Juniors compete in European national races

Sarah Kimball

For juniors Viveka Brockman and Ben Cook, this summer was unlike anything they’d ever experienced. Both Brockman and Cook traveled to Europe for international cycling competition invitationals due to their personal successes this past year.

Cook raced in Holland, France, and Belgium, participating in four races total. The most prestigious race

Junior Viveka Brockman races in Sweden for the Swedish Nationals.
Junior Viveka Brockman races in Sweden for the Swedish Nationals.

was the West Flanders Tour, hosted by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the international cycling governing body.

Brockman traveled to Sweden, where she participated in the Swedish Nationals competition.

Both cyclists won awards for their individual races. The support Cook gave to his teammates brought success for the team.

“It was great because in the first race, I worked for my teammate Sean, and in the last lap [I] set him up for the win by doing a big attack and he won solo,” Cook said.

In The West Flanders race, Cook’s team earned second and third place in two of the three stages. They also ended up winning the overall team classification award.

Brockman was not competing for a team, meaning the success she earned was from her own hard work and determination. In total, she won four races at the competition, placed fifth at Nationals, and placed eighth in the professional league.

Both Brockman and Cook’s wins came from their short biking careers at home. Cook began biking in eighth grade after his dad, who biked in college, introduced him to the sport. Brockman, on the other hand, began biking as a freshman on the Redwood mountain biking team. Before joining, she had never biked competitively.

While Brockman was unexpectedly nominated for the selective, five member, competitive team by her Swedish teammates and coaches, Cook had been striving to be selected for a long time.

“I have been trying to get picked for that team for a few years now. This year I had kind of an on and off season, but I kept in touch with the nationals team director,” Cook said. “I had a couple good results at nationals championships and so I was picked.”

However, their success while racing in Europe did not come easily.

“[Europe] is so different and you just have to get used to that. It is the transition that is most difficult,” Brockman said.

Cook faced challenges adapting to the unfamiliar cycling methods Europeans use and the different types of terrain they endure.

“The riding for road is so much harder and the racing is a lot more challenging because there are a lot more racers and they race differently. They take the corners really slowly and then sprint out of them and there are a lot of attacks,” Cook said.

Cook added that they won by using different strategies than usual.

“The race is normally won differently, typically from a break away. [In Europe], there’s a lot of teamwork that goes on to get each team’s rider in the break and to win. The roads are more narrow and it is always cramped racing,” Cook said.

Not only were the strategies different, but the competition was unfamiliar as well. While racing in the “pro” category, Brockman competed against an athlete who is now a world champion.

“It was kind of mind-blowing to race against her,” Brockman said.

Brockman and Cook also faced issues with unpredictable weather. Rain was common during their races, which affected the racing paths by making them more slippery.

“We did a few races that were on old farm roads and it’s pouring rain, and there’s mud all over the roads and so it is incredibly hard racing but it was a good learning experience,” Cook said.

By the end of both of their trips, Brockman and Cook had learned new techniques and methods for racing that they said they couldn’t have learned while racing in the United States..

“There are a lot of things you have to learn and you have to spend time away from home and train. But, it is worth it. I learned a lot of different things about the races and about who I am as a person and what it is like to live around the world in different places other than California,” Cook said.

Brockman also benefitted from the exposure and experiences in Europe.

“Racing around the world is a big job, there’s a lot you have do to learn. It is very different than racing in California but [traveling around the world] is what you have to do to be fast,” Brockman said.

Brockman and Cook said they inspire each other to be the best bikers.

“We met each other through cycling and have been friends since [then]. We ride together and train together and I don’t think my success would be the same without her,” Cook said.

Brockman and Cook also credit their success to their coaches, both at Redwood and beyond.

“My director in Europe was a professional racer and she just retired last year so having her training with us and at the races was amazing,” Cook said.

Neither Brockman nor Cook have specific plans for the future. However, both athletes plan to continue training and think they will race again in 2016.