|Current US Criterium Champion, Kirk O'Bee prepares to lead the Navigators team at the USPRO Championships in Philadelphia. Kirk has raced stateside as well as in Europe and talks to us about his expereinces.
Daily Peloton: How did you get interested in cycling?
Kirk O'Bee: I'd always loved riding my bike as a kid. For some reason I took an interest to racing bicycles at the local bike shop and desired to ride one. So I finally got one as a Christmas present and slowly fell in love with riding my bike. At 13 I did my first race. I had always been part of competitive sports so when I found out I could race my bike I was interested since it was unique compared to every other sport I had tried. After that racing became more and more addicting.
DP: You spent some time in Europe and other parts of the world racing with the US 23 team. Tell us about your experience with the national squad?
KO: I didn't spend that much time with the U23 team. Only a couple months at the end of 1999. I was never accepted into the U23 program before I started winning races in Belgium. I had been a part of the National Endurance Track Team from 1997-1999. I went to Belgium to pursue road racing and after I started winning a bunch of races the U23 program wanted me to ride with them. The couple months I spent with them was preparation for U23 World's.
DP: The Navigators Team has a long standing, national program. What made you decide to join this particular team?
KO: After US Postal screwed me over after only one year with them I was searching desperately at the end of the season to find any pro team since no one from Postal actually ever told me I wasn't going to be on the team again. I came home at the end of the season and called every pro team in the US and the Navigators ended up being the only team who returned my phone call. In the end it has worked out really well and I've been very pleased with the Navigators.
DP: How is the racing in Europe compare to the US?
KO: I prefer racing in Europe, it suits my style of racing much better than the US. Racing in the US is just as hard as European racing, shorter but just as fast. Euro racing is longer with more overall competition at each race. A lot of Euro's couldn't hack racing all the Crits. in the US and a lot of US riders couldn't hack it in Europe.
DP: How do you feel about having some of Euro's pros coming over to do battle with you (and your team) and the other US based teams on home soil at the USPRO champs?
KO:It's good for everyone, spectators and racers alike. The Euro's get to see that racing in the US isn't easy and we get the respect of having an International caliber field at our biggest race of the year.
DP: The rivalry this year at the USPRO is quite heated between US teams. What's the strategy for the team?
KO:I don't think it's any different from any other year. Everyone always shows up at USPRO to win. This year things maybe a little more even between domestic teams so it will be interesting to see how the racing plays out. I don't think George and Freddy are the only guys who can win the jersey anymore and anyone who doesn't realize that has their head stuck in the ground.
DP: After USPRO, what's next for you...another trip to Europe?
KO: Not sure about Europe. You'll have to ask Ed Beamon my team director about that. I'm happy with being home for now. Going back and forth to Europe isn't fun. The time change and traveling takes a toll and makes it hard to stay on top form.
DP: Are you considering racing in Europe full time later on your career?
KO: That's been my goal since I went to Belgium on my own in 1999. I never had the intention of racing in the US again. Europe is where the real racing is and that's where I want to be.
DP: Describe a routine day for you...who do you train with...what other interest do you have beside from cycling?
KO:My main interest right now is my pregnant girlfriend, Suzanne. She's about 6 months along and do at the end of Sept. It's made me realize there's much bigger and more important things in life besides cycling. Training now is easy. I have a good friend I ride with, who's name is also Kirk, and he helps get me out on the bike when I'm home. I race on the weekends and rest the rest of the week. In my area there's a nice training race series in the summer which helps keep me tuned up.
DP: Your chances at USPRO are?
KO: Not sure. I'll have to see how the legs are going. Since I've come back from the two Euro trips I've been pretty tired so all I've really been doing is resting up. The whole team is riding strong right now and that takes the pressure off for everyone as everyone on the team has confidence in our abilities. I've been learning over the years that I race much better when I'm relaxed and not over anxious for a race. So I'll be taking the relaxed approach to USPRO this year.
Our thanks to Kirk O'Bee and Raymond Cipollini for their help with the interview.