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Interview with the Legendary Roy Knickman: Part One
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 11/27/2002
Interview with the Legendary Roy Knickman: Part One

[Many thanks to Matt Howey at for this interview series.]

Roy Knickman Interview – Part 1
by Matthew Howey, Cycling News caught up with Roy Knickman in the office the day before Thanksgiving and got his take on his career as a cyclist, Danny Pate, training, his Prime Alliance team, and much more. I’d like to thank Roy for spending this time with me. This is part 1 of a three-part interview. Watch for part 2 coming soon! We’re talking with Roy Knickman, manager of the Prime Alliance Professional Cycling Team. In addition to serving as team manager, Roy has ridden in two Tours de France back in the late 80’s. Roy, good to talk to you, have any big plans for Thanksgiving?

Roy Knickman: Nope, just family stuff. Doing any riding?

Roy Knickman: Umm, nahh, ya know, right now I’m running a little more that I’m riding. Probably just because it’s just a little more time efficient, and I feel a little more comfortable running in the dark, than I do riding in the dark, so… That’s understandable…

Roy Knickman: It’s sort of been my new hobby the last couple of months, seems to keep the weight off, which a director who switches to sitting in the office all the time definitely needs to shift gears to the, ya know, beer and potato chip look. I should take some advice from you on that, because I seem to have that beer and potato chip look going on already this winter.

Roy Knickman: Well, I’ll tell you, three days a week riding and three days a week running, which luckily I’m not traveling right now, I can get out for one long run and one long ride and do a bunch of other 45 minute stuff and stay reasonably fit, so… Did you run when you…well you still race but…did you run a lot before, or has this been more of a recent thing?

Roy Knickman: No, as a cyclist I was never able to actually run, but since stopping, I don’t know, my body seems to respond a little bit differently now, it actually feels good, before it felt like I was going to die if I actually ran more than 30 minutes. I hear ya there!

Roy Knickman: BUT, now I don’t feel good until I get to an hour. It’s a considerable transition. How did you first get into bike racing?

Roy Knickman: Well, I first got into bike racing through a local bike shop that had basically friends of road cycling, ya know, I was riding my BMX bike when I was 13 to 14 years old and the local shop supported us, but there was a custom frame builder in the area, sort of the bike addict, hippy who didn’t even have a car and had about 30 different bikes, and they influenced me, especially this individual, umm, I still remember his name Mike Compton. He was always like, "What are you gonna look like when you get a little bigger, you’re gonna look like, ya know, a Gorilla on a tricycle riding around on a BMX – get a serious bike."

So anyway, I got a serious bike, I got a Schwinn Super le Tour 2 and within three or four months they had lent me the Campy equipped shop loaner repair bike and I was off and running. That’s a good loaner…

Roy Knickman: So it started as sort of a challenge, and you know the one thing with cycling that’s so different from anything else on the planet, especially with the "real working world" is there’s so much direct feedback – you train hard, you’re dedicated…especially at a young age…you’re better. It’s simple. At work, you can work your ass off and still not necessarily be appreciated or see the results. So that’s how it started. I know you finished a couple times in the top 10 at the US cyclocross national championships?

Roy Knickman: Uhhh, I’ve actually won the ‘cross nationals… OH! You DID win them…ok….

Roy Knickman: As a junior I won the senior event – as a 17-year-old junior. Then you got top 10 a couple other times, correct?

Roy Knickman: I rode it when I was fourt…let’s see…when I was fifteen years old, and probably now they wouldn’t even let you race. I was at a training camp in the spring and it was really my first introduction to a trip out of the state of California, I got 7th place at cross nationals in the seniors at 15 years old. The following year, I was 6th, then the following year, I won, then the year after that I was fifth, then I stopped doing it. So I remember the progression, but it was an integral part of my winter training program, ya know, for keeping fit and keeping power on without having to commit a huge amount of time. That’s exactly what I was going to ask you is, how did cyclocross fit into your career and development as a racer?

Roy Knickman: Well, from a skills standpoint, I think it’s fantastic, because after that first ‘cross, which I only did because I was at a training camp in Colorado Springs, the next winter I moved to Colorado Springs to live at the Olympic Training Center and be a student of cycling. At that time I think there were three places that were big on ‘cross, there was Nor Cal, the Northeast, and Colorado had a very deep tradition of all aspects of cycling – because of the Coors Classic… Right, right, Colorado has always been kind of a hot-bed…

Roy Knickman: So you can do ‘cross EVERY weekend with QUALITY guys… Where the field big, or…?

Roy Knickman: Yeah, you know, you’d get at least 30 or 40 guys, and one year I went to Northern Cal for a few weeks just to visit some friends, and I did some ‘cross races there, it was the same, I think I won one and was second at one…that’s what I would do normally in the regional races in Colorado…. Cyclocross was mainly an off-shoot to the road cycling because that was kind of your primary focus obviously…

Roy Knickman: Right, well I was at the Olympic Training Center to prepare for road cycling for the Junior Worlds, when I was a junior and for the Olympics and a professional career…and that was all about the road…I also did track cycling as a junior and developed those skills because back then if you were a bit talented athlete you could cross over and do everything, so I basically did everything, and only when I became a senior did I…I did one more year of track and one more year of ‘cross….but after that, the focus was 100% road, but because the demands and expectations of a pro were much more volume based from a riding standpoint, so I got a little more towards the direction of more mileage, more distinct periodization of training. (See Chad Butts series of articles on periodization in weight training click here.) Who were some of your biggest inspirations in the earlier years of your cycling career?

Roy Knickman: You know, when I first started cycling, I didn’t know anything about it. I was just on a bike, and I trained hard to go faster. When I went to my first training camp in 1980 at the Olympic Training Center, I didn’t even know who Bernard Hinault was, I saw his poster and I was like, "Who’s that?" – I had no idea who anybody was in the sport, so even going to the Olympics, I’m living at the Olympic Training Center and I didn’t live to ride the Olympics or to ride the Tour de France, it was purely a test. It was like, well how good can I be? So this is the best place to do this – how dedicated, how well can I understand it, how good can I be? So you were more challenging yourself than trying to be the next "X" rider, if you know what I mean?

Roy Knickman: Well, yeah, that’s how it started – this is just a big test, just between myself and my limitations, and THEN as soon as I started to have big success as a junior, ya know, there was the talk, oh, "it’s the next Lemond", because I did similar things, like Junior Worlds medal and a few different things like that – so for a little while there were comparisons but I was such a different type of rider, I didn’t have his capacities or abilities, so that quickly went to the wayside…but no, it was purely a process of how good can I be at what I was doing, so when I turned pro…

To be continued...

Related Article: "A Prime Alliance"

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Prime Alliance Team for 2003
Roy Knickman Interview Part Two
Roy Knickman Interview Part Three

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