ďWhen Iím suffering like a dog just trying to hold a wheel at 55 kph I think Iím still in a better position than some of my college buddies.Ē
An interview with Ted King (Cervelo TestTeam).
For a first question, I'm wondering if you can comment on whether it's getting easier now you're in your second year on the ProTour circuit. I'm assuming you have more sense of how the season pans out, of how to conserve energy and when to expend it, but at the same time you're presumably still learning the ropes, and you no longer have the bliss of ignorance.
Ignorance is far from bliss when making the jump to Europe. If youíre coming to Europe simply expecting the racing to be generically faster, then youíre in for a very rude awakening. Everything about European racing is harder, but this is the real deal and whole enchelada, so that all should be fairly expected. Iím not really answering your question here, however, so let me get back on track. I think itís safe to say the racing never gets easier, you just get a little bit faster, wiser, and more fit. Knowing the courses and understanding race dynamics both from country to country and race to race has been incredibly helpful. My fitness has improved immensely with last yearís debut season in my legs. I could go on about each of these aspects, but basically you get the gist.
And a follow-up question: What was the most surprising aspect of moving from the U.S. racing circuit to the ProTour?
One of the first things that comes to mind is how gnarly the racing is in the Netherlands. The road traffic islands, signs, cars, and other obstacles in the road makes it a bit like racing the most hectic criterium of your life for six straight hours. A race like Amstel demonstrates that perfectly. Words really donít do justice to how wild and crazy these races are Ė you really just have to be there to believe it. Or be on the sidelines with an Amstel in hand and soak it all in.
Can you talk a little about being on the Cervťlo TestTeam. The team's web statement about "goals and values" includes the observation that "although winning races is great, it's not why we are in pro cycling." I'm not sure I can think of any other elite team in any sport that makes that admission quite so readily. Do you notice this as a rider, that you're part of a team that claims winning isn't everything?
The Cervelo TestTeam really does allow fan access and hospitality unlike any other professional sports team Iíve ever seen or heard of. Even at the pinnacle of our sport, the Giro díItalia or Milan San Remo for example, weíre speaking with fans before and after stages, allowing them access to the bus, discussing a bit of race strategy, and quite frankly having fun with these folks. Seriously, thatís completely unheard of in other sports and still something of a rarity in cycling. However, all this access is really a great thing to develop and grow cycling in the first place. Moreover, this relates back to how the sport of cycling flourishes and how the fans come to see the sport. Cycling fans have the ability to hang out right along side their favorite riders as we speed along the cobbled classics or slay ourselves up impossibly steep mountains, which is simply awesome. So just a bit more access and cool behind the scenes (err, Beyond the Peloton?) just makes sense.
Ted King on the climb in the 2010 Giro.
© Photo courtesy of Nathalie Lebrun
You were an economics and math major at Middlebury College. Does it help to be able to plot, say, 12 per cent gradient in your head when you're looking at the day's course guides?
Doing some rise over run calculations harkens back to eighth grade, so itís not quite math major in college material. Having the college degree does keep things in perspective very nicely, though. Within about two years of graduating, the global economy went from a rip roaring boil to a catastrophic nose-dive. So when Iím suffering like a dog just trying to hold a wheel at 55 kph I think Iím still in a better position than some of my college buddies.
One of the groups you link to from your web site is 350.org, which is a campaign to get atmospheric C02 below 350 parts per million. I'm not sure what the carbon footprint of the ProTour is, or that of Cervťlo TestTeam itself, but it's measurable. Is this something that you think about? And, part two, is there something you personally are doing to promote the activities of 350.org?
Itís too bad that thought alone isnít enough to save the world, because I ponder this very thing fairly often; namely, how cycling isnít very environmentally friendly. No professional sport is chummy with Mother Nature Ė thatís a given. In the cycling world, the cumulative detriment from teams and fans traveling to races is anything but good. But whatís the alternative? Buying carbon offsets might be a good start, but that's still far from perfect. Iíve known of guys riding thousands of miles as their pre-season to the early season training camp ... err, actually just one guy, Svein Tuft. That dude is awesome, so thatís one option.
Maybe this is just another example of cycling being compared to other major sports in a negative light and coming out as a lesser evil (meaning, traveling a few times per month to a race is not even nearly as bad as pro baseball, for example, which draws 40,000 nightly and the teams fly virtually every other night). Seriously, I do think about this quite a lot and without any brilliant solution right now, I think itís great to support and create a buzz about worthy causes such as 350.org.
You also link to the work being done by the Krempels Center. You have a family reason for supporting their work. But I'm curious whether you also think that it's incumbent on an athlete to "give back"? I've always thought that Charles Barkley should have been correct when he said that society has a problem when it uncritically confuses athletes with role models, but that is to miss the reality perhaps.
The Krempels Center is a fantastic organization for adults with brain injury throughout New Hampshire, primarily in the seacoast area. My father suffered an extraordinarily life-altering stroke seven years ago and has been attending courses there for the past half dozen years. Without Dadís stroke, in all likelihood I wouldnít know what the Krempels Center is. Somewhat similarly, if I werenít a European professional cyclist I wouldnít be able to draw national attention to the Krempels Center or the Brain Injury Association of America.
So while I donít necessarily believe the saying that everything happens for a reason, I do strongly believe that I should take advantage of the public voice I have being a professional athlete and bring attention to these worthy organizations. I certainly agree with Sir Charles that there are better role models out there than pro athletes, but inevitably people will look up to us and therefore I think itís actually selfish to not be philanthropic with one's time and resources.
OK, back to racing: What's your specific focus for the rest of this season?
I had a really busy first half of the year capped off with the Giro díItalia. Iíve finished my mid-season break, which was amazingly refreshing and now am Iím back in full swing training again. Whereas the beginning of the season was stage-race specific, the second half of the year has more one-day races with four big ones that Iím focusing on at the very end of the season. The two ProTour races in Canada should be a good show back on my home continent (even if that means Dom Rollin is the king of the hill for the day, or both days, rather). Then Iíd like to have a really good ride at the U.S. National Championships in Greenville, followed by a shot at the World Championships. Tyler Farrar is one of the favorites and Iíd be ecstatic to help him in that pursuit.
And if we can bring it home to the U.S.: The Tour of Missouri was cancelled for this year while the Tour of California had a pretty robust field up against the Giro. You were a notable presence at last year's re-launched Mayor's Cup Criterium in Boston. Do you get a sense that the scene in the U.S. is stabilizing, growing, or just in some sort of permanent flux?
Thatís a great question and being the optimist I am, I really believe that American cycling is headed in the right direction. California was huge this year despite competing against the Giro. Thereís talk of the Tour of Colorado which has Lanceís endorsement and therefore it should go forward with some enormous momentum. Canada is part of North America and having a pair of ProTour races is nothing short of spectacular, and even though a race like Missouri has fallen by the wayside I think weíll see the folks at Medalist Sports putting together another race in the next year or two. They do a phenomenal job and sooner or later these big American tours are going to take full flight.
On top of that, American cyclists are really coming into their own in Europe. These young guys such as Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney are world class, so theyíre going to be at the pinnacle of the sport in no time. All in all, Iíd give American cycling a big two thumbs up.
Team uniform: Black or white?
Thatís a toughie. In a word: white.
Helmet or not if you have a choice?
Helmet all the time. Absolutely. Thatís one of the reasons I think my work with the Krempels Center is so key Ė brain injury can happen for any number of reasons. Riding a bike without a helmet is just asking for it.
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