There was another sweep this weekend at Planet Bike Cup, Yannick Eckmann, now riding for Hot Tubes, came out all barrels firing in the Men Jr 17/18 races. On both days, he caught and passed the Masters 45+ field that had started 30 seconds prior and went on to solo to victory. The defending USGP champion now leads the Greenware US Gran Prix of Cyclocross with a 20-point margin.
“My goal is to podium at the Worlds this year.” the soft-spoken Eckmann said after the race on Saturday. On his last year as a junior, the German-native and US-resident is focused on getting that podium at the World Cross Championships which will be held in Germany.
He knows what he’s getting into after participating in the EuroCrossCamp and racing in Tabor last year. “That was a great experience, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.” Eckmann said about racing the World Championships earlier in February. “Totally different than all the other races I’ve done so far, a lot harder, it was pretty cold, icy which were different conditions. I ended up doing really good at it. I ended up 14th overall and was really pleased with that and hoping for a podium finish this year.”
But that’s not the only goal for the 17-year old. “I’m going to do all the USGPs, trying to win the overall. Then I might be doing some of the World Cups, maybe two or three of them and hopefully get a top 8 there so I get qualified for Worlds. And win German Nationals, that’s one of my big goals as well, to finally win it. I’ve raced it now three years and only got second and fourth but now I think it’s time to win one of them, my last year in the 17/18.”
Living in Colorado has caused some issues for Eckmann with regards to racing for Germany at Worlds but that changed in 2009. Amazing what good results can do.
“After last year, it was pretty good because I was one of their best riders. After that, they expect me to get top 3 even at Worlds.” he smiled.
Getting ready. Eckmann spent the summer racing on the road with the Hot Tubes squad. “My road season was good, I went to Europe twice with the team, once to Belgium, France and the Netherlands and the other time, we did the Tour of Ireland, it was a lot of fun.”
Then he took a little break. “I actually just started my cross bike a week ago.” he explained. “I took a little break in mid August, end of August. I just did some fun stuff, mountain biking, road biking, running, hiking just when I felt like it. Just to do something different than cross, it’s going to be a long season. I don’t want to be at peak at the beginning of the year.”
“No, not at all.” he replied with a laugh when I asked if he was at peak now.
Now it’s time for racing and practicing. “I didn’t get a perfect start but I was first before the start/finish line.” Eckmann said on Saturday about his race. But he quickly went to the front and powered away.
Once he had a good gap, he focused on bettering his acceleration skills. “I was practicing after turns to stand up and speed up again to get to speed, that was one of my weaknesses last year. When you go to Europe it’s definitely one thing that you need to have so I’m practicing. So at some points when I get to the straightaways I sprint up and then ease up a little bit again and after a turn, I sprint and ease up again, try to do that at every turn just to get the feeling of it.”
On Sunday, he did it again. “I started off basically like yesterday, fast and in the third or fourth lap, I tried to beat my fastest time. Today I was 5:53 and I beat it by one second.” he explained after the race.
Two changes for Eckmann this year. First his brother Robin is no longer racing in the same category and secondly his main rival in the series, Cody Kaiser (CalGiant) has moved up to the U23 Elite field.
“It’s a little lonely but it’s alright.” he said about not racing with his brother. And having all new competitors this year does not change how he races. “No I race just how I am racing. I might ride with the others just to see how they ride and see their weaknesses and then attack them but I ride how I ride all the time, it’s the best I can do what I can do.”
Eckmann looks stronger on his bike this year, and he admitted that he felt stronger. “I feel that I can hold my power up longer and my heart rate is a bit lower as well.”
It came with more riding. “I did a lot of intense riding on the road this year, long rides so I can power a lot.” He also spent a lot of time at the front, in the wind defending his teammate’s leader’s jersey. “I did that most of the year. I actually liked it, I like helping out my team.”
So let’s recap. His goals are winning the USGP overall, German Nationals and top 3 at Worlds.
Isn’t that a lot of pressure? Eckmann quietly replied, “Sometimes a little bit but I try to push that aside and concentrate and just do.”
We’ll be following Eckmann and meeting the new crop of juniors throughout the cross season.