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  • Thu February 15 2007
  • Posted Feb 15, 2007
By JEFF WILFORD, Assistant City Editor CEDAR FALLS --- Jeff Kerkove is living the dream. The 29-year-old bicycle mechanic and extreme mountain bike racer was recently signed to race for a professional European team --- Team Topeak-Ergon. He left Tuesday for Majorca, an island off the southern coast of Spain, to train and be photographed with the rest of the tream. Kerkove would pay money to race mountain bikes. Now, he's getting paid to do that, and to help market his sponsors' --- Topeak and Ergon --- products. "Let me put it this way," Kerkove said. "There are only about 2 percent of the people in the world who will make it this far. I'm very lucky." Most of the team's races happen on courses 5 to 15 miles long, Kerkove said. He and the other American named to the team --- Sloan Anderson from Bend, Ore. --- specialize in 12-hour and 24-hour endurance mountain bike races. "We're basically considered kind of the freaks of the team," Kerkove said. Those "freaks" will participate in a couple of races, including the Transalp Challenge --- a gruelling, 385-mile stage race through the Alps, from Germany to Italy in July. Riders will climb a total of 65,000 feet. Mountain bike racing is different from road racing, for more than just the terrain. Road racing is a team sport, with team's employing tactics designed to catapult their strongest rider for the conditions to victory. Mountain bike racing, on the other hand, is more individual. "It's totally on your own," Kerkove said. "It's basically, if you can't cut it, you're left to die out there on your own. "If you win a race, you get all the glory for it." Kerkove has won his share of races. He has several podium and top 10 finishes under his belt, including a win in the Mighty Enduro 24 --- a 24-hour mountain bike race in Japan --- last year. Kerkove has been riding bikes since he was a kid in elementary school in Algona but started racing mountain bikes around 1996 --- the last four years at the top leve as an elite racer. "Probably about '99 is when I started living the lifestyle of a cyclist," Kerkove said. "I'm a bike geek." The cyclist lifestyle included going to bed at 9 p.m. when other University of Northern Iowa students (Kerkove earned a degree in graphic design there) were going to the bars, taking a reduced course load at school so he would still have time to train and getting on his bike for four or five hours regardless of the weather. "You watch what you eat, go to bed at a certain time, get up at a certain time. Decide you have to go out and do the workout session that's been designated for the next day," even if you don't want to, Kerkove said. "Have to be willing to sacrifice." When Kerkove arrives in Majorca, he and the team will get their team gear and almost immediately start photo shoots. Their itinerary also consists of gentle riding, an excursion on the town, more riding, and more photo shoots. But the photo shoots also will require riding, Kerkove said. "A bicycle can take you many places. I've seen lots of stuff I wouldn't have otherwise," Kerkove said. "I've been told more than once by people that a bicycle won't do anything for you --- time to grow up." Kerkove didn't listen to them. He wouldn't be in Majorca if he had. Contact Jeff Wilford at (319) 291-1423 or jeff.wilford@wcfcourier.com. [photo - MATTHEW PUTNEY / Courier Staff Photographer]

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