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Pat Malach: Champion for the underdogs

Pat Malach reported on racing for more than nine years at Cyclingnews
(Image credit: Pat Malach)

For the past 12 months, Cyclingnews has celebrated its 25th anniversary, and to mark such an important milestone, the editorial team has published a series of 25 pieces that look back at the sport over the last quarter of a century. This is one of the final features in the series, a tribute to one of our own.

A reflection of the past 25 years at Cyclingnews would not be complete without some soul-searching on who provided the words and narratives, the insights and interviews, the humor and heartbreak, that made news possible. We – staff, cycling community, readers – lost one of the best reporters in the sport in 2020, Pat Malach, who died on April 18, 2020 at the age of 55.

For more than a decade Malach covered professional cycling for Cyclingnews, first as a freelancer and then as a full-time writer. His race reports and stories provided accuracy and balance. He was friends with his competition in the newsroom, who recognized his professionalism as well as his signature baseball caps and plaid shirts. His reputation was solid with riders and teams, especially for his devoutness to shine a spotlight on up-and-coming talent. You didn’t have to be from Oregon to get noticed, but that never hurt.

He was aptly described by Daniel Benson, Editor-in-Chief of Cyclingnews, as "a devoted champion of domestic racing in the United States and a thorough and hardworking journalist. Pat cared deeply about cycling and the people involved in it: he was a champion for the underdogs, the neo-pros, the Continental teams, and he delighted in learning what drove riders of all backgrounds to this common passion.”

A tribute written by colleague Laura Weislo noted that he "was almost always one of first at the team buses in the morning and the last out of the press room at night. He came online early when working from home and stayed up late helping our Australian team during Tour Down Under."

In a story about the inner-circle practices with a pro cycling press conference, the 2015 US Pro Challenge in Colorado, Pedaldancer.com noted that, "Pat Malach of Cyclingnews typically sits two to three rows back (probably for an easy escape - he asks the most controversial questions)." Yes, he got straight to the point with his questions, and sometimes his sarcasm and timing created the perfect storm, such as his now-famous 2014 Jens Voigt video caught on video (more on that below).

Oh that biting humour, which you read on his company biography about having lived outside Portland, Oregon "with his imaginary dog Rusty," and on endless remarks in press rooms, and on social media. One of his last tweets received a number of responses from pro cyclists, "Olive oil for chain lube in a pinch?"

Pat had a serious side as a journalist. He was referenced in the 'Columbia Journalism Review' in a July 29, 2019 story about Lance Armstrong, a look at the former pro allowed to cover the Tour de France for various news organizations as well as his own podcast.

The story noted how this opportunity for Armstrong received criticism from within the cycling industry, and this new prominence "has not gone over well with a vocal part of the audience, many of whom questioned the appropriateness of promoting a rider who's doping activities led to a lifetime ban from the sport," Pat was quoted from a Cyclingnews story.

We provide here a few highlights of his dedicated work that appeared in Cyclingnews, from his early reports of domestic races to one of his last stories that touched on the climate of the lack of racing due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. 

Leave it to Pat to leave us with a smile.

Young pros

Boswell refocused for 2012 Trek-Livestrong season

By Pat Malach/OregonCyclingAction.com December 09, 2011

One of the stories Pat wrote as a freelancer, just before being hired full time in 2012, was about a promising young rider from Oregon, who signed with the Trek-Livestrong team for two years. He referred to his past season as "an 'unsatisfying' roller coaster ride."

The story recounted that at the age of 19, Boswell fought against big-name riders Levi Leipheimer and Francisco Mancebo to finish third at the 2010 Tour of Utah, was named "rider of the year" by one magazine and was pictured on the cover of another publication. Pat summarized with, "Pretty heady stuff for a rider one year removed from his high school prom."

Boswell went on to ride 10 more years as a pro, including WorldTour level with Team Sky and Katusha Alpecin. He scribed a full story in April about his respect for Malach and what he did for young pro careers, titled: "Pat Malach was a genuinely honest and positive soul."

Read Boswell's story.

Haga postpones engineering career to pursue pro cycling dreams

By Pat Malach February 19, 2013

"A handful of factors have contributed to Chad Haga's current spot on the Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies professional cycling team: natural talent and hard work combined with an unfortunate family circumstance that changed his parents' attitude about his desire to forgo a well-paying job after college and pursue his cycling dream."

Pat tells the story about a Texas A&M student and cyclist who decided not to earn $60,000 as a mechanical engineer and try to make a living as a pro cyclist, and handle his father's diagnosis with stage four lung cancer.

In April 2020, Haga, an accomplished pro who will ride for Team DSM next season, posted a long tribute on Instagram to the journalist, which included, "Pat redefined my preconceptions about journalists, who are in fact not all looking for dirt or some way to quote you out of context. They can be kind people with a ready, genuine smile, too.

"I was looking forward to talking to him the next time our paths crossed about the joys of riding a bike, something he obviously re-discovered recently. His loss has been weighing on me today--the world is worse without him, that's for sure."

Read Haga's Instagram message.

Geoghegan Hart eager to start as stagiaire with Sky

By Pat Malach August 05, 2015

Pat was one of the first journalists to interview rising British star Tao Geoghegan Hart at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, who had competed in the race the year before but had not turned any heads. Pat was also one of the few people who could pronounce his name properly. 

"As would be expected for any up-and-coming cyclist, Tao Geoghegan Hart is eagerly anticipating the move from his current Continental team to the Team Sky squad of Tour de France winner Chris Froome.

"His move will have to wait a bit, however, as he is competing this week at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah with Axel Merckx’s U23 Axeon Cycling Team. Geoghegan Hart told Cyclingnews before the start of stage 2 in Tremonton that he’s not sure when he’ll suit up in the blue and black Sky kit to race with the team."

Geoghegan Hart, who stole the show at last year's Giro d'Italia by winning the GC on the final day for his Ineos Grenadiers team, took to Twitter in April and said: "So so sad to read this. Pat Malach was always a pleasure to work with during my time [at Hagens Berman Axeon] & clearly loved every moment covering the sport. Rip Pat."

Tour of California: Skujins puts crash memories behind him

By Pat Malach May 16, 2018

Young Latvian Toms Skujiņš had been interviewed by Pat many times since 2014 when he joined the US-based Continental-level Hincapie Sportswear Development Team.

By 2016 he had graduated to the WorldTour level, where he became "famous" for a crashing on a descent near the end of stage 2 in the 2017 Amgen Tour of California, which horrified observers watching on national television saw the battered rider, who suffered a concussion, broken collarbone and road rash, try to remount his bike. His team car pulled him from continued tragedy. Then the next year young Skujiņš was back, this time with Trek-Segafredo and a stage 2 win. 

Pat wrote: "The victory wasn't Skujiņš' first since the crash – he won his first for his new Trek-Segafredo team at the Trofeo Lloseta-Andratx in January – but Tuesday's win was special because of the memories from last year, or maybe because of the lack of memories, as Skujiņš admitted in the post-stage press conference that he doesn't remember much of his crash."

In 2020, Skujiņš took time to remember Pat on his Twitter feed, simply stating, "RIP Pat! Was always nice chatting with you, will miss that."

Toms Skujins is interviewed at 2018 Amgen Tour of California

Toms Skujins is interviewed at 2018 Amgen Tour of California by Pat Malach, wearing his signature baseball cap and plaid shirt (Image credit: TORRE Consulting)

Tour of California: Robin Carpenter earns Cyclingnews rider of the day honours

By Pat Malach May 22, 2016

Throughout race week for the Amgen Tour of California in 2016, Cyclingnews, aka Pat, created a new feature, the editorial staff selected a 'rider of the day'. Robin Carpenter (Holowesko-Citadel) is the eighth and final rider to be chosen that year. Pat recognized the young American as an obvious selection, and was only the third domestic rider chosen that week, with WorldTour riders dominating the race.

"Carpenter is so often in the breakaway at big races, that it's become a joke to say that if he wasn't in the breakaway, did the race really happen? …,” Pat wrote.

Carpenter, who enters his fourth season with Rally Cycling next season, acknowledged Pat in April: "Pat was always around and he will be sorely missed, especially by N.American readers/bike racers. RIP"

Veterans

Video: Jens Voigt curses his luck at Tour of California

By Cycling News May 19, 2014

The interview with Jens Voigt at the conclusion of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California was Pat's pride and joy, and he often showed it to people at other races. A post-race engagement with Jens Voigt, then with Trek Factory Racing, was phrased sarcastically to, perhaps, get an edgy response.

Pat, who recorded the interview, did not expect to receive a curse-laden speech from the "shut up legs" legend, who was entirely spent from getting into the break each day, was "suffering like a pig each day" and concluded "It looks like I am the most feared rider in the world." 

This has become one of the staff highlights at Cyclingnews as well. View the video in the story.

Q&A: Chris Horner on swapping the WorldTour for Airgas-Safeway

By Pat Malach February 16, 2015

Chris Horner still has not officially retired from cycling, entering 2021 at age 49 and not signed to a pro team since 2019 when he raced with the Continental-level Team Illuminate. Horner has long been a subject of Pat interviews, since both are from Oregon and Horner liked to talk (he is now a commentator for NBCSN with its Tour de France coverage) and Pat liked to listen. 

Pat noted a Q&A he did with Horner in 2015 was "edited for brevity and clarity." He was the only journalist who received an interview with the 2013 Vuelta champion after the Airgas-Safeway team presentation in California.

"Chris Horner dropped a bomb on US domestic cycling earlier this year when, after a long and fruitful career in Europe, he signed with the fledgling Continental team Airgas-Safeway for the 2015 season," Pat wrote.

"The 43-year-old winner of the 2013 Vuelta a España is a father of four - his children are 17, 15, 13 and two months; the youngest was born on Christmas Day last year - and many observers wondered why he would want to return to cycling's third division to compete in races he left behind at least a decade previously.

"Horner has remained mostly silent since he signed the deal with Airgas-Safeway principle Chris Johnson, but Cyclingnews caught up with him recently before the official team presentation in San Francisco."

Full Q&A

Horner posted on Twitter after learning about Pat's death: "So sorry to hear about [Pat Malach]’s passing. Always enjoyed being around his positive and uplifting attitude. Fantastic journalist and great guy. He will be missed."

Horner lends personal RV to team Airgas-Safeway at Tour of Utah

By Pat Malach August 04, 2015

Each year that Pat arrived in the press room at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, for eight consecutive years since 2012, he said it was his favourite stage race to cover. He went to work early at team parking to flush out the feature stories, then usually settled into the back of the media car to follow the race start to finish.

In 2015, he heard rumours about Chris Horner driving himself to the race in a motorhome, so he went to the source to check it out, and got a tour of the RV replete with coffee maker, washing machine and storage for dirt bikes.

He began with, "Although Team Sky and Chris Froome raised some hackles at the Tour de France this year when they intended to have the team leader sleep in a motorhome rather than the hotel rooms provided by the race, Airgas-Safeway’s Chris Horner has been driving his own RV to US races all season long.

The team told Cyclingnews that Horner is not sleeping in the RV this week at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, as per the UCI rule that dictates riders stay in their assigned team lodging, so Airgas-Safeway is using Horner’s 40-foot fifth wheel trailer as the anchor for the team’s parking lot compound."

“You can mingle with the family you’re staying with and then you can go back to your home,” [Horner] said. “You can relax. You can stay with training partners, and then when you want to be on your own you can come back, flip the AC on, take a shower, put a movie on there and go to bed on the Temperpedic. About the only downside to having an RV is you seem to bring everything. Cause you think, ‘I’ve got space, I’m going to bring it all.

“I bring my dirt bikes with me and a lot of times I have my scooter with me and stuff like that because you never know when you might get to break it out and have a little fun on a day off,” he said.

Pat Malach works in press room at 2019 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah

Pat covered the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah for Cyclingnews from 2012-2019 and earned a special table where he could spread out his work. (Image credit: Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah)

Events

WorldTour riders on US National team raise the bar at Cascade Classic

By Pat Malach July 22, 2017

The Cascade Cycling Classic was one of Pat's favourites, as it was located in his home state. He covered the race each year, from the early days with Oregon Cycling Action to the event's final year in 2018 with Cyclingnews. In 2017 the story was about WorldTour-level riders taking part in the race as part of a US National Team, and dominating the stages.

Pat wrote: "It's been awhile since Peter Stetina crossed the finish line in a pro bike race while posting up with a victory salute. The 29-year-old Trek-Segafredo rider says his last individual win came in France when he was still racing in the under-23 ranks.

So when Stetina crossed the line first during stage 3 at the Cascade Cycling Classic on Friday as part of the US National Team, he checked off a few of the boxes that had convinced him to come to the race.

"We came here to get a bit of fire in our belly and have a little fun remembering why we fell in love with cycling in the first place, which is hanging out in Bend in the summer with some of your best friends. It's been a bit of a reunion tour. We're just not stressed and enjoying it," said Stetina."

Three years later, Stetina wrote on social about Pat: "This fucking sucks. Pat was always one of the friendliest faces I'd habitually see in the far corners of the world throughout my whole career. RIP [Pat Malach]."

Women's-only Colorado Classic a game-changer? – Podcast Women's Edition

By Kirsten Frattini and Pat Malach September 17, 2019

Words by Pat were not just written for readers, but provided in several podcasts. Following the four-day Colorado Classic in 2019, which organisers hosted as a women's-only 2.1 event on the UCI Calendar from August 22-25, Pat noted: "The crowds showed up and it was well done." 

One of the riders he interviewed during the race was Allie Dragoo of Sho-Air Twenty20, who supported the dominate performance and GC win by teammate Chloe Dygert. 

"It was actually Allie's last race. She retired after Chloe won her fourth stage," Pat reported. "You could tell she was almost wistful about leaving, when there were so many improvements and advances in women's cycling coming, like a women's-only race in Colorado."

General manager of the team (TWENTY24 Pro Cycling) Nicola Cramner, wrote about Pat after his death: "without our reporters often #womenscycling would be like a tree falling in the woods. will be missed. RIP Pat and love to all of his colleagues and global friends."

Listen to the podcast.

Katie Hall of Team USA is interviewed by Cyclingnews' Pat Malach at 2019 Colorado Classic

Katie Hall of Team USA is interviewed by Cyclingnews' Pat Malach at 2019 Colorado Classic (Image credit: TORRE Consulting)

Turmoil in and around the peloton

When is it too cold to race cyclo-cross?

By Pat Malach December 21, 2013

Pat enjoyed covering cyclo-cross. In fact, the final 'cross event he attended was in December 2019 at the US Cyclocross National Championships in Lakewood, Washington. Conditions in Lakewood were wet and cold, but not to the extent from six years before that at a C1 race in his home state of Oregon, where historically freezing temperatures ignited debate about rider safety. Pat reported about the cold affecting both the athletes and the bikes: "several riders had suffered frostbite, and wheels were set in motion for a prominent component maker to voluntarily recall one of the sport's latest innovations."

Weather-induced injuries in Bend occurred during the elite races late in the day as temperatures fell with the setting sun - reports of "nerve damage or frostbite on their fingers and toes, and one unfortunate rider reportedly suffered frostbite on his penis" - which called out the UCI's weather rule. 

Also uncovered were reports of "several riders' SRAM hydraulic disc brakes suddenly lost power," which the company studied in the ensuing days and announced a  voluntary recall for specific hydraulic disc and rim brakes.

Read the story.

Once Upon a Time in the West: Inga Thompson's South American adventure

By Pat Malach August 22, 2019

This feature on the women's pro peloton was a true highlight. "For women racing in the 1980s and early 1990s, however, competing in the boys' club could be like stepping into a '70s spaghetti western, where rules were fluid, deals were never certain, alliances changed quickly, ..."

Pat spoke to four-time US road race national champion and three-time Olympian Inga Thompson about pioneering pro bike racing for women, from language barrier with her team directeur to being handcuffed to a van in Argentina. The conversation took place at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah where Thompson was driving a VIP car. It was one of many stories Pat discovered before any wheels began spinning in a race.

Read the feature.

Final story

Riders team up for quarantine Queen video parody

By Pat Malach April 17, 2020

Pat traveled to bike races across North and South America, and conducted many, long interviews on the telephone. Recently, social media has made it easier to find a story. Just days before his death, Pat found a lighter side to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on YouTube and helped spread something positive in a time of negative.

"Former rider Bas Tietema provided such an opportunity for the professional cyclists who have put their seasons on hold, creating a video parody of Queen's 'We Will Rock You' that had even world champions clamouring for a chance to appear.

Quarantine and self isolation during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic can take an emotional toll on the strongest of personalities, and every once in a while a person needs to let go of it all and have some fun."

Watch the video.

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Jackie Tyson

Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling for people of all abilities and ages. Tyson has been recognized for communications excellence with 10 Phoenix Awards, presented by the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp - and was recognized by a national media outlet as the first female depicted in a pro baseball card set (Ft. Myers Royals). She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times. Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in  Provence (France). Her favorite mountain bike rides are in Park City, Utah (USA).