Sonya Looney. Photo via Topeak Ergon.
Cyclists love to grimace. It is, in part, because pain and suffering have been venerated in cycling culture to the point of fetishization. Entire clothing empires have been built on marketing the nobility of suffering on a bicycle. But it’s also because racing and riding hard just really, really hurt sometimes. From the pro peloton to local cat 4s, people tend to scowl and frown in race photos. Then there’s Sonya Looney. The professional endurance mountain biker is smiling so often in race photos it’s slightly disconcerting. She says it’s because she just has fun on the bike. I suspect endurance athletes have some sort of subconscious love of hardship. Either way, Looney has parlayed her endurance talents and smiles into a successful race career. Her specialty is 100 milers and multi-day mountain bike stage races. She’s notched podiums at the US National Championships, Breck Epic, Mongolia Bike Challenge, Trans Andes, BC Bike Race, and many other races around the world. I spoke to her about her foray into endurance racing, that smiling-while-racing thing, the business side of being a professional racer (and the need for a side business), adventuring around the world, and much more.
Posted in Interviews, Mountain Biking, Racing
Tagged badass women cyclists, breck epic, endurance mountain biking, mongolia bike challenge, mountain bike stage racing, nepal race, sonya looney, topeak ergon, yak attack
Kathryn Bertine. Photo via kathrynbertine.com.
This year was big for women’s professional cycling. The Women’s Tour of Britain–the country’s first stage race for women–saw upwards of 10,000 spectators lining the streets for some stages. A.S.O., the company behind the Tour de France put on La Course, a one day women’s circuit race in Paris that coincided with the final stage of the Tour. Races such as BC Superweek and the US National Road Championships started offering equal prize money for the first time. But though these steps towards equality are important and signify a little bit of progress in professional cycling, they are the exception not the rule. Prize money is still often wildly unequal. According to journalist Lee Rodgers, 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad women’s winner Tiffany Cromwell won just 270 euro while her male counterpart Luca Paolini won over 65,000 euro. The 2013 Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali netted 90,000 euro. Giro Rosa champ Mara Abbot earned 450 euro. A one day circuit race ending on the Champs Elysees is better than nothing, but it’s certainly not equivalent to three weeks of the world’s highest profile racing. Luckily the cycling world is starting to open its eyes to inequality.
Perhaps as important as 2014′s big races and sometimes-equal prize money, the conversation around inequality in professional cycling was elevated further into the mainstream than ever before. And Kathryn Bertine helped make it happen. The former journalist and current professional road cyclist combined her passions for storytelling and sport with her documentary Half The Road. The film documents the vast disparities between men’s and women’s pro cycling through interviews with the top women in the sport and the top decision makers in cycling’s governing body. It played to sold out theaters around the country this year and helped spark broad conversation about the subject. I spoke with Bertine about making Half The Road, the struggles for equality in cycling, the path to gender parity, her careers as a journalist and professional racer, and much more.
Posted in Cycling Media, Interviews, Racing
Tagged cycling documentary, gender gap in cycling, gender parity, giro rosa, half the road, kathryn bertine, la course, women and cycling, women's tour of britain, womens professional cycling
Jeremy Powers under the lights at CrossVegas. Photo by Motofish Images courtesy Emily Powers.
Jeremy Powers likely doesn’t need much introduction to The Bicycle Story’s readers. He is almost unquestionably the best American male cyclocross racer of his generation. Powers has won every race he’s entered so far this season save for his impressive 3rd behind Sven Nys and Lars van der Haar at CrossVegas. He’s been similarly dominant the last few seasons notching dozens of wins, two national titles, and a few USGP overall titles. Despite that, success in Europe has eluded Powers. He’s hoping to buck that trend this season and has made some radical changes such as quitting road racing and launching his new one man Aspire team to try and make that happen.
Off the race course, Powers is nearly as ubiquitous in American cyclocross. His popular Behind The Barriers web series evolved into a full-on cyclocross media company with live race coverage, analysis and more. His nonprofit JAMFund charity works with underprivileged cyclists in New England and is developing some of the best up-and-coming US cyclocross pros. Talking with Powers the week before he headed to Europe for the Valkenburg World Cup, it was clear that his success is not just the product of a huge engine and good handling skills (though that’s certainly essential). He’s taken a meticulous approach to all aspects of his career–training, racing, building a team, media exposure, partnerships, developing younger riders, etc–and it’s paying off. I spoke to him about his new Aspire program, his deep history in the sport, the challenges of Europe, what it will take to get Americans on World Cup podiums, the growth of Behind The Barriers and JAMFund, and much more.
Posted in Cyclocross, Interviews, Racing
Tagged adam myerson, american cyclocross, aspire racing, behind the barriers, crossvegas, JAMfund, jeremy powers, jpows, NECX, rapha focus, stephen hyde, sven nys
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.
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.
Posted in Bike Industry, Cycling Media, Cyclocross, Interviews, Racing
Tagged alternative cycling photography, andy bokanev, bike race photography, castelli, chris burkard, cycling photography, good cycling photography, hagens berman u23, rapha