -- but with better preparation and first-rate equipment. Fernando Habash of the La Parva ski resort has promised he will have a course suitable for another world record for Stoeckl when he's ready once again.

For more information, please contact Kristen Rubi at 323-866-6027 / or Ryan Snyder at 310-428-6937/

Pictures and web clip available free of charge for editorial use. Photo credit: Alfredo Escobar / Username and password: speed

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