This summer has hailed the return of one of New Zealand's truly legendary mountain bike racers, Darryn Henderson. "Never heard of him" you say? Well back in the '90s Hendi (as he's been known since forever) was dominating the national and international DH circuit.
I vividly remember as a 14-year-old scrambling for VHS tapes to record news spots every time he came on TV aboard his yellow Giant so I could relive the moment over and over (which seemed to be a lot but probably wasn't!). Sounds kind of creepy but it wasn't, honest!
Without further ado, here's Frankly Thursday with Darryn Henderson.How old are you (if you want to tell us)? 45 yrs old
Where do you live? Wellington most of the year, Whistler most of our winter.
What do you like best about living where you do? Great riding here.
What do you dislike about living where you do? Weather shithouse most of the time.
How did you get involved in the MTB scene to begin with, and how long ago was that? I got involved in 1992 I think, retired from nearly 20 years of moto x due to 26 broken bones in my body.
For those who weren't racing or riding MTB back in the '90s give us a bit of a history of your riding career. Aas above raced moto x for years with two 2nd places in the NZ Champs, retired, did two Ironmans, one was the World Champs in Kona Hawaii. Then rode the first National DH Championship and won it, then won for the next five years straight, beat the then-current World DH Champion Dave Cullinan in a race here in New Zealand then ten days later I'm on the big factory team racing for Diamondback in the World Cup series and US Nationals. Lots of results but best was 6th at Mt Sainte Anne and 15th in the World Cup series and top 35 in the World Champs for those five years. Came home, raced XC for a season with 3rd in Nationals and 3rd Karapoti, okay for a DHer back then. Went V8 car racing for next 6 years in New Zealand and raced Bathurst for Greg Murphy's team, now back running the team and racing DH again. Crazy I know, but have lived the dream and have been very lucky.
What's your 'day' job? I own three roofing companies across New Zealand with about fifty staff. With good managers who enable me to live like I do.
What's the story behind the Monster Energy DH Team? Just an idea I had when I raced the Nationals last year at Wellington. To help young talent here make it overseas and an excuse for me to go racing. And I don’t like to do things half-arsed. I spoke to the people in the industry that I wanted to and all wanted to support and sponsor us, especially Monster energy which is all done out of Australia with sign off coming from the USA as with Intense as well so it has the potential to be something a whole lot bigger than it is now. They are very happy so far with what we’ve done.
Best thing about overseeing Monster Energy DH Team? Seeing the impact it has on the riders in the team. Professionalism is something that has to happen in any sport if it wants to go forward.
Worst thing about overseeing Monster Energy DH Team? Worst thing... not much really. The extended costs of building the team, boys breaking shit.
What are your plans for the rest of the New Zealand summer? To win as many classes of that New Zealand Championship in Dunedin for the team and its sponsors so I can go back next year and ask for twice the money.
Who do you think was the most legendary MTB rider in the world ever? I've ridden with a lot of famous riders in my time but the standout has to be John Tomac.
What's wrong with mountain biking? Nothing really wrong with it at all. New Zealand is small so population wise it makes it hard to sell millions of bikes which is why it's hard to get good sponsorship from suppliers here with teams etc. There just isn't that much money to throw around in freebies, hence why the best money comes from outside the industry ie Monster Energy, Redbull etc.
What's right with mountain biking? It’s a great way to get out and about locally and internationally, whether it's racing or general trail riding. You get to see some of the best places in the world out there in the middle of nowhere.
Who do you look up to? Lance Armstrong. I've followed him since he was a freak triathlete come cyclist from when he was 17, through what he has been through cancer wise, and given that second chance in life. I honestly don’t believe he took the so-called drugs, he is simply that good and always has been. Hopefully that will always prove to be the case.
What are your vices? Vices... lately it's been 40 foot-plus gaps at the bottom of downhills, it never used to be for me but now I ride with calculated risk. These jumps should have at least a platform to land on if you are thinking of trying it, ie Maddy and many others last week in Nelson, keep the gap but make it safe enough not to snap your arms off if you're a bit short.
Word Association -
Dirt jump… steep/stylie/crazy. Cross country… fit skinny buggers. Downhill… scary cool fun. Juniors… the future of our sport. Monster Energy DH team… a professional fun time for all and I hope other teams follow. Will only make racing better in this country and that will improve our already great base of talent for the future.