Roy Knickman Interview – Part 3 of 3
By Matt Howey
SpokePost.com Cycling News
SpokePost.com 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 the final part of a three-part interview.
SpokePost.com: Well…let me take you back to your team this year…kind
of get off the drug stuff, nothing wrong with talking about it, but definitely
we’ve, uh, been inundated with it lately and people are a bit sick of it, but
for good reason I suppose. As far as your team goes for this year, obviously
Prime Alliance is your primary sponsor, who are your other sponsors this year,
have they changed at all?
Roy Knickman: The plastics industry has been hit pretty hard by the
economy, you figure people aren't buying quite as much and raw materials aren’t
selling as much so – we have most of the same people (companies) on board –
about 95% the same and just a few small changes to make healthy relationships,
but basically the same players, working on some last minute additions, should
have a few other small pieces…but basically it’s the same composition.
SpokePost.com: Now as far as Chris Horner leaving the team for Saturn,
he’s leaving on good terms I would guess?
Roy Knickman: Oh yes, of course…
SpokePost.com: Did he get a good offer from them?
Roy Knickman: He got a HUGE offer from them, Schuler blew us out of
the water, that’s all there is to it. Horner was very happy with our team, he
wanted to stay, and was willing to ride for us for less, but that just didn’t
make sense, and he had to leave. For us it actually created a good situation in
a certain way. A lot of people have been asking, how does that effect the team
and I say, “well, Chris Horner is the money man, you know he’s gonna win a
decent number of bike races…
SpokePost.com: …yeah, he’s consistent….
Roy Knickman: …but, for me, the team BESIDES Horner, was built on
younger G.C. and strongmen type guys.You know, Jame Carney, Michael Creed, Svein
SpokePost.com: You’re picking up the Cannondale-Wheelworks rider,
Roy Knickman: As far as the chemistry of the team…all of those guys
will embrace the opportunity to step up to take periodic leadership roles,
without Horner, who was so versatile. Now we have Vaughters for some very
specific things, for Redlands, which is hill-top finish type races, for a few
other events, but he’s as much to offer leadership with his experience…as end
results, I don’t expect him to win as many races as Horner, but I think he has
something to contribute in other areas.
SpokePost.com: …sure…more of a G.C. kind of a guy….
Roy Knickman: Well, he’s more one-dimensional in that he’s only a G.C.
kind of a guy, but only in specific situations, but he wants to be out there and
instructing the guys and teaching the guys who are the future of racing. He was
gonna basically quit the sport if he didn’t get a ride with us. We spoke for a
few minutes and within 20 minutes we had a deal because our philosophies meshed,
what he wanted to do and what we needed. Our biggest problem as a team this
year, was that our horsepower was phenomenal in stage races, supporting Horner
or going out without Horner, we almost won Tour of [inaudible] without Horner.
In a stage race, you can burn a little energy and make some mistakes and cover
for it, but in a one day race you can’t. Our inexperience hurt us in the bigger
one-days where we didn’t have the same presence, mainly because of age and
experience as these riders that were identically capable – having Vaughters is
going to be a plus to the team, we lose Horner and guaranteed results, we pick
up Vaughters which he’ll have results, but more importantly he’ll help bring the
other guys to another level. It’s a better system where the guys are motivated
and have more opportunity.
SpokePost.com: Vaughters, of course has that European experience too…
Roy Knickman: He’s the professor, man, there’s no other way to put it.
He’s the professor of cycling and he has a lot of knowledge on a lot of subjects
and the guys can only respect him, everybody’s excited because a little more
opportunity and a LOT more instruction. With the addition of David Clinger…
SpokePost.com: Right, from US Postal…
Roy Knickman: …from US Postal and that’s a guy with experience and
confidence and with ability in the one-days to be a guy that steps forward and
have the power and capacity to ride well in 260km’s and still have the power to
sprint in a small group and win. I’ve referred to him as the younger Henk Vogels
in being able to do similar things. Then Jonathan Page, the final addition, I’ve
known and I’ve coached when I was a coach in the federation…and I’d kind of lost
track of until only this year did I start seeing him again and really felt that
besides being very capable at a high level as a team worker as a guy who can
potentially win with power, a guy who can win from a small breakaway, that he
deserved an opportunity, and it was going to be the one time where he was going
to be part of the process.
SpokePost.com: He came from Cannondale-Wheelworks, a fairly high level
amateur team, but they seem to produce a lot of potential out of that camp…
Roy Knickman: Oh yeah, they have a program where obviously there is
great leadership there in helping educate guys they have a phenomenal presence
in the US with the little amount of money they have, it’s a great program, there
needs to be more programs like that.
SpokePost.com: A couple of ex-Cannondale-Wheelworks riders are on the
new division 3 team – Team West Virginia, used to be the Go-Mart Team, such as
Mike Jones and John Hamblen, what part do you see this team taking in the US
Roy Knickman: Well, you’ve just got to measure up each team and see
what their goals are and what their strengths are. Each team is built to do
something. We built our team to be a stage race team last year, we have the same
this year, but added the big one-day element – strengthening it with Clinger.
Saturn, MAN they went crazy and they have the ability to win everything if they
can ride as a team. Navigators is built much more as a one-day racing team,
stage race presence, but they don’t have the ringer stage race winner. You can
look at each team, ya know, 7-Up with more of the opportunistic and one-day
stage winner team with Dionne and some of those sprinters and the never failable
Lieswyn who's just always there…
SpokePost.com: Yeah, I see him and Horner as kind of similar in some
Roy Knickman: Horner has just a little more punch but he’s just a
die-hard guy. So you have to look at each team – I’ve analyzed the bigger teams
to see sort of where we are, when you’re building your team you are always
trying to outbuild someone elses, it’s just that you don’t have the money to
keep building and the other guys just keep going. So as far as like the West
Virginia Team and as far as other things that might be assembled, you know,
Hamblen has been around, I believe he rode with Navigators for a year, he’s a
guy who can have a presence, but I don’t know those riders well enough to say if
there’s the next big race winner in that group, I just think it’s the more teams
there are trying to have a national presence, the more competitive the circuit
will be and it will bring everybody's level up.
SpokePost.com: So it’s better for the sport in general…
Roy Knickman: It’s hard to run a team year after year, especially when
you’re doing it with very little money, you know saying to the guys, hey, starve
another year…I think it’s great, but I would see Schroeder Iron having a bigger
impact, purely because their direction with Chan as a front man and I’ve spoken
to Frank Schroeder who left me with the impression that he has a good idea of
what he wants to do, a good understanding of bike racing and a good
understanding of how he’s going to get where he’s going, based on…he wants to
build a certain type of team and the moves he was making reflected the fact that
he knew what he was doing, I was pretty impressed. I think they’ll have impact.
Sierra-Nevada may have a larger impact, some of the guys on that team showed
glimpses of brilliance, this guy Jacques-Maynes who’s also on the ‘cross scene,
he had some big rides. There are the teams out there with some riders who can
SpokePost.com: Kind of on the subject of bike racing in general in the
U.S…what advice would you give race promoters on the grassroots level to help
them maintain and grow the sport?
Roy Knickman: Well, I mean, as far as grassroots racing, in my world
right now I’m focused on the marketing and selling of cycling, so on the top we
need – like I don’t care how big the prize list is, I care of whether or not
it’s televised, like OHH, come to our race, there’s a lot of prize money – well
prize money doesn’t help the sponsor, and the sport is so sponsor driven and
return oriented – you know, are there big crowds and what's the media value that
I can pin on this for a sponsor. From a promotional standpoint there’s smaller
events that have even regional television or like an OLN broadcast or something.
SpokePost.com: Do you think that grassroots promoters would benefit by
focusing a bit more on just even getting press releases out, on getting that
minimal media coverage? I mean obviously, any coverage is good…
Roy Knickman: If the grassroots or regional event promoter wants to
help grow the acceptance of the sport, people just have to see it. There’s old
ladies that know football just because it’s integrated into a part of their
life. Whereas in Europe, grandma is babysitting their grandchildren, taking them
to the bike race on Tuesday, pushing their kids to get autographs because
cycling is like football, they know it, it’s part of their culture, it would
help, although it’s one of those little drop in the bucket things, and if people
actually came out to watch bike races, if they were promoted as spectator
events, if more grassroots events had media partners and were able to get the
papers to run a series of announcements in exchange for some signage at the
event to encourage people to come to the race. There have been some very well
organized events that had no one show up – I’ll talk to a local and they’ll say,
well, there was nothing in the paper about this event. Something on the state
capital, there’s events for the kids, and ways for people to participate, but
there’s nobody there, because no one knew. So that’s the biggest thing that they
can do, because ultimately it’s going to help them get sponsors if there are
people there seeing their local event. You know, how many people were at your
event. You can’t sell people the next year if you say well, only a thousand
people showed up.
SpokePost.com: We have a promoter here in NY that does a race every
year, the Chris Thater Criterium in Binghamton. It’s part of the Pro Cycling
Roy Knickman: I’ve been there a few times…
SpokePost.com: Do you guys have any plans to participate in that?
Roy Knickman: It hasn’t been a major goal, and last year it conflicted
with something, whenever you get towards the end of the year you have to start
looking at your budget, so this year a few guys went there who were going to do
track nationals, sort of on the same ticket, but we didn’t send a focused group.
It’s purely whether it’s an important area to the sponsor or a specific media
SpokePost.com: Roy, I'd like to thank you for taking this time out of
your busy schedule to talk to us. It certainly is a pleasure to speak with a
veteran to the sport such as yourself. Good luck to Roy's Prime Alliance team in
2003! Happy Thanksgiving.