Owosso, Mich., native John Tomac took his bicycling talents to Durango in 1989. By then, he was an accomplished 21-year-old pro bicycle racer for Mongoose Mountain Bikes in the road circuit. Tomac had won numerous national and international races and series championships to that point. Mongoose even developed a Tomac series bicycle.
So why move to Durango?
By 1989, Tomac was beginning to race in the mountain bike circuit and liked the high altitude training that Durango offers.
"I had come out to race in Durango a couple times and really liked it. It's just a great area," he said.
Durango was an up-and-coming mountain bike hotbed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The city hosted the inaugural Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Mountain Bike and Trials World Championships in 1990. Tomac finished fourth in on a Yeti C-26.
In 1991, Tomac was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in the midst of his shining career. In November 1992, John and his wife Kathy, or "Super Mom" as some people refer to her, gave birth to their second son, Eli. Four years later, Eli Tomac took his father's craft to the motor side of two-wheel sports.
"I like twisting the throttle more than moving my legs," Eli Tomac said with a laugh.
John Tomac definitely agrees.
"I never really pushed him towards mountain biking because he seemed like he was really enjoying motocross," he said about Eli.
Yes, at age 4, Eli began riding a PW 50 motorcycle in 1996. That was the year the Tomac's moved to McElmo Canyon on their ranch outside of Cortez, where they currently reside.
Eli Tomac practiced dirt bike racing on the family motocross track, and by age 9, he was racing for Suzuki.
For seven years, Eli Tomac lit up the amateur supercross circuit with wins all across the country. John serves as Eli's trainer, and Kathy cooks the meals on the road suitable for supercross racing.
Eli credits his parents for taking him to the national amateur races while he was growing up because there aren't motocross races or tracks locally. The nearest competitive track is in Aztec, N.M.
"That local scene really kind of died off when I was coming up through the amateur stuff," he said. "I was lucky to have my mom and dad take me to the amateur nationals around the country."
Eli Tomac attended Battle Rock Charter School in McElmo Canyon through eighth-grade. After that, he was home schooled and finished high school early. At 17, it was time to turn pro and Eli Tomac immediately cemented his name in pro motocross history.
On May 23, 2010, Eli Tomac made his pro supercross debut in the American Motorcyclist Association Outdoor Nationals 250cc series season opener at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Eli won the race to become the first person in the sport to win his pro debut.
"That gave me good confidence going into the rest of the outdoor series," Eli Tomac, now 18, said.
Nine months later, Tomac won the Supercross Lites West race on his Honda CRF250R dirt bike on Feb. 19 in San Diego, Calif., at Qualcomm Stadium and moved into third-place in the AMA Supercross Lites West season standings. Tomac competes for Geico Powersports Honda factory racing and has done so for three years. The victory in San Diego was the first of his pro rookie season. It was also special to win at Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers, Eli Tomac's favorite football team.
"I went in there with a good attitude because that's my home team stadium," Eli said with a grin.
The AMA Lites West outdoor season is on break before it shifts eastward, and Eli Tomac is practicing on the same motocross track he grew up on. Eli also cross trains on a mountain bike with dad.
Eli Tomac wants to win a couple of Lites season championships before moving up to the premier 450cc class, which is where he says, "you really want to make stuff happen."
Mom and dad are Eli's biggest influences, but in motocross, former racer and current Nascar Nationwide Series truck, stock car racer Ricky Carmichael, and motocross racer Chad Reed are people Eli Tomac has looked up to.
Nick Paluzzi, of Star Yamaha sports, is a good friend of Eli's that he has known since the PW 50 days.
Eli Tomac feels that hopefully he can be an image or influence for young athletes in the Cortez area to look up to. John Tomac certainly is.
Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond was a major influence for John Tomac growing up. John, 43, retired from professional racing after 15 years in 2000 and has since been inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, but he remains heavily involved in the sport. He designs mountain bikes through his partner Lincoln, Neb., company, Tomac Bikes, with Joel Smith. John Tomac also designs mountain bike tires for Kenda Tires.
With his business operations and performing maintenance on his ranch, John Tomac still keeps plenty busy, but his "full-time" job is coaching Eli.
"Working with Eli takes most of my time," he said. "It's like I have four jobs going, which is normal these days."
Coaching his son at the amateur level was something the family did for fun, but Eli's steady progression really made it into something more.
"By the time you're 11 or 12, you can usually tell the kids that have the potential to make it as a pro or at least have a chance to do that," John Tomac said about motocross racers. "He (Eli) was showing that potential. I tried to manage it, so he wasn't going to burn himself out before he was pro."
With the athletic ability John and Eli possess, amazingly, John Tomac did not come from a family of athletes.
"My dad was an electrician, and my mom just did odd jobs - not really athletic at all," John said.
In 1991, John Tomac had his most successful season when he won the road racing (XC) world championship in Ciocco, Italy, and was second in the downhill. John also won the UCI World Cup XC championship, the National Off-Road Bicycle Association (NORBA) National Downhill title and won two more XC World Cups that year.
Eli's older brother, Greg Tomac, is a U.S. Air Force officer and is finishing up his pilot training at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Eli Tomac is sponsored by Geico, Honda, Planet Fitness, Amsoil and Fox Racing.
For more about Tomac Bikes, log on to www.tomac.com. Fans can follow Eli Tomac through his website, http://elitomac.hookit.com/members/etomac. Racing schedules and results can be found on www.amasupercross.com.