By Sue George in Val di Sole, Italy
UCI President Pat McQuaid honoured Thomas Frischknecht at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy. The 38 year-old Swiss racer was at the very first Mountain Bike World Championship in Durango, Colorado in 1990, where he took second place and the first of his 15 world championship medals. He won 18 World Cup victories en route to three overall titles (1992, 1993, 1995). Last weekend, he completed his final elite cross country world championship race - finishing 27th on a hot day when many younger competitors dropped out or were lapped.
In a special ceremony, Frischknecht said: "It seems like just yesterday that I started. But if you look back to 1990 when it all started, some things were different, some things are the same. The atmosphere has stayed the same.
"We are still fighting for glory and it's great that we can keep it that way. Passion is what has kept me in this sport for so long," he said, accepting his award.
After his race, Frischknecht commented on the pace, "It's definitely faster. It's too fast for me! If it wasn't my last one, I probably wouldn't have finished because I was going backward after the half way point and having a really hard time." Frischknecht said he was proud of the all-Swiss podium. "Three on the podium exceeds expectations although any one of them being up there is not a surprise." No doubt he is leaving his sport's mountain bike future in very capable hands.
Frischknecht has been marathon world champion (2003, 2005), cross country world champion (1996), cyclo-cross world champion, European champion and Swiss national champion (11 times). At mountain biking's Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996, he won silver while also racing on his nation's road team.
Frischknecht now serves as a spokesperson for the Alta Rezia tourist area. He cultivates his vineyards in Tuscany, Italy, and oversees the distribution of his Chianti wine.