There was probably no more serendipitous combination in early nineties mountain biking than Juli Furtado on the Yeti C-26. Both had short tenures that left a lasting impression on the world of mountain biking. Furtado came from the world of skiing, racing for the US National Team, but a series of knee injuries and operations forced her to abandon her Olympic dreams and shift her focus toward cycling.
Thanks to a natural aptitude and a huge aerobic engine she dominated the sport from the beginning. She quickly went from racing crits in a t-shirt to winning the US National Road Championship in her first year. Her early feats impressed the likes of John Parker, the founder of Yeti, and Furtado soon made the move to racing mountain bikes.
Still a rookie in her first year, she went on to win the Cross Country event at the first ever Mountain Bike World Championships in Durango, Colorado. She did it aboard the new Yeti C-26. The C-26 was Parker’s vision for the future of mountain biking, carbon tubes bonded to steel lugs. It was still a Yeti in spirit and appearance, but lighter and faster. It features the first iteration of the Manitou fork, a custom FTW (Frank the Welder) stem, and the classic Hyperlite bars. An interesting feature is the Shimano drivetrain and brakes. Yeti at the time was sponsored by Campagnolo, but the Yeti team felt they would lose the race because the groupset on the C-26 proved to be too unreliable.
In a bold move, John Parker acquired Shimano’s new prototype Deore XT components, which were only installed on the bike nearly right before the start of the race. Juli had never ridden the bike or groupset before, but she didn’t need to. She’s wasn’t the type of rider to be overly concerned with equipment. She checked her bike was working, and then just rode hard, no matter what. Juli Furtado went on dominate women’s mountain biking for the next five years, winning multiple championships, until illness brought her illustrious career to a premature end. Likewise, the Yeti C-26 simply wasn’t to be. Only 11 (maybe 12) original C-26s were produced. But it was a taste of what mountain bikes were destined to become. Furtado and Yeti are cornerstones in the history of mountain biking, and seem like fated companions.
They were explosive and exciting, and lived and raced by the motto written across the C-26’s fork arch: “Ride fast, Take Chances.”