People first, stars later

February 15, 2016 § 17 Comments

Postdanmark Mini 6-days,

Copyright 2016 by Anne Juel

Ryder Phillips and Wulfgang Lochmiller completed the Copenhagen Six-day Mini in 6th place overall. It is the premier under-15 six-day event in the world, and the only six-day that offers a full six days of racing for the under-15 riders. The event has been going on for thirty-six years.

Ryder and Wulfgang won Stage Five, taking a lap on the field and winning the mid-race prime. This is the first time any Americans have won an under 15 six-day stage, or even scored any points. Wulfgang wiped out the week before while racing in Germany, so he was a bit torn up and he struggled the first few nights. They both came good on the fifth night and picked up what can only be described as a historic win.

The best part of this entire experience was the prep. The boys started doing weekly Madison workouts a year ago February. Ryder was pumping out five-hour, sixty-mile track workouts a few times a week for nearly eight weeks straight, and the boys were ripping the pedals off their bikes by the time he was ready to head out.

The progress that Ryder made prepping for the trip, and the passion he developed for cycling was incredible. It went from a nagging old man saying, “Dude, get your ass ready and turn off the x-box, we need to get to the track,” to the fired up kid saying, “Dad we have to go, we’re gonna be late! And we’re staying late for the intervals right?”

By the time they left for Copenhagen it was already a success, according to Ryder’s dad, Kevin.
“If he crashed out the first night we could still call the entire process a success just because of the personal growth he got preparing for it. He’s gone from the kid trying to hang with the adults to the kid that is hammering most of the adults, and it happened in a single off season.”

Daniel Holloway was also in Copenhagen racing the pro race and couldn’t have been more supportive, going out of his way to come down and say hello to the boys during warmup and offer them advice, although as 13-year-olds who already knew everything, it’s questionable how much of it they absorbed!

The benefits the kids got out of their first Euro tour will last them forever. They know how to travel on an international flight, how to exchange currency, how to order food from someone that does not speak English, ride a metro and get lost on a train and still figure out how to get back to their hotels. This doesn’t even include the fact that they can show up at an international race, find the promoter, mingle with twenty-six other kids that don’t speak much English, race in their heads while some Euro dude is babbling Danish on the PA system, AND race for the win.

Wulfgang hit the Berlin Six-Day before going to Copenhagen and meeting up with Ryder. He was nervous because of the size and reputation of the juniors there; there were some 14-year-olds who looked like they were prepping for the NFL combine. After the first heat Wulfgang snagged second place with points for the omnium and knew he was right at home, following it with fifth in the finals.

The next day he got second in the points race, which gave him yet more omnium points and put him in third place overall going into the final. He was having a great final and gunning for the podium when two other boys crashed; Wulfang went down as collateral damage. His bike was ruined, he had a bruised knee, and track rash on his leg.

Coach Tim Roach scrambled for a loaner bike so Wulfgang could race the final day, but after finding a bike and showing up to race the kid was simply to banged up to go. In Copenhagen the promoter and Danish club came up with a beautiful, perfectly fitting bicycle for Wulfang, saving $600 to overnight ship Wulfgang’s back-up bike. That and the amount of hospitality they give the American contingent left everyone feeling appreciative, humble, and embarrassed that the US doesn’t do the same for its foreign guests.

Most importantly, the success of these two boys was the result of the dedication shown by numerous track racers and coaches who gave untold hours of their time to coach, teach, show, and encourage Ryder and Wulfgang every step of the way.

This is what is so incredible about track racing, a level of personal caring and mentorship that is all but absent in the other cycling disciplines. Dave Grylls, two time Olympic silver medalist, donated hundreds of hours of coaching every Thursday.

Nelson Vails, John Walsh, Guy East, Matthew Chambers, and at least a dozen other expert track racers all came to the Carson velodrome and shared their passion, their expertise, and their decades of experience with these two young kids. Most juniors would be lucky to have a single pro roadie come to a junior road camp; forget having them donate endless hours to the kids’ success. Of course being coached by Tim Roach and Roger Young, two of the best in the business, didn’t hurt.

The fact that there are so many talented cyclists who want to give their time to the sport at no cost all, while USAC does little to take advantage of this and instead cries broke and wants parents to spend thousands on “talent camps” to “ID the stars of the future” is utter crap. Why? Because stars aren’t “ID’d.” They are made—made with time, patience, love, compassion, expertise, support, encouragement, and calculated risks.

It’s an amazing thing that the sport has people like Tim Roach whose response to USAC is “Nuts!” Tim puts his cards on the table and says go big, race in Europe, and see how good you really are. In addition, the kids get a global experience so when they’re at junior world’s they aren’t overwhelmed. For Tim to take these two kids to Europe along with his other racers was an amazing act of kindness and a demonstration of being a coach in the purest sense of the word.

The kicker? It didn’t cost much more than going to a USAC cycling camp, thanks to grants from the Foundation for American Track Cycling. Of course as a parent it’s not about making stars anyway. It’s about making good people.

END

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The unbearable heaviness of bad reporting

December 27, 2014 § 36 Comments

Coryn Rivera is America’s cycling star. Barely 22 years old, she is the reigning elite women’s crit champion. She holds sixty-eight national titles on the road, track, and in ‘cross. In 2014 she won virtually every major race she entered. Next year she has her sights set on pro success as a road racer to match her reputation as the country’s undisputed dominatrix of pro sprint finishes.

What’s more, there’s little reason to doubt that she will achieve it. In addition to a national road title as a junior, she also took a bronze medal in the road race at junior world’s. She scored sixth this year on the Champs-Elysees at La Course by Le Tour de France and won the young rider’s category. The only women to finish ahead of her were the best veteran pro roadies on the planet.

If Coryn were a man, she would be splashed all over VeloNews. Her every move would be religiously recorded on the Internet, and we’d be reading full-length feature interviews about every aspect of her life. In short, she would be like Taylor Phinney, with this difference: Phinney has nowhere near her talent.

Two years older than Rivera, Phinney may well one day win a world time trial medal. If the stars align, if he regains his health, and if he has a world-class team dedicated to delivering him and him alone to the line, he could even bring home a monument on the order of Roubaix, much less likely a win at Flanders. Otherwise, Phinney is a tremendous time trialist who’s simply too big physically to be a superstar in the hillier classics or the big tours. The days when a giant like George Hincapie could win a mountain stage of the Tour ended with his pathetic doping confession and the collapse of the Drugstrong Era.

What Phinney has, of course, is a pedigree, and it’s a pedigree that has provided him with the best connections imaginable in the world of cycling. His mother, Connie Carpenter-Phinney, is one of the best American woman road racers of all time. Her resume boasts Olympic gold in ’84, with silver and bronze medals at the world road championships in ’77 and ’81, along with twelve national cycling titles, countless wins in US road races, a successful career as a speed skater, and the distinction of being the youngest woman ever to compete in the Winter Olympics. Taylor’s father, Davis Phinney, is the winningest American bike racer of all time, with 328 wins, including two stages in the Tour and the overall at America’s premier stage race, the Coors Classic. Davis achieved all this when American cycling had no program to bring US amateurs into Europe; had he raced in his prime among the European peloton he would have been the dominant sprinter of his era.

It’s this pedigree and carefully nurtured career, along with his world class speed against the clock, that has guided Taylor along as the Chosen One among America’s professional cyclists, including a stint under the watchful eye of Lance Armstrong. Rivera, on the other hand, has had none of that. She grew up in extremely modest circumstances in urban LA, supported by her Filipino-American family where every race entry fee, every piece of equipment she had to buy, and every long distance trip was a sacrifice. She is truly a self-made woman.

From her days at the Carson velodrome training under Tim Roach, I watched her blitz any and all all comers, male and female alike. But no matter how many titles she won and no matter how brilliant her racing, she has always had to fight and scrap. When she burst onto the US pro women’s scene, collecting scalps with ease from older, “better,” and vastly more experienced racers, she received a modicum of press and nothing more.

This reflects the old boy network of cycling, where testicles matter more than results, and where the stellar athletic achievements of women are footnotes to the off-season training camp antics of men. If we want cycling to grow in recognition, we need to start recognizing the very best.

And that means starting with Coryn.

END

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Tuesday’s NPR round-up: Cheaters never win, but they sure have FUN!!!

May 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

I don’t know who coined the phrase, “Cheaters never win.” It was obviously someone who was never elected to office, never practiced law, never worked in banking, never submitted reimbursement requests to MediCare, never was married, or never won the TdF.

To make it strictly accurate, the phrase should be re-worked to say, “Cheaters didn’t win on the NPR today.”

We had a huge group at the Pier including the usual suspects: G$, Mighty Mouse, New Girl, Bull, Heeleys Dad & Jr., USC John, Fireman, Suze, Cary, Scott Apartmentsyndicate, Gooseman, Chris D., Kramer, Wolfeman, Lisa C., and guest appearances by Roadchamp, DJ, Damien “The Omen,” and on and on and on. And on.

Everyone began yelling “Bike path!!” on roll-out, so we stomped up the hill instead and took the Alleyway of Death just to be contrarian. The usual barely-caffeinated drivers backing out of their garages, runners stepping off curbs, huge potholes, and blind roadway entrances kept things lively until we hit Vista del Mar. As the nice 2×2 formation gradually ratcheted up the pace, G$ rolled to the fore and ordered that the pace be cut so that people could catch back on.

I hung my head, scolded, and retreated towards the back. It was a big-ass group.

It’s a new sport called Dodgecar

The mechanics of the NPR are kind of funny, because in addition to picking up people along Vista del Mar, once we bend right to go up Pershing there’s always a big group of 20-40 people camped out in the parking lot waiting for us to come by. They are stopped. In a parking lot. Unclipped. Around a blind corner. At the bottom of a hill.

We are single file. Coming down a long, fast grade. Through a green light. At about 30.

If we hit the red light, it gives the campers a chance to adjust their maxi-pads, apply the final coat of lip gloss, clip in, and then get started up the hill so that when our light turns green they can meld with the group. If we hit the green light, there is pandemonium worthy of a soccer match between pre-schoolers. Leaping on bikes, flailing cleats clicking into chains instead of pedals, curses, shouts, wobbly starts in the wrong gear, swerving bikes at 5 mph veering out of the parking lot into the middle of the 30 mph swarm…in short, it’s the kind of early morning clusterfuck that makes you glad you’re on your bike, and makes you determined to be the clusterfucker rather than the clusterfuckee.

This morning, having been relegated by G$, I nosed towards the fore as we approached the light. Red. Just before I touched the brakes…hallelujah!!…GREEN! I mashed it hard as a lumbering SUV in front of me turned on its right-hand blinker. So far so good, but there was nowhere for it to turn, except into the parking lot of campers, who were now wildly flailing to exit and hook onto the tail of the missile.

I easily cruised around the car, but it scrubbed off the 60 or so riders behind me except for Roadchamp and Bull.

Vapor, rolling out of the parking lot at a standstill, was none too pleased. “Hey, wankers! Be careful! And quit attacking while we’re stopped!”

Don’t piss off the dude who rides tempo at 32

By the time I got to the top of the small hill, I’d been joined by Roadchamp, Bull, Seanergy, and Suze. The Sho-Air dude from a couple of weeks ago was parked on the side of the road, glumly eyeing us as he changed a flat. We pounded on.

At the overpass, the pack was in another county. Roadchamp and Bull were taking gnarly pulls from hell. Seanergy was working. I was wondering how they had spotted my testicles lying in the road while we were going so fast, yet still managed to stop, pick them up, and them stuff them down my throat. Which made breathing hard.

When we hit the Parkway, Sho-Air Shawshank redeemed himself, and then some. He began pulling so hard that our tiny group could barely rotate around him, much less match his speed. Shawshank now had the bit between his teeth, and we had a breakaway. As with other completely futile fantasies grounded in an unfirm grasp of reality, we thought it might stick. No break has ever stuck from the beginning of the NPR.

Come on baby, light my fire

Meanwhile, back in the pack, Vapor was pissed. We’d blitzed him by surprise (though in my own very, very weak defense I always mash it up Pershing) and now we had a huge gap with some horsepower. Vapor began taking pulls that were so fast and sick that Fireman reported entire lungs being coughed up from those unlucky enough to be on his wheel. If you’ve ever done Tim Roach’s Hour of Power at the velodrome and had Vapor show up, you’ll know what this was like. The dude can go harder and faster and longer than anything without an internal combustion engine. And when he decides to pour on the coal, the combustion is what happens behind him.

Fortunately, our little cadre of cheaters was soon joined by other cheating wankers. Tree Perkins, who’d been out toodling around, hopped into our group and took a couple of pulls. Adam Tattooed Leg Dude got overhauled, hopped in, and helped out for a lap. Big fat Equipe wanker out for a Parkway pedal joined our team and almost sort of halfway kind of thought about maybe taking a pull before he quit.

And the entire way Roadchamp, Bull, Shawshank, and Seanergy were flogging the big meat harder than a teenage boy on his first visit to pornhub.com.

All good things must end. Bad things, too.

Just before the light at the beginning of the third lap, we all came together, ridden down by the efforts of Vapor and sub-efforts by some of his lieutenants, including G3, Austin Heeley, USC John, and G$. “Cheaters never win!” he yelled.

A spirited discussion between him and Roadchamp ensued. As the cheater-in-chief, I thought it best to keep rolling lest the donkey tail get pinned on me, where it mostly belonged. I glanced around and people looked destroyed. At that moment Mighty Mouse roared to the fore, and I could tell that she’d worn her very best dick-stomping boots to the party. Whatever sausages hadn’t been speared and roasted, she proceeded to stomp to a fare the well.

The end was predictable. I made one last flailaway attempt that never even gained separation. The group was shot to shit, and hardly anyone had any gas at all in the finale, except for Vapor and Motorhead. Motorhead took the sprint with what looked like a nice lead-out from Vapor. I was so far back that the only way I got the results was from smoke signals.

Moral #1: Don’t piss off Vapor with a sneaky, cheapass move and expect to stay away.
Moral #2: If you’re hoping we’ll start easy at the bottom of Pershing, you might be disappointed.
Moral #3: That taste of puke in your mouth at 7:30 AM? Well, it beats sitting in traffic.

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