July 07, 2005
Lands of the Tour hard men
espnstar.com | Eastern promise eye Tour de France success Agence France Presse's Justin Davis profiles the current crop of eastern European stars, and looks at who might take eastern Europe's first yellow jersey. At the moment, of course, the favorite has to be Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov of T-Mobile. There's also Ukraine's Yaroslav Popovych, currently wearing the white jersey for Discovery; last year's white jersey, Russia's Vladimir Karpets of Illes Balears, and Kazakhstan's Andrey Kashechkin of Credit Agricole. Missing, is one representative of the earlier round of eastern European riders: Discovery's Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia, who's been riding in the European peloton since 1990. In Lance Armstrong's War, Daniel Coyle talks about "the Eastern Bloc goombahs", a group that includes Ekimov and Vinokourov, but also Jens Voigt and Jan Ullrich, Discovery's Pavel Padrnos, and the late Andrei Kivilev. Coyle offers a terrific capsule introduction of Ekimov:
The third parable ... was the Story of Eki. Thirty-seven-year-old Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov was the only rider on Postal -- indeed, perhaps the only person in Armstrong's world -- whose work ethic was beyond question. This status was underlined frequently, most of all by Armstrong's assertion that Eki was “nails.” Which raised the question: what does it take to be “nails”? This is what it took. When Eki was fourteen and living at a sports club in St. Petersburg, he rode 38,000 kilometers in one year, an average of 450 miles a week. In 1996, as a professional, he nearly doubled it ("That's not possible for a human," Landis said incredulously). But it was true -- Eki had twenty-five notebooks full of training logs to prove it. Eki had ridden thirteen tours and finished every one. Eki never missed a training day. Eki was never late or unprepared. Eki coached himself. Eki was Eki.
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