Category Archives: Racing

Luke Allingham: Cycling’s Precocious Journalism Upstart

BWLuke_relaxed
Luke Allingham. Photo by Carole Snow.

For most people, big accomplishments at the age of 12 amount to a trophy won on a sports team, a project aced in middle school, or maybe making out with someone for the first time in the park. When Luke Allingham was 12, he decided he wanted to break into cycling journalism by writing race reports for an unofficial Leopard Trek fan site. Now at the ripe old age of 16, he has interviewed some of cycling’s best athletes, racing legends, and even the head of the sport’s international governing body. I can’t decide whether Allingham’s gumption is inspiring or distressing, but either way he is seriously impressive. I spoke with him about his early foray into writing and interviewing, his love of bike racing, creating these opportunities for himself, his longterm plans for cycling journalism, and more.

Correction: An early version of this interview implied that Allingham was writing race reports for the Leopard Trek team. He was actually writing for an unofficial Leopard Trek fan site.

Continue reading

Andy Bokanev: Photographing the Life Within Racing

andybokanev_kellyknowles
Andy Bokanev on a ride in LA. Photo by Kelly Nowels.

Lauding the Internet for breaking down the barriers between creators and their potential audience is so commonplace it’s cliche. But without that easy access to eager Instagrammers, tweeters, and bloggers, Andy Bokanev almost definitely would not have had his blazing fast rise from hobbyist photographer to professional. In the course of about a year he went from shooting local cyclocross to embedding with pro teams like Hagens Berman and Rapha Condor at major US races and working with big brands such as Specialized and Castelli. In a similar vein as his cycling photography contemporaries Emily Maye, Emiliano Granado, and Daniel Wakefield Pasley, Bokanev’s work centers as much on life around bike racing–the race prep, the mechanics, the bored hours whiled away at the crappy motel–as it does on the actual racing. I sat down with Bokanev in a loud pub in Seattle to talk about his foray into photography, his efforts to break into professional work, cycling’s attraction, his photography influences, his immigration to the US, and more.

Continue reading

Jessica Cutler: The Tough Race for Cycling Equality

Nationals!
Jessica Cutler at Nationals in Boulder. Photo by Lori Brazel.

Like many women in the American pro peloton, Jessica Cutler came to cycling fairly late. She didn’t really start racing competitively until her late 20s and signed her first pro contract at 32. She’s been making up for lost time over the last three years, though. The time-trial specialist has notched dozens of time trial wins and lots of top-5s and -10s in stage racing, cyclocross, and track. And–again like many of her pro-racer colleagues–she’s accomplished all this while holding down a job at home; in her case as a family lawyer. I sat down with Cutler in the weeks between the end of road season and the start of cross to talk about her race career, riding through injuries, balancing law work and cycling, the need for pro women to find outside financial support, the tough path to gender parity in cycling, and plenty more.

Continue reading

The Soigneur Diaries: Last days of Euro racing

saraclawsonsoigneur_3daysaxel
Photo by Sara Clawson.

Soigneurs may very well have the most thankless job in professional cycling. They take care of the grunt-work details necessary to keep a pro team running smoothly while remaining mostly anonymous. Sara Clawson is a sports massage therapist in Greensboro, North Carolina who’s making inroads to a soigneur career. This spring, she spent two months working as a soigneur with the US elite junior team at USA Cycling’s training center in Sittard, Netherlands. Over the next month, Sara’s writing (originally posted on her blog) will shed some light on the “swanny life” as she recounts her experience traveling around Europe working with the next generation of American professional road cyclists. In the final installment, Sara works the brutal Three Days of Axel race in Zeeland, Netherlands and reflects on the fulfillment she’s finding as a professional soigneur.

Prepping for any race is difficult, but trying to fit a literal truckload of supplies into the hatchback of a Volkswagen Passat was an absurd game of soigneur Tetris. We were headed to Zeeland, the coastal westernmost province of the Netherlands for the Junioren Driedaagse Axel: Three Days of Axel. Axel is the kind of race riders treat with equal parts love and hate. The road conditions are narrow and uncompromisingly rough, the wind is constant and punishing, and the huge field of riders makes the competition fierce and dangerous.

We started five riders who would take on a 100 km road race the first day, a technical time trial the next morning followed by another 100 km road race in the afternoon, and another 100 km road race the following morning with 3 circuits featuring 6 major climbs. Axel is like hitting your toe with a hammer to quell a hurt thumb; it will make any other race seem mild in comparison.

As soon as we arrived at the race lodging in Sas van Gent, I went to work finishing up bottle prep, making race food, and dishing up the enormous pot of pasta salad I had made the night before. Having a captive audience of perpetually starving young elite athletes is a really great way to boost one’s self-esteem as a cook — there isn’t much that they won’t inhale with considerable gusto, especially when it features a high percentage of carbohydrates. The first stage was a late start in the nearby town of Sluiskil. The mechanic and I drove together while the riders made the short 7 km trip to the start by bike. I had been studying the technical guide for days and had a rough idea of where the race route would progress, although it was by far the most incomprehensible race bible I have yet to encounter (in Dutch and Flemish, with some sections helpfully translated into French … which I don’t speak). I had a suitable feed zone picked out that would permit me to feed the riders twice, after the 50 km point and again when they looped back around 68 km — well within the UCI permissible range for feeding. I found my way with the Hot Tubes Development Team race support vehicle in tow. It was wonderful to have a feed zone buddy (and she gave me the best almond cookie I have ever tasted!). We fiddled with the race radio on my car and tuned in, which was really neat to get an idea of where they were on the course in real time and every move afoot in the peloton.

Continue reading

The Soigneur Diaries: Victory on Dutch Cobbles

saraclawson_juniorssweep
The USAC Juniors went 1-2-3 at the Koga Ronde Zuid-Oost Friesland. Photo by Sara Clawson.

Soigneurs may very well have the most thankless job in professional cycling. They take care of the grunt-work details necessary to keep a pro team running smoothly while remaining mostly anonymous. Sara Clawson is a sports massage therapist in Greensboro, North Carolina who’s making inroads to a soigneur career. This spring, she spent two months working as a soigneur with the US elite junior team at USA Cycling’s training center in Sittard, Netherlands. Over the next month, Sara’s writing (originally posted on her blog) will shed some light on the “swanny life” as she recounts her experience traveling around Europe working with the next generation of American professional road cyclists. In part five, Sara and the boys take on a few days of racing in the Netherlands and land themselves a podium sweep.

It’s a pleasantly steamy early summer evening in North Carolina and I’m enjoying a glass of wine on my porch and watching the fireflies dance in my yard. The relaxation and leisure of my life in this moment makes my life in Europe the last couple months seem like a dream. But I loved the thinly veiled chaos of my work in Europe as much or more than the luxurious Sunday afternoon nap earlier today.

To bring you up to speed, we have to go all the way back to the Koga Ronde Zuid-Oost Friesland in the middle of May, a one-day interclub road race in the verdant farmland and pristinely groomed villages near Appelscha, Netherlands. We all had a few days to recover from the Peace Race. Legs were primed, injuries nearly healed. This was a new race on the calendar, and a dream-race for staff — spectacularly comfortable nearby accommodations (with an equally spectacular breakfast buffet), a non-UCI race with no caravan and no designated feed zones on the course, minimal gear, food, and prep necessary. Our seven-man team lined up with the directive of racing forward, getting at least one rider in every breakaway move, communicating with one another, and staying out of trouble. Easy enough.

Once the riders were off, the director, mechanic, and I made our way back to the team car and proceeded to the first point in the race for open feeding, a picturesque tree-lined lane just after a section of pavé. These were not the helter-skelter cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix, but had enough of a crest in the middle to scrape against the undercarriage plate on the team car (which had been installed before Paris-Roubaix for that very reason). Coming off the first stretch of pavé, our smallest, lightest rider who was crushing cobbles for his first time ever streaked off the front of the peloton like a rocket. We knew already that we were in for a show.

Continue reading