Edward “Eddie B” Borysewicz, a Ramona resident and cycling coach who worked with riders such as Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong and in his later years with masters cyclists in the San Diego area, died Nov. 16 after contracting COVID-19. He was 81.
Borysewicz, honored in 2004 with the Father of Modern American Cycling award, was at his lake house in his native Poland when he was exposed to the coronavirus and died of complications in a Drezdenko hospital, according to his family.
Growing up in Poland after World War II, Borysewicz won two national junior cycling titles but switched to coaching after suffering physical effects from intensive treatments for tuberculosis — which it was later determined he didn’t have.
He eventually moved to the United States and became a coach for U.S. national cycling teams. His team with LeMond, then a relative unknown, won the 1978 Junior World Championships in Washington, D.C., and he led the 1984 Olympic cycling team to nine medals in Los Angeles — the first the team had won since 1912.
“Growing up, I knew who my dad was,” said daughter Julia Borysewicz, who lives in Ramona at her father’s property off Mussey Grade Road. “I know what great things he has done in the world. But he’s my dad. He was one of the most caring, kind people. He’d do anything for anyone.”
Julia Borysewicz, an action sports photographer specializing in equine sports, named her business Julia B — a nod to the nickname students gave her father because they couldn’t pronounce his last name.
Edward Boryewicz was drawn to Ramona by its scenic rural setting and a desire to raise animals. He purchased about 60 acres there in the late 1980s.
“He loved Ramona,” his daughter said. “He loved having chickens. He raised a cow, he raised pigs. He could go into town and people knew him.”
But in 2003, the Cedar Fire rampaged through the area, destroying his home.
In the aftermath, friends and former students rallied for Borysewicz, raising about $120,000 to help him rebuild.
Kathleen Clinton, who lived in Carlsbad at the time and had Borysewicz as her masters cycling coach, remembers the flurry of fundraisers, raffles and checks, ranging from $5 to $100. Armstrong pitched in with a “heavy” donation, she said. And LeMond and Vic Copeland held a fundraising cycling camp in Carlsbad that reunited many of the members of the 1984 Olympic team.
About six month after the fire, Borysewicz put a manufactured home on his property.
Clinton trained with Borysewicz from 2000 to 2008, mostly at the San Diego Velodrome. He was a supportive coach who at times could be stubborn, she said.
She remembers one occasion, though, when he admitted he was wrong.
Clinton considered herself more of an endurance rider, but her coach had her pegged as a sprinter. That’s how their training began.
“He was always yelling at me that I wasn’t trying hard enough, saying I didn’t have that explosion you need as a sprinter,” Clinton recalled.
One day, Copeland, who was at the track at the time, suggested that she ride in a pursuit race, which is more along the line of endurance riding. Borysewicz saw her in the race.
“He came to me after and said, ‘I was wrong, you are pursuiter,’” said Clinton, who went on to win a state championship in pursuit cycling.
Clinton said Borysewicz’s 1985 book, “Bicycle Road Racing: Complete Program for Training and Competition,” had a huge impact on her and other cyclists.
“It was a privilege to have been one of Eddie’s athletes,” she said. “Being in that group was the best time of my life.”
Angela Liewen, a Ramona resident who was a neighbor of Borysewicz and trained with him from 2004 to 2016, when he retired from coaching, recalls how he would pace the cyclists at the Velodrome on his motorcycle.
“His concept was always the athletes first,” said Liewen, a help desk manager at UC San Diego who won state championships in 2014 and 2015 while working with Borysewicz. “It was not about him but his athletes.”
“He could be very stubborn, but anybody who knew Eddie knew that was how he was and you just accepted that,” she said. “He was always there whenever you needed something. His heart was phenomenal.”
Borysewicz became the focus of controversy at one point in his career, when reports emerged that some members of the 1984 Olympic team had engaged in blood transfusions, which were not banned at the time. Borysewicz said he had no knowledge of the procedures, which were banned the next year, but he was fined.
His legacy survived the controversy.
Last year, LeMond talked about the impact his former coach and mentor had on the sport he loved.
“He was great, he laid the groundwork for American cycling,” LeMond told Rowery.org. “He made these American cyclists believe in themselves, believe that they can go to Europe and race against Europeans. For many years in the U.S., we believed that the pros, the Russians, the Germans from the East were good and we were somewhere at the back. … He gave us a lot of confidence to go to Europe.”
Julia Borysewicz said her father and his wife, Sophie, had spent this summer and fall in Poland, where he had built a house on a lake in the countryside about three years ago.
Worried about the pandemic, she tried to persuade him not to go this year, but he assured her there were few cases there and he would be safe.
Then she got the news that her father had been hospitalized with COVID-19.
“It’s horrific,” she said with a sob. “What I’ve gone through in the last two weeks I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. I couldn’t go see him. If I were to fly to Poland, there was a two-week quarantine. And the hospitals don’t allow visitors because of COVID.”
But she remembers that he had been spending his days at the lake doing something he loved — fishing.
“I know he had a wonderful summer before he passed,” she said.
— Cyclingnews contributed to this report.