Take a close look at that photo...seriously. Look at the face. That is pure Ballan or Cipolini right there. The teeth. The grimace. Is it a smile? A grind your back molars to powder pain face? An I am going to devour my opponents and this race course roar? Its all of that and more. I owe a lot to this man. If you don't know him the rider pictured in these photos is a Mr. Yash Katsumi. He is the Director Sportif of Hup New England and my good friend.
The first time I met Yash was under somewhat mixed circumstances..to refresh my memory I googled Falmouth eco-cross 2005 results. God bless the internet. Memory banks refreshed by virtue of the tale of the tape. I was born here in Boston. Raised between a two-headed Hydra of Roslindale and Needham. I fled New England right after college to pursue the American Dream out West.
After over a decade long Odyssey I returned to the motherland. I came back with a pretty big attitude. I was about 100% sure that Boston and New England sucked ass. Northern California was the promised land period. And if you weren't going to live in or near NorCal really the only other option for you was the PacNW. Why would you live anywhere else for God's sake?
In a huge twist of irony I left a total mecca for cycling (Boston) with no clue about the culture and the riding and riders that was literally out my back door and moved 3,000 miles away to ignite a passion that has held me in its death grip for almost 2 decades. But I am getting way off track here. You get the point though right? I was a douchebag prodigal son returning to shitty old Boston and mouthing off at every opportunity about how great California was.
I felt like I was a pretty good cross racer out in Norcal. I was on a team of pretty fast guys. I knew Tom Ritchey and a bunch of other luminaries out West, and was tight with all the cool cats in Santa Cruz. How hard could cross be in Boston right? I knew nothing....
So I go down to Falmouth to Eco-cross circa Oct 2005. I line up front row at the Masters race. Get a fantastic start. Maybe 5th wheel when BAM!!! I get wheel chopped right before the singletrack. I hit the deck hard come up pissed and watch the entire field go by. Nice, welcome to New England west coast guy.....
This is were Yash comes into the story. I wasn't feeling so good about that wheel chop. In fact I was pretty pissed. But as I walked up to the pit to get my wheels kind of fuming, a super nice guy asks me about my Sycip kit. Seems real friendly. We strike up a conversation and hang out in the pit for a while just talking about cross and bikes. I end up having a great day and totally forget about getting chopped. That is the effect Yash can have on you. Cross could have gone one or two ways for me on that day. I could have just gotten all pissed off and said F this its not worth it. Yash without even trying showed me the right way. Do it with class. Have fun. Enjoy hanging out at the race as much as the race itself.
Over the last year, really since the picture above was taken of Yash at Lowell last year, Yash has been plotting and scheming on how to elevate Hup NEs game. He brought the whole concept of the Hup Hardman rides to bear. He got me to race Battenkill! My god that in itself is incredible. His leadership style is hard to explain. You end up doing things on a bike that are wayyyy beyond what you are capable of because its done within the context of Hup it is achievable because of the team concept. One Hup finds another. It doesn't get any purer than that. He brings us all together for these incredible rides. Fosters competition and delivers the goods.
Two of our Cat 4s break out seasons are perfect examples of this. Not to take anything away from their own hard work because they put in the miles and did the training. But what Jeff Bramhall and Robert Hale have accomplished so far this season is in huge part due to Yash's tutelage. I don't mean to embarrass Yash in any way by being so effusive, he is very modest, but it just hit me this weekend when we were all racing at New England World's and doing fantastic that we all owe a lot to Yash.
We've been getting a bit shelled with the new elite Verge categories (who hasn't?). I am way over my head in the 45+ but to be honest not as over my head as I thought I'd be. I don't feel totally out of place. That's all thanks to Yash. What I also have to thank Yash for is his never ending sense of style and panache! If you would have told me I'd wear a white skinsuit racing cross a year ago I'd say your crazy. But there's Yash looking like a badass in a white skinny at Quad and well I guess I am going back to the car and putting on Blanco! And damn if that Blanco doesn't make you go wayyyy faster!
That's it Yash will probably kill me for going on like this but it had to be said. Thanks Yash. I mean it. No way I'd be feeling this strong this season without the pastry rides, the Hardman rides, 6-hrs of Pats Peak, Battenkill and Blanco!! I personally can not wait to see the Lion roar again! Hup Hup