USA Cycling hires New Balance boss DeMartini as its CEO

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The past two leaders of USA Cycling participated at the sport’s highest level, one of them racing in the prestigious Paris-Roubaix and the other winning a masters world championship.

Rob DeMartini prepared for the job in the offices and board rooms of Proctor & Gamble.

That is exactly why USA Cycling’s board of directors picked the longtime marketing executive to take over the sport’s national governing body, a move announced on Monday. Derek Bouchard-Hall and Steve Johnson had their successes during tenures as president and chief executive, yet there remained a disconnect between USA Cycling and the business world that was hindering its ability to accomplish its goals.

Without enough sponsorship support, USA Cycling struggled to build its membership and find the resources to support athletes preparing for major events such as the Olympics.

DeMartini spent 20 years working with such brands as Gillette, then spent time with Tyson Foods before taking over New Balance about 12 years ago. He built the running and athletic apparel company into a market leader, increasing revenue from $1.5 billion in 2007 to $4.4 billion last year.

As for cycling? Well, he hasn’t raced on the pavements of Europe or the pine surface of a velodrome, but DeMartini is an avid amateur cyclist.

“His passion and ambition for both the future of USA Cycling and our sport is inspiring,” USA Cycling chairman Bob Stapleton said. “He also brings the proven leadership, commercial success and the resources to elevate USA Cycling and to do more for our members, partners and athletes.”

Part of that involves preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

USA Cycling has scratched for funding for years, and rivals such as Great Britain – with support from its national lottery – have used their resources to lap the Americans.

Bouchard-Hall, who resigned at year’s end to take over Swiss apparel company ASSOS, began to lay the foundation for the future by restructuring USA Cycling. He hired Scott Schnitzspahn as vice president of elite athletics and Chuck Hodge as chief of racing and events. The organization revamped its coaching staff at just about every level and in nearly every discipline.

“I look forward to working closely with Chuck in support of our members, event directors and race officials as well as Scott to prepare our riders for the Tokyo 2020 Games,” DeMartini said. “I’m excited to join this capable team and very optimistic that we can better meet members’ needs, grow the leadership role USA Cycling plays in our industry and make all disciplines of cycling stronger.”

Along with his focus on elite athletics, DeMartini will be asked to rebuild a membership base that has been dwindling for years. The organization is considered an afterthought in the grassroots cycling world, where races, group rides and other events are often held without its oversight.

In some ways, DeMartini will be attempting to replicate what he did at New Balance, when he helped the shoe company became an integral part of the running community.

“Rob was a great partner while leading New Balance,” said Michael Capiraso, the president and CEO of New York Road Runners, which puts on the New York City Marathon and other events. “Rob has a great feel for the power of partnership and community, a skill that will surely benefit USA Cycling and the sport of cycling in the future.”

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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