2014 Seasons in the Sun

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How to Wear a Cycling Cap: Vjatseslav Ekimov

After that red jersey wearing, barrel-chested, wooly-bear of a racer for the Soviet team from the film American Flyers, the guy who looked like he should be holding a Hawken flintlock and wearing leather rather than a mussette and lycra, the guy whose name was Shostakovich or something like that [Belov], Vjatseslav Ekimov (aka Viatcheslav Vladimirovich Ekimov, aka Eki) is likely the best known Russian cyclist of all time. How do I know that? In 2001 Vjatseslav was awarded the title of Russian Cyclist of the Century. Here in the States, though, he will probably be best remembered as one of Lance Armstrong's most trusted and useful lieutenants...


Excuse the intermission there. I don't normally do things like that, but I had a sudden urge for a corn dog and lemonade.

Back to the story. Ekimov was born in 1966, and began his professional career in 1990. HIs palmares of impressive wins began before that: In 1988 he won the Team Pursuit gold medal at the Summer Olympics. Before focusing on road racing, Ekimov would add two more monumental victories on the track - the World Individual Pursuit Championship in 1990, and the World Points Race Championship in 1991. When he retired from the sport in 2006, Ekimov had accumulated stage win in both the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, at the Tour de Suisse, Criterium International, Paris-Nice, as well as overall (GC) victories at the Three Days of De Panne (1996 and 2000), the Tour duPont (1994), and the GP Eddy Merckx (2000). He also claimed a 4th place finish in the 1995 Paris-Roubaix and 3rd in 2003. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics Ekimov won a second gold medal in the Time Trial, and then picked up a third Gold Medal four years later in Atlanta (again in the Time Trail) when the apparent victor, Tyler Hamilton, was stripped of this win following his admission of doping in 2012.

Ekimov began his professional career with the Panasonic team, for whom he raced between 1990 and 1992. Thus the photo above is from early in his career. Even without that knowledge, however, you would probably have guessed that winter cap predated the mandatory helmet rule. Ekimov has remained involved in the sport following his retirement in managerial roles of top-level teams.

"I'll never learn how to rest without a bike. It takes a great deal of effort to make myself put it aside for a couple of days, but it does me absolutely not good - I feel that something is missing."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This Bud's for You, 15 April


I have said it before, and i will say it again (right now in fact), that Michael F is a fount of cycling stories and lore. I mean we all have stories, but Michael has Stories. When I arrived at the median in time for the finish, he was there talking to senor Meza, the senior Rigoberto, also father of Miguel and Ruben. Michael speaks a little spanish, which is a little more than I do and which, in turn, left me plucking a word from the air every once in a while at best. Luckily he got tired of me standing there pretending to understand what was being said, and switched to english. This was good for me, but not so good for Mr. Meza, who was now left outside, listening in. Fortunately our little dilemma was resolved by the peloton coming around the far turn.

And a big bunch it was this evening, maybe the largest of the year. And maybe even more significantly, there was no breakaway ahead of the charge. The sprint went curb to curb and, if I am not mistaken, the Incycle rider led from the get-go all the way to the line. The Bud's crown this week is for you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cycling Claremont: The Gallery on Berkeley


A few exhibits have come and gone at the Gallery on Berkeley since I last posted one of them. The current freshet of color has a bit of a Spring theme - I base that entirely on the "Happy Spring" sign, rather than any dominance of Spring related art. I really like the aesthetics of that big sun; it is vibrant, yet with the cool blues and violets it is not oppressively hot. Hopefully a few more months before we reach that stage of the year. Free art, ride, or walk, on by and enjoy it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday Blues: Blue Train

photo by the author, from the US Cup short track race at Bonelli Park, Sunday 12 April

Unlike racing on the road, if you were to compile a list of most important aspects leading to successfully winning or placing in a mountain bike race, teamwork would likely not make the top five. Perhaps not even the top ten. Things such as equipment, handling ability, and familiarity with the course, are more likely to fill the top spots. 

It may be due to the size of the squad, or the fact that they are able to attract and hold so much top talent, but the Luna pro women's team, regularly present an interesting exception. That blue train, led on this lap by American champion Georgia Gould, looks a whole lot like teamwork to me. Excusing the fact that a lone Trek rider managed to infiltrate the line (fourth spot) but, it would take some extra effort and, possibly, some extra fancy riding to move around those four. The tighter and more technical the course, the more difficult it would become. The advantage is clear, use it or loose it.

Blue: A color, a mood or emotion, a genre of music. Tune in each Monday for another installment of the Blues, with a cycling twist. The blues aspect of this one might be a bit tenuous, but Limitless Cycling kit is the required color.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Henderson Wins Day Two of the US Cup, Bonelli Park

The Cat 3's and 2's had their day to race cross country (XC) while the pros, both women and men, moved on to the short track.

I'm not sure where these guys (and the three more just behind them) were in the race, but they were chugging up this hill clearly focused on a sprint finish.

Gould and Henderson

Heading down the hill for the final time, Jenny Rissveds held a lead over Georgia Gould and Rebecca Henderson. Rissveds carried a little too much speed down onto the grass, though, and in a heartbeat was taken out of the competition for the finish. Gould then, looked to be in position to repeat as champion, having won on the same circuit last month. Instead, with a strong finish Henderson, from Australia and racing with the Trek Factory Racing team, swooped in and overhauled the American champion for the win.

Rebecca Henderson ahead of Catharine Pendrel

The short track events capped a second day of inspired racing. A smaller Flickr album this time, of only sixty-six photos, starts off with a lakeside vantage of the Cat 2 race before moving on to the pro women's short track race.

The photos are not a complete catalog, but are representative of all the others taken during the day, so if you don't see what, or who, you were looking for in the album, let me know with a race number and I will see what I can find. If you see a photo you like, feel free to download it (credit where credit due, of course). You can also contact me via email and I will gladly send a full size jpeg file of the image.

Want more? Go ahead and order your own copy of the CLR Effect racing annual. There are two editions available right now (2013 and 2014), and you can preview them by clicking the 2014 Seasons in the Sun Book Preview button near the top of the right hand column, or under the title banner at the top of the page.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Batty Again at the US Cup, Bonelli Park

There was a distinct, painful upward pitch in the trail here but, holey-moley, I don't remember it being this steep - Maghalie Rochette shows how to get it done.

Downhill and off-caber is never a good combination when you are trying to maintain speed. Everyone had to slow here, but Caroline Mani tamed the turn with a little extra body-english.

Before getting on with the race, and for something completely different [sorry but I am watching a little Monty Python while posting this up] lets all wish Al Garza a Happy Birthday - his family did it in style as he came through the feed zone, and approached the finish:

A month ago, when the US Cup last stopped in at Bonelli, Emily Batty made the decisive move away from her nearest competitors on the back side of the course, with about a half lap to go. This time the decision was not made until the final few yards. Once again Batty's nearest adversary was Catharine Pendrel, the two competitively matched throughout the race. Coming down the final descent and onto the grass the outcome was anyone's guess. The announcers seemed to think the more veteran, Pendrel, had the advantage in a sprint, that Batty's best chance for a second victory would have been to pull away from Catharine before the finish. All that guessing was moot though, as Emily Batty had just enough to out-sprint and out-throw the World Champion.

Of course those were the final few seconds only of a long and dusty race. There was much that happened in between that point, and the starters whistle which sent the riders into their first mad dash of the day. Early on, it was Jenny Rissveds, the multi-disciplined champion of Sweden who held the lead. Considering the strength of the chasers behind her as she flew past me on the second lap, I knew her few second advantage was tenuous. Whether Rissveds was simply overhauled on the next grueling lap, or suffered some other mishap unseen by me, when the leaders came past again, she was now in fourth spot, behind Pendrel, Batty, and Erin Huck. Katerina Nash, Georgia Gould, and Larissa Connors were next in procession, though the gap to each of them was growing. The time of another lap passed with riders further back grinding and finessing their way along the technical course. When the leaders came back into view there were three, Pendrel, seemingly ever in the lead, followed by Batty, and then Huck. It was right at this moment, though, that three became two; as I focused on taking a shot of Pendrel, a soft clatter, and small puff of dust indicated that Huck's wheels had slid out while approaching that off-camber turn (being finessed by Mani in the photo above). I didn't see it, but there it is in the background of one of the photos. As Erin, now covered in dust, picked up her bike and herself, you knew she faced a hard-pressed pursuit of Pendrel and Batty. And what a gritty and determined pursuit it was. When the leaders came back around again, they were a trio once more. It makes you wonder, or at least it does me, what would have happened if Huck had not slid out. A chase like that, on a course as challenging as this, had to have cost a great deal of energy. A two-up sprint at the end could very well have been contested by three instead, if not for that one most brief of moments. 


 Katlyn Dundas (Wolfpack Racing)

Pendrel ahead of Batty at this point.

Someone's big head got in the way, but I think you can see Emily (on the right) just ahead. It was a great finish.

The top ten: 1. Emily Batty, 2. Catherine Pendrel, 3. Jenny Rissveds, 4. Erin Huck, 5. Georgia Gould, 6. Chloe Woodruff, 7. Larissa Connors, 8. Lea Davison, 9. Katerina Nash, 10. Rebecca Henderson.

There are 127 photos in the Flickr album, all from the Women's Pro race, as well as a few incidental scenes.

The photos are not a complete catalog, but are representative of all the others taken during the day, so if you don't see what, or who, you were looking for in the album, let me know with a race number and I will see what I can find. If you see a photo you like, feel free to download it (credit where credit due, of course). You can also contact me via email and I will gladly send a full size jpeg file of the image.

Want more? Go ahead and order your own copy of the CLR Effect racing annual. There are two editions available right now (2013 and 2014), and you can preview them by clicking the 2014 Seasons in the Sun Book Preview button near the top of the right hand column, or under the title banner at the top of the page.

Lars Boom to Win Paris-Roubaix

From the moment Kristoff crossed the line at the end of last weekend's Ronde van Vlaanderern, predictions for tomorrow's Paris-Roubaix began to roll across the cobbles and bergs, through the little towns and the dark forests. If there is anything I have learned by following the sport over the decades it is best not to predict a winner of l'enfer du nord, the Hell of the North. It, more than any other, is a race that defies prediction; a single split-second of inattention, the all-to-freqent slip of a wheel, the inevitable puncture, or any one of a hundred other un-calculated mishaps will foil the plans of the strongest of riders. In the end, it is the course more than any other factor, more than pre-race preparation, more than technology, more than EPO, that will determine the outcome, choose the day's champion.

What the hell, though, there's no fun in that at all. Therefore, there is one person above all others, whose career as led directly to this moment, whose race in Flanders was forceful and determined, who is built from the mold of 'classic hard-man' - I guarantee that the cobbles and mal-weather of Paris-Roubaix will select Lars Boom as its champion for 2015. I just hope this does not put too much pressure on his shoulders.

photo from the leTour website
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