“It was the late ’90s and I was in Tahoe, the home town of Shaun Palmer, for a World Cup downhill race. Palmer (a pro snowboarder who switched to mountain biking and stirred things up, both with his personality and by winning a World Cup and a World Champs silver medal) was a wild character, to say the least, and ’cos the race was near his home he pulled out all the stops. We rode pit bikes on a dirt track around his house every night, and on 4 July he cut the roof off a car, installed a sound system and we cruised around blasting Born in the USA and got noise pollution tickets off the police.
“One night Palmer wanted to go to the casino. We had a Spanish downhiller with us who should probably remain nameless – let’s call him ‘Joe’. He was a teammate of Palmer’s and didn’t drink, ’cos he was an actual athlete – not like us lot. We got in one of Palmer’s Cadillacs – it had a bench seat so you could sit three in a row, and Steve Peat was in the back, Joe was driving, Palmer was in the middle and I was sat by the window. Palmer decided he’d do the throttle and brake, so moved his feet over, with Joe still behind the wheel. We were overtaking cars at speed, it wasn’t the smoothest driving you’ve ever seen.
“Someone had called the police and as we came into the Tahoe city limits there was a roadblock. Blue lights flashing, cops everywhere. We got pulled in – and Palmer pulled his feet back across, of course. It was us they were after. In America, when you get stopped, you don’t get out, you stay in the car. It all got quite moody, and the cops were shining spotlights on us. Palmer was giving them a load of shit, and suddenly they pulled their guns out and pointed them at the car, asking for his licence. He reached across me quickly to get it out of the glovebox.
“As he did, one of the cops cocked his gun. I heard the click. It was like being in a film. I remember it as clear as if it were yesterday. Palmer stopped and Peaty whispered in a fearful voice: ‘Eeeaaasssaay Palm!’ I was thinking that at best I’d get Palmer’s brains over me, or at worst take the bullet myself. It was America – we were terrified, we’re not used to guns! Then Palmer turned around and said: ‘Why you so angry, man? Not getting enough off your old lady? Go ahead, shoot me, trigger-happy!’
“They breathalysed Joe and when they saw he wasn’t drunk it all calmed down. We got away with it scot-free! I don’t think Palmer’s feet went back to those pedals, but the next thing I knew we were in a casino and he put quite a lot of money on red. Or black… it didn’t go well, but it was f**king funny.”
Illustration: Kevin February
Who is Rob Warner?
Rob Warner was the first British downhiller to win a World Cup, back in 1996, and was also national champion three times, but it was his rowdy antics and outspoken attitude off the track that really put him in the spotlight. In more recent years, he’s carried his ‘wild man’ reputation over to commentary, coming up with some hilarious lines in the early days of online World Cup coverage via Freecaster, then toning things down a bit – but only a bit – to man the mic for Red Bull. Look out for a feature with Rob in an upcoming issue of MBUK…
This story originally appeared in MBUK issue 381 (May 2020). Subscribe here to get MBUK delivered to your door every month.