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USPRO Interview Series: Chris Wherry
 
By Jaime Nichols
Date: 6/1/2002
USPRO Interview Series: Chris Wherry
 

Fresh from a big victory at the Tour of the Gila, Chris Wherry talks to the Daily Peloton about losing his shorts at Housatonic, riding for Mercury, and USPRO.

First things first: I'm told you had an embarrassing and humorous event befall you in Housatonic! What happened?

Yeah, It was pretty funny. I actually sustained a little bit of a fall at the very beginning of the race, and I didn't get any injuries whatsoever, but I pretty much lost the back of my shorts. Somehow they tore on the ground, I don't know if I was sliding over a manhole cover or something, but I had a slash from the top of one butt cheek basically, down to the next. It got pretty windy when I stood up, to say the least. I had to go back to the team car, and our mechanic must have doubled as a seamstress at some point, because he got them back together pretty well with just some safety pins. I spent the next 120 miles with some Frankenstein looking shorts so the other riders thought it was pretty entertaining.

Well, it's good that only your shorts were injured...

Yeah, exactly! It was funny because I didn't get hurt.

So tell us what you can about Mercury's plan during Philly week? Do you know yet who will be your protected riders?

I won't really know until we get a little bit closer to the race. It's still 10 days off, and you never know if injury or illness will play a part, or what can happen before that. There are so many guys who are riding really well on the team right now. Vogels is going really well, but it's just so hard to say because so many of us are going well right now.

I'm obviously carrying some really good form after the Tour of the Gila, so I'm actually just really excited to be going to the race. It's so hard to get your form to the perfect spot for Philly, and there are a few days left, so I'm hoping that I timed it right.

I'm told that some riders have superstitions about getting and maintaining form; do you?

No, I don't think so. I think there are some pretty scientific things you can do to get yourself into good form, but I guess the only thing I could say superstition-wise is that once it's gone it's gone!

It looks like Mercury has some big sprinting talent on the Philly team.

Yeah. Philadelphia always tends to be a strong man's race, and often ends in a small group sprint, and I think that's where the strength of our team really shines through. When it comes down to a smaller group sprint, we just have so many guys that are strong in a quick finish, it's just a matter of getting to that point.

How are you preparing? Have you made any changes to your training especially for this series?

I really haven't. The only thing that's changed for me this year is that I had an injury to my left knee, and it just took me some time to get over it. It was only a bone bruise, but it kept me from doing a lot of intensity this winter. So, when I wanted to be going well in California for the big Spring season stuff, Redlands and Sea Otter, I didn't really quite have the form.

The benefit of not quite being ready in those races is that you gain a lot of fitness from them, and if you use those races well, they can help you to better form in the Summer races.

I really haven't changed my training, I just think I've had the racing dictate my form, and that's really been good.

I'm told racing hard in all three races that week is a pretty tall order. What do you think, and which races do you expect to do the most damage in?

I agree. It's almost unfortunate that there are actually four solid quality races in that one week [including The Clarendon Cup] in the US. It would be great if they had some of those races last week or the week before. We did Housatonic, and we raced out here at Somerville this weekend; but yeah, to do all of those races full on does tend to wear you down, because they're some of the hardest races we do all year long. Obviously Philly is the most important race in that series and the last one, so if you go out and expend to much energy in those other three races leading up to it, it's definitely going to take the edge off your form a little bit.

I don't think it's bad to try and go out and try for two of them though. The Clarendon cup is more of a sprinter's race, not suited to me as well; but the race in Lancaster is very hard. It's a race of attrition, it's hilly, and it's been won solo, or in small groups? I don't know if it's ever been won in a group sprint, so it definitely suits me more, and I'd be more inclined to go for that, knowing that I have Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to recover in time for Philly. Racing Thursday night in Trenton suits the sprinters more, and I'll do what I can for the team, but I will be trying to save as much as possible for Philly as well.

I hope you have good luck!

Yeah, well that's the other key for coming into Philly, is just keeping your body off the ground in the meantime. Keeping all the skin on. It can be a little sketchy at times.

Do you look forward to Philly? Is that week really hard, or really fun, or both?

Definitely. The first time I ever went to Philadelphia, my jaw dropped and was just hanging on the ground all day long. I just could not believe all the people, the coverage of the race on TV for six hours live... I was amazed and so anxious and excited. It was good that I was designated by my team to help out in the first part of the race, because I was pretty much done about three quarters of the way because I was just so excited to go out there an jam up The Wall a few times. It's an amazing week of racing and everybody really looks forward to it, I think.

I got to do some of the really big races over in Europe last year with our team, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Fleche Wallone, The Tour of Romandie, Vuelta Pais Basque, and racing over there is like racing everyday at Philly. It was really cool, but I will say that Philly definitely rivals the classics for the amount of people that come out and the whole scene. It's condensed into a smaller venue, obviously: a race like L-B-L is 250 km long and the whole course can't be lined with people, but there are always a lot of people on the climbs, and Philly rivals that.

It's really exciting to race in your home country in those conditions.

You're one of the riders who were with Mercury though all the sponsorship trouble last year, and stayed on this year. What's that been like, and does the redemption of last year's trouble play a part in the team's motivation this year?

I think it does a little bit, but we have 6 or 7 really core riders who are back this year and the team's a different dynamic, but the spirit of the team is still the same. Last year we had a lot of sponsorship troubles, but the guys are still the same. We still all race like a band of brothers; we're all family when we're on the road. We take care of each other and its really cool, so the spirit is the same.

I don't know if redemption is really a factor, because we're going to ride the same no matter what happens. We were one of the most winning teams in the world last year, even though we had that trouble. I think people tend to overlook that an just look at all the sponsorship trouble. We won a lot of races, and that's how we are racing now.

You've been racing a long time now, what do you love about it?

It's a really tactical sport and at the same time one of the most, if not the most, physically difficult sport in the world, but when your body is at it's ultimate maximum potential, you still have to think and make a tactical move, and that's kind of the coolest part of the sport. I like that a lot.

I don't think you can pick another job where you get to be outside, and your office scenery changes every minute of every day, the entire year long. Like this whole few weeks: we were up to race Housatonic and I stayed in Connecticut, and every road was a new road for me and it was absolutely gorgeous. Then we came down here to New Jersey to do some races, and spent some time riding around in central New Jersey and found some really great roads.

It's amazing, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. It's the best job in the world.

***

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