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USPRO Interview Series: Chuck Coyle
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 6/1/2002
USPRO Interview Series: Chuck Coyle

Chuck Coyle is a neopro with Team 7Up and a frequent contributor to the Daily Peloton. Team 7Up lists one of his strengths as "workhorse." Anyone who has seen him race knows this to be true. This year Chuck has placed third at the Excel Sports Boulder Criterium, and 35th GC out of 160-man field at the Sea Otter Classic (riding support and still having to turn in a time). He has arrived in Philadelphia for the USPRO, but we caught up with him before his departure.

Daily Peloton: What's it going to be like for you to be racing against these Euro teams in Philadelphia - Domo, Mapei, Lotto, Saeco? Is it at all intimidating, or are you comfortable?

Chuck: It is going to be great to be able to race against big European Pro teams like Domo, Mapei, Lotto and Saeco, hey they are the some of the best riders in the world. Ever since I started racing I have always tried to do the hardest races I could scam my way into. Results are much harder to come by this way but when you do get a result it is that much sweeter.

It is certainly intimidating going up against guys who have done races that I have only been able to watch on TV but I think that makes it even more exciting! Just imagine how cool would it be to get into a 5-man break with George Hincapie, Fred Rodriguez, Salvatore Commesso and Jakob Storm Piil (before they dropped me like a bad habit)? In reality I am not going in the USPRO Championships with any real thoughts of victory for myself (although I think that our team does have a chance) but just being able to line up is a dream come true in and of itself.

DP: What kind of unique opportunities (and challenges) does this field present for you and the team?

Chuck: I suppose the most unique challenge that this field presents to me and the rest of the 7-Up/Nutra Fig Team is three tiered. First, if there is an early break (which there is sure to be), we need to be represented in it. The chance for an early move to stick until the finish is slim but it is great advertising to have your team represented in a long-bomb move, the rest of the team is therefore not required to do any work in the peloton and can therefore save a lot of energy when the chasing begins. Secondly, we have to keep our "go to" guys up front and protected all day long so they can be as fresh as possible when it comes to crunch time. Thirdly, we have to be aware of who is in what move. As a team we are more concerned about getting the USPRO Champion Stars and Stripes Jersey than we are about winning the actual race (in order to be the US Pro Road Champ you have to be the first American across the line, you do not necessarily have to win the race). So, if there is a move up the road with no Americans in it then we may not worry about chasing it. But if there is the right combination of US riders and teams represented then we certainly need to have the right guy in there as well.

DP: Are there any riders in the peloton you look forward to riding against and/or meeting at the USPRO?

Chuck: Of course there are some racers that I am excited to meet but I think that I am more excited to race them then to get my photo with them at the start line. I want to know how hard it is to hang on when guys like Piil and Hincapie are driving the bus. Will they just ride me off their wheel? Will I be able to pull through? Will George ask me to ease up because I am ripping his legs off? I guess I will know in just over a week……..

DP: What are your thoughts on the Philadelphia course? How suited are you and your skills to the course? How many times do you plan to ride it before the race?

Chuck: As far as the course is concerned, it is a classic hard man’s route. There is not a ton of climbing so the pure climbers are not at a big advantage but there are three hills with the hardest being the 17% Manayunk Wall, this is where breaks can get away and generally where the smack goes down. Guy’s such as Rodriguez, Hincapie & Vogels are all well built for this kind of racing. They can use their power to get over the climbs but can still handle the sprint and attacks that are sure to come at the end of the 156-mile day.

I think that overall it is a good course for me but my two major obstacles are the length and the speed. There are not too many races in the US that are long enough to prepare you for 6+ hours of racing. It will not be like a 6-hour training ride either; I would be able to handle it no problem if it was at a group-ride pace. Rather, it is sure to be 6 hours of all-out, balls to the wall racing. If I am still there at the end you can be sure that I will be digging deep to make it over the Wall for the 9th & 10th time.

I will probably only ride the course a couple times before Sunday, it is only a 14-mile loop and I have already followed the race in a car as a mechanic a couple years ago. I should only need a couple laps to remind me how steep the Wall is, I am also sure I will have my fill of the course on race day!

DP: What is your personal philosophy about racing? What are your long-term goals in this sport?

Chuck: My personal philosophy on racing as far as tactics go has changed over the last couple years. When I first started competing in Cat Pro, 1 & 2 races my main objective was not to get dropped. In Colorado this is no easy task. Now that I am finally able to be a part of the race and not just pack fill. I prefer to race on the aggressive side, there are too many guys who would rather go with moves than initiate an attack. If you are the team on the offensive you are guaranteed not to miss the break, you started it. If you plan to just go with moves it is all too easy to miss the key move of a race and then you have to burn a bunch of matches just to bring everything back together again.

Why I race is a completely different story, it is a great feeling to be fit but racing is so much more than just fitness. Road cycling is very tactical; you have to use your head just as much as you have to use your legs. All the time you will hear guys referring to road cycling as a chess game on wheels -  this is very true. You are constantly required to think about the situation you are in and what you need to do to make the most out of it, do you need to help chase? Do you need to sit on the back for a little while and then launch a big attack from 15th wheel?

It is also interesting trying to come up with a team race strategy. There is nothing better than creating a team strategy the morning of a race and then trying to turn that plan into reality and having it actually work.

As far as long-term goals, I would like to be able to race for as long as possible. I really enjoy the lifestyle that goes along with racing. There are certainly some negatives aspects but you will get that with any career that you choose and for me the benefits heavily outweigh the negatives. I would like to win some of the top races the US has to offer and I would also very much like to spend some time in the European peloton.

DP: Do you aspire to ride in Europe? If so, why?

Chuck: I would love to have the opportunity to race in Europe. The cycling there is faster and more competitive than anywhere else on the planet. I would like to see if I could hack it. There are also tons of fans who love to watch racing as much as I like to race. All too often in the US race scene we are racing in front of a few wives, a gaggle of girlfriends and our team directors. Do not get me wrong, there are still a lot of domestic races that get huge crowds but I have the feeling that it is not the same as drunken Belgium men screaming at you as you climb the cobbles of the Mur de Gramont. It would also be a great opportunity for me to see a part of the world that I have yet to experience and what could be better than doing it at 25mph?

DP: With respect to your 7Up program, where do you expect to be in a year from now?

Chuck: I believe that the 7-Up/Nutra Fig team is finally starting to get some recognition for all of our hard work and success we have had this year. We have been a factor in every major event in the US so far this year; we have won some huge races and have been on the podium as much or more than any other domestic road team. At the beginning of the year the only teams that were getting any press were Mercury, Saturn, Prime Alliance and Navigators; AKA "The Big 4." If we can continue with the success that we have had this year I think that the Big 4 will turn into the Big 5.

DP: You have been with your coach Dirk Friel for many years and you have recently been featured at his site (Training Can you give us a little insight into the man, and how he's helped you?

Chuck: I cannot say enough about Dirk Friel and what he has done for me. With me being a neo-pro he has been especially helpful with getting me ready for all of the major US races but not pushing me so hard that I burn out (which commonly happens with first year, over eager, professionals). He has stressed the importance of just getting used to racing at a much higher level than I have ever done in the past, the experience that I am gaining just participating in these races is huge in and of itself. Being comfortable with the speed and feel of a big NRC race is very different than any other kind of racing that you can do; it is important to know what to expect and how to react to situations at those type of events.

Dirk has been a huge help with not only my fitness but also with what I can expect at a particular race. He has been so willing to help me out with mental preparation and what to expect from a particular event, so I am then able to go race with a lot less stress than if I was going in cold-turkey. He has raced all of the major US races so many times he can often tell me where and when a split in the field will happen weeks before we even do a particular race because that is what has happened in years past. What can I say; without him I would not be here today writing about my thoughts on racing Philly next week!

DP: What else would you like our readers to know? Anything you'd like to say to them?

Chuck: I have to comment on how great the readers of the Daily Peloton have been to me this season. I have received more encouragement and support from them than I could have ever expected. I know I am not ripping too many legs off YET but the readers make me feel like I do! Hopefully I will be able to repay all of them someday soon by pulling out something big and stepping up my game to next level. It would be great to visit the DP Chat Room someday soon and talk about how slippery the cobbles of Belgium are after a hard rain!

Thanks, Chuck, and we will be watching you in Philadelphia!

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