Teammates on the Clif Bar Development team, brothers Yannick and Robin Eckmann turned heads in Colorado when they went 1-2 in the two NACT Junior races at the beginning of November. On the muddy Blue Sky Velo course on Saturday, Yannick caught and passed the entire Cat 3 field which had started two minutes earlier on his way to a solo win. And then repeated the same scenario in the Sunday Boulder Cup on a dry and faster course.
The brothers are no strangers to the podium as Yannick won the USAC Individual Time Trial Jr 15/16 this summer, the USAC Cross Championship 13/14 in 2006, and more. As for Robin, he won the Cat 2 road race at Tour of the Gila this year, the B race at the USAC Cross Championships Cat 2/3/4… the boys are fast.
Going into the final two USGP races in Portland this weekend, Yannick leads the series in the Elite Jr 17/18 category with 270 points in a very tight battle with Cody Kaiser (California Giant Strawberries/Specialized) who is in second place at 23 points back. Yannick took over the lead from Cody after sweeping the two Mercer Cup races, the third stop in the series.
“My goal is to hang on to the jersey because I can’t do Nationals so I want to try to win the jersey overall,” said Yannick who just turned 16, “that’s my goal for this year.”
He is assisted in his quest by his older brother Robin who is all of 17. Robin sits in third place further down.
The Portland races will be the end of their cross season in the United States. Since non-US citizens are not allowed to race US Nationals once they reach racing age of 17, the Eckmann brothers who hold German passports cannot race in the US Cross National Championships next week but neither will they race at the German Championships held in January.
“We could race for Germany but their policy is that you have to live there or you have to at least ride with them. “ explained Yannick who could probably find a team in Germany to race with, but then that would cause another issue. “The only problem then is that we could be suspended for the American team in two years. In two years, we would get citizenship here, so we don’t want to be suspended.”
Instead, Yannick will head to Europe to participate in Euro Cross Camp, while Robin stays home and prepares for the upcoming road season. “I’m just trying to take the winter break, to focus and re-energize myself.” said Robin.
So who’s better? The brothers started off mountain biking in their native Black Forest but that all changed when they moved to Boulder five years ago.
“We’re just loving it on Colorado and don’t want to go back.” laughed Yannick. “We stopped mountain biking because it was too much traveling, we do road and cyclocross mostly, those are our main sports.”
Both agreed that Yannick is the cross specialist while Robin is better on the road.
“On the road, my brother is stronger than me normally, I’ll try to help him out as I’ll be in the same category as him this year so I’ll probably help him out like he’s helping me in cyclocross a little bit.” said Yannick.
“I’m more of the power person and he’s more of the muddy stuff, I just like to power my way through my life.” laughed Robin. He described himself as “an all rounder, focused on time trialing and a little bit of climbing.”
Training, racing and going to school is a tough act to balance. “Our schedule is tight.” said Yannick while Robin nodded in agreement. “We train about 8 to 9 hours during the week, after school. Sometimes we have a morning session, but it’s a little bit early.”
Going to races makes it even more difficult as the teenagers try not to miss too many days of school.
“Normally we get out of school on Friday and for important races like the USGPs, normally right after the race, we just get off our bikes after the race and start packing, sometimes we still have dirt behind the ears.” explained Yannick.
Cross or Road? Robin has made up his mind. “I’m trying to use cross as a winter sport, it’s also good training so I have a good base and then during summer will be my main season.”
As for Yannick, well there’s still a lot of time so why not do both. “I’m between, on road you can make money when you’re pretty good so right now, I’m still between. I like road a lot and I like cross a lot and I just do both.”
For their next road season, the brothers will be racing with the Hot Tubes Jr Development team with on eye on Europe. “We can’t go with the US National team to Europe, “ explained Yannick, “but Hot Tubes has a program, they go to Europe and race over there.”
What about the future?
“In five years, I could see myself doing one or two Pro Tour races, I really would like to race at that level, I really want to push myself.” said Robin.
“Traveling to the big races.” smiled Yannick.
I’m sure we’ll hear more about the brothers in the years to come.