30 December 2011

Favorite moments as a Fan in 2011

Pedal Dancer looks back at a fantastic 2011
An attempt to summarize the highlights of a year of cycling involves a pleasant mix of reminiscence, gratefulness, and hope for the future. After 2011 I am reinvigorated with a promising outlook for this sport. Mark Cavendish's recent win of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in Britain marks a significant gain in the prominence of the sport of cycling. 
I see things continuing to improve, from impressive growth in local racing, to increasing numbers of cyclosportives, to an expanse of media, to improved access for fans. There is a clear reason why I love this sport so much - because cycling is an open sport. I believe the openness in cycling will lead us out of the haze of doping allegations and into a much brighter future. 
What is unique about cycling is that Sponsors pay for athletes who are placed inches away from the fan, which means the fan is inches away from any sponsor. In which other sport do the athletes cover themselves head to toe in emblems of their sponsors, and extend that coverage to their bikes, cars, buses, casual clothing, talk, plans, and hopes. Perhaps car racing, a wildly popular successful sport, but one in which the fans are cordoned behind fences. Most of our high paying sports are more subtle - a golf hat, a surfboard, a tennis shoe. The remainder wear team uniforms labeled primarily with team names and numbers. 
Cyclists are walking billboards. Instead of hiding in a locker rooms pre-race, our athletes train, warm-up, and race in broad daylight on a free battlefield of fun. Grasp the concept of how easy it is to be a fan of cycling, how much we are welcomed and needed. Cycling is an open sport. In my eyes, the more open, the more transparent, and the better chance we have of seeing performance enhancing drugs cleared out of this sport to level the field of competition.
Sure, sponsors have left, but more are jumping on board in 2012. Thanks to various forms of social media, sponsors have even more exposure, as the fans are treated to a greater sense of fun that inhabits the day to day lives of the athletes. Cycling is not all grueling pain and controversy, the Armstrong days are behind us; the mega-teams of pro cycling are fun and inspirational once again. 
Last year I spoke of a growing trend toward the orator, rather than the previous focus on the look at me opinion spouting individual. This year I see a feel good trend coming our way. The trend makes sense after a rough period of economic and political unrest, and a devastating 2011 for so many countries. Human nature naturally grasps for the bits of good after a storm. There is plenty of good to be found in the future of this great sport in 2012.
For now my most significant memories of 2011 as a fan:
Johan Vansummeren wins the Paris-Roubaix 
emotional unexpected local and he proposed!
Without a doubt this was an action packed unexpected race outcome, the coverage captured the emotional win by Vansummeren. Johan Van Summeren wins 2011 Paris-Roubaix by VeloNews, A big win for a Belgian and Recap of Roubaix by Pedal Dancer.

Independence Pass and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge 
friends old and new and a celebration of American cycling
We pulled it off, that was the thought running through my head as I descended in the frigid cold off Independence Pass in August after Stage 2 of the USPCC. I can't believe we did it right here in Colorado. And by we, I in no way mean me, I mean that they built it and they came, in huge numbers. The race that I barely believed would be a reality was a smashing success thanks to the organizers and over 1 million fans who showed up to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. For me, the days of chasing the tour were as exhilarating as being on Alpe d'Huez or Plat d'Adet
Independence Pass  Photo by PedalDancer.com
Live online coverage of racing 
watching the action and reading results live on any device I wanted
Every year it keeps getting better, TV, apps, Tour Tracker, LeTour website, Twitter, YouTube. Last year I especially enjoyed the race coverage by OZcycling, Bicycling.com, O'nev Ciclismo Fotografia, and Eurosport, as well as a number of blogs. 
Bernard Eisel liked my dog's goatee 
the personal fun moments in relating to others are the best
Cycling is my hobby. No matter what the hobby, the joy is in being around others who enjoy the same hobby. Those who gather from different countries and backgrounds to unite in support of sport. We are uniquely the same. And so it was with great joy that Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Highroad, now Sky) called out in laughter to greet my dog as we walked by at the Tour of California, "he has a goatee!" 
Bernie Eisel  Photo by PedalDancer.com
This fan asked to have his picture taken with Jack Denny - matching goatees
Jens caught no fish 
a light shown in his eyes that told me the mighty Jens was so much like us
Jens Voigt is not only one of my favorite pro cyclists, he is an interesting man. I am fascinated with his ability to show a range of emotions, and then poof they have passed and he is onto the next thing. His ability to sit quietly reading a book and then give his all suffering in competition is astonishing. He has an instinct for race strategy while in the race, but cannot recall the road he has traveled upon after the race. 

I wish you could have seen his face light up when he spoke of fishing in Colorado. Here was a man 45 minutes away from racing an individual time trial describing to me the area near Ten-mile Reservoir where he and Fränk Schleck had gone fishing days prior to the start of the USPCC. Jens was so animated a light surrounded him that would have seemed eery if he had not been so gosh darn delightfully in his moment of joy. His enthusiasm is infectious.
Frank Schleck and Jens Voigt fishing in Colorado, August 2011 Photo from Twitter
frames, pedals, Interbike, and Nick Legan
Learning about bikes filled my year, and none of them were mine. These bikes were the fastest, lightest, meanest bikes on the market and ridden by the best cyclists in the world. I learned a lot about fast bikes in 2011. I also learned to love Nick Legan's mechanics column at VeloNews. The world needs more Nick Legans. 
S-Works Shiv TT bike, Photo by PedalDancer.com
Show me the money at Cross Vegas
could there be a more fun way to celebrate a bike race
If you can get to Las Vegas, Nevada, to watch Cross Vegas - go! If you cannot please read this post (Cross Vegas - Vegas style), get your friends together, and create your own Cross Vegas. 
grabbing money and beer at Cross Vegas cyclocross race  Photo by PedalDancer.com

Favorite Videos 
the brain is faster than the mind, and I love humor 
What a surprise it was when I noticed a new post on my desktop screen by Paddy Sweeney of VeloPeloton. Only this wasn't just any blog update, this was Paddy announcing that he had stumbled upon the mistakenly published route of the 2012 Tour de France. To know Paddy Sweeney is to know an avid fan of cycling who could fairly challenge John Wilcockson in a battle of cycling trivia. The fact that Paddy wrote himself into the history of the Tour de France after devoting a lifetime to the sport (mostly making it happen for others) is incredible. 2012 Tour de France route discovered. He also happens to be the taker of some of my favorite photos of 2011: Gallery
Philippe Gilbert, the Giro and the TdF 
hours of online entertainment and incredible scenery
We watched Philippe Gilbert win a lot of races in 2011. The best part of cycling is that it can be watched in solitude, in a bar among strangers, with close friends or family on a roadside, or in a crowd of fans. However you do it, each person comes away thinking they had the best experience. 2011 was a great year for watching pro cycling. I didn't travel to all these places in 2011, but I felt like I was there. I am grateful to the cameramen who cover this sport
The cameramen at the Tour of California (I know - they imported the motos)  
Photo by PedalDancer.com
Remembering Wouter Weylandt (27 September 1984 – 9 May 2011) 
I wept so much in watching his memorial my tears malfunctioned the touch pad on my laptop
Stage 3 of the 2011 Giro d'Italia was a sad tragic day. Wouter Weylandt's sudden fall on the descent of the Passo del Bocco had everyone thinking about family and friends, and the meaning of sport and the life of a young man. On September 1, 2011 his daughter Alizée was born.
Learning to walk again 
never take for granted the freedom of riding a bike
The new year brought to me the personal accomplishment of being able to walk and ride a bike again after a multiple fractured pelvis. Through it all I was very fortunate to have this blog to express my ever growing interest in this sport.
Karen of Pedal Dancer on Vail Pass at the USPCC
Travel Plans for 2012 
Belgium, California, France, Colorado
Travel is my true love and in 2012 I will be traveling to Belgium in March/April to see the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix, then to California in May for the Amgen Tour of California, followed by France in July for a number of stages in the Alpes and Pyreness (but mostly to ride, be with friends and drink wine). Finally in August I won't have to travel far for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. In between all that fun will be plenty of races to watch online including my favorites the Tour Down Under, Milan-San Remo, the Giro d'Italia, the Olympics, and so many more.
Have bike will travel  Photo by PedalDancer.com
What happened over at Pedal Dancer central in 2011
The most popular post in 2011: 2011 ProTeam Bikes 
The post that brings back fond memories of old and new friends: More Cowbell! 
The big surprise in popularity for a post: What pedals do the pros use?
Surpassed 1 year as a blogger: 1 year! - I'd like to thank the fans

Affecting change in the sport: with enormous pride I would like to share that I was instrumental in having the spelling of Johan Vansummeren's name corrected on his team website after he told us he had asked repeatedly. I could be bragging about my hour at 450 watts or my numerous race wins (neither of which happened in 2011), but instead I am proudest of a simple online spelling correction in a world where anyone can now publish a book on Amazon, and anyone can call themselves a writer. I strive to become a much better writer and photographer in the years ahead and to learn much more about cycling. For now I am a fan who knows how to spell Vansummeren, and that makes me smile.
Happy New Year to all!

24 December 2011

Christmas Eve in California

From snowy Colorado to sunny California
Merry Christmas. I checked into Google Earth this morning to watch NORAD Tracks Santa fly over Mt Everest, currently Santa is over Oslo, Norway, heading this way.  I think the mapping and concept pretty fun, but of all the magical modes of transportation I saw today, this one blew me away. 
Northern American P-51D Mustang
As we sat at the Airport Cafe located at the small private Camarillo Airport in California, we watched this beauty roll up. The sound was amazing as all eyes looked in awe. The table of pilots next to us shared that there are only 220 of these planes left in the world. "Priceless" they said, "if you could find one it would be over 5 million." Two pilots climbed out of the cockpit and sauntered onto the patio for lunch. What a hobby.
I like bikes, but I also like nice cars, nice boats, and nice planes. Who doesn't ooh and ah over such a fine mode of transportation.
Pictures of the Day: NORTH AMERICAN P-51D MUSTANG
P-51D Mustang

22 December 2011

Picture of the Day: Cyclocross

One of my favorite photos from last weekend's cyclocross race in Colorado
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
And some more photos that tell the story of cyclocross racing ...
Jesse Swift © Photo by PedalDancer.com
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
© Photo by PedalDancer.com
Entire massive photo album from 2 days of racing at the Alpha Cross Colorado Cyclocross State Championships 2011. Or the Slideshow of almost 400 images of cyclocross racers.

Video from a racer on the day Crossin' Colorado

19 December 2011

A study of Yannick Eckmann

A true talent shines through as the new Colorado CX Champ
Yannick Eckmann stands out in a crowd. Every so often an athlete comes along who appears to have the right stuff. It is apparent when you watch their body in motion that they are not like the others. Those who work equally as hard, strive to improve, yearn to achieve, want to be the one who has got it all, but are not. No matter what else happens in their life outside their sport, there are certain athletes with a recognizable gift who are destined to be great in competition. 
When I watched Yannick Eckmann compete yesterday at the Alpha Cross Colorado State Cyclocross Championships, his pedal stroke, body position, bike handling skills, steady strength, and sense of ease put him way ahead of the SM Open field. Earning him the state championship in a field of decorated cyclists. Plus he looked like he was having fun out there on course, evident as he caught air off the backside of the flyover. Yannick Eckmann is the real deal at age 18
Yes, that is right Yannick is only 18 years old (November 30, 1993). His parents were there yesterday to cheer their son in full support; thank you for buying him his first bike! I sometimes think it a miracle when any young person finds their gift so early in life. I hope his path into the future is a good one, full of individuals able to help develop his talent, and void of barriers that too often threaten the careers of star athletes. "He looks like a natural up there," I commented to his mother as he stood on the top step of the podium yesterday, "yes" she smiled sweetly in recognition of her son's talent.
Currently riding for the Pearl Izumi/Shimano cyclocross team, Yannick was born in Germany where he began mountain biking at a very young age with his older brother Robin, an accomplished cyclist himself. The family moved to the United States in 2005. Yannick is a full-time student at Boulder High School, yet manages to travel around the country and Europe to compete in races. He also races road, but as his mother commented in delight yesterday, "he likes the mud." It is good that someone has found a use for mud. 
In his first year after competing as a Junior, Yannick Eckmann ended up second in the U23 (under 23) 2011 Exergy Cyclocross US Grand Prix (results) behind Zach McDonald (Rapha/Focus), who is 2 years his senior. Cody Kaiser (Calgiant/Specialized), another promising U23 rider, came in third. We will be seeing much more of these three athletes in the years ahead. Move over Ryan Trebon, Jeremy Powers, Tim Johnson, Geoff Kabush, and Jamey Driscoll, the next wave of CX riders is closing in.
Yannick Eckmann at the USGP in Longmont, Colorado, October 2011 
Yannick Eckmann, Longmont, CO, Oct 2011
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Images from yesterday, 18 December 2011. The new Colorado State CX Champion at age 19:
Yannick Eckmann over the barriers (he runs a lot to train)
©Photo by PedalDancer.com

Yannick Eckmann jumping the mud
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Yannick Eckmann around the corner
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Yannick Eckmann down the hill
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Yannick Eckmann up the hill
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Yannick Eckmann lap after lap in the lead
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Yannick and his Mother after the race
©Photo by PedalDancer.com 
There is so much in his future
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
The Champion
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
2011 Colorado State Championships Cyclocross
Peter Weber, Yannick Eckmann, Allen Krughoff
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
Watch the race video from Onsight Media / Boulder Video

Related reading: 
Meet the Eckmanns by PodiumInsight (2009)  
Yannick Eckmann’s Breakout Season by Focus Bikes (2011)  

Yannick Eckmann reminds me of a freestyle mogul skier on the bumps - eyes far ahead, down the hill, his body instinctively knows where it is at, his brain has already processed what is below him, his focus is meters up the road at what is coming next. Makes for a great cyclocross racer, and a great talent for us to watch into the future.

18 December 2011

Gates Carbon Drive CX Team

Colorado Cyclocross State Championships in Castle Rock, CO
The Gates Carbon Drive team hanging out yesterday after their race - category: single speed, results: domination.
Gates Carbon Drive Cyclocross Team ©Photo by PedalDancer.com
 Beer & bikes!
©Photo by PedalDancer.com
A great team and a really good group of guys, plus they share their beer (thanks!).