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.”

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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