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USPRO Interview Series: Russell Stevenson
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 6/2/2002
USPRO Interview Series: Russell Stevenson
 

Seven months ago on the Daily Peloton chat room I met an elite rider with Capitol Broadmark out of Washington State, had a great chat about what else, cycling. It was Russell Stevenson. Russ was looking for a way to get to Europe and give it his all - now or never, he wrote - Iíve got to go pro this year, no time to waste. He was going pro this year, no doubt about it.

We stayed in touch occasionally through the holidays, and when I asked about his training he said, "Just putting in miles and miles, man. I hope it pays off." April 1st we received a press release from Capitol Broadmark entitled: Russell Stevenson signs pro contract with Prime Alliance.

Having raced in the Pro/Am circuit for a year and a half, Russ had established a reputation as a rider game enough to challenge the pros. He had placed consistently in the top and had a 7th place in the tour of Willamette, one of the US spring classics. He had established a reputation as a tough competitor able to ride on flats and mountains with equal strength, winning the Washington State Hill Climb Championships two years in a row, 2000 and 2001. Here was the guy I'd met on the chat room, joining the number one team on the National Road Calendar. I knew he had a lot of class as in the emails we exchanged he offered me advice on equipment, and let me know how his training was going instead of just blowing me off. After receiving the press release I immediately wrote him a note of congratulations and asked if he could do an interview.

With the USPRO in Philly next week and Russís name on the start list I contacted him for an interview. Here it is, served up just like Russ likes it, straight up, no B.S.

First off, congratulations on signing to Prime Alliance. How is it to move up to a pro team of this caliber; was it an easy transition or was it a big jump? Has it changed your training and racing demands?

Well, riding for Prime Alliance has been a great experience up to this point. During the off season I was searching hard for something, some kind of ride but the well was rather dry. I knew I was on Kirkís radar but didnít think anything was going to happen so quickly. Making the jump to the pros isnít too shocking really, itís more the difference between riding as an amateur, primarily for yourself, against the powerful pro teams and actually being a part of one and in fact, one of the biggest. I think many riders donít really understand what that means. The amount of tactics and sacrifice involved is amazing. Now instead of training to hang with the leaders and maybe finish top 10 or better, Iím training to show up every race strong, ready to do whatever is needed to win and thatís pretty cool!

How does this compare with the time you spent with another good team - Broadmark Capital?

Actually, itís completely different. On Broadmark we just showed up and did the best we could. There were no expectations from anyone to do well. PA is the #1 team right now and all eyes are on you. There really is a big difference between what you come to a race to accomplish. You throw glory and selfishness right out the window. Oh and...most amateurs sleep 4 to a hotel room. Thatís changed! Ha ha!

The guys at Prime Alliance: Tell us a little bit about them (how they have helped you, how tough they are, fastest sprinter, funniest).

Thatís both easy and hard to do. I donít really know everyone that well. See, Iím the "new guy." Coming in later (April 15th) in the season sets me apart just a bit. Indeed that will change over time but I missed out on a ton of great racing in March. I also missed the training camp in February which brings guys together. It would be hard for me to describe everyone because there are guys I just donít see too much. But here goes:

Horner: Definitely the leader. Heís most comfortable there and everyone respects him for it. Chris is way down to earth and extremely sensible. Heís also super-calculated and logical when it comes to race tactics. He and Kirk work too well together. Heíll give it to you straight up and I like that...no B.S.

Danny: The class clown with the gift. Always giving you a hard time about something but extremely committed and focused when the race is on. Danny also has an addiction to his X-BOX!

Svien: The Nomad, the Gypsy, Mr. America...but heís Canadian?? The only guy I know that rides better in crosswinds.

Peters: Super experienced, knowledgeable rider who is willing to share what he knows. Peters is both fast and smart in any race.

Jonas: The veteran. Jonas has a story for every occasion. He is poetry in motion riding through the pack, sliding in wherever he needs to. Guys almost get out of his way. Iíve learned more in just 3 crits with Jonas than I ever knew.

Decanio: The brain is always on. Matt says the funniest things at the strangest moments. Heís got a little ghetto boy in him which intimidates guys just a little. Matt has multiple talents which make him super valuable to the team. You can count on him for a laugh regularly.

Everyone has their own personality and thatís what makes the team so special. There is chemistry because of diversity. I sort of take to the veterans of the team a bit more, mostly because of the respect they show me. I think they can look at me, and the other first timers, and give us a break; just remembering how hard it can be in the beginning. In the end though, weíre all here together.

Iíd say itís a toss up on the funniest between Danny, Creed and Wolrod.

Sprinter? ... who else, Jonas, but McCook isnít too shabby himself. In fact, Alex and Peters could win on any day given the opportunity. Sometimes itís a tough question to answer. But I think Kirk likes having multiple threats.

But you canít leave out Brenda Phelps (soigneur) and Ken (mechanic). We call them staff but they are as important to the team's success as any of us. Brenda and Ken work harder and longer than we do. Itís amazing really...theyíre on the road more than the riders! Ken can change a Sew-up faster than I can change a flat tire. Brenda knows what brownies we all like and drives a 16 passenger Van like itís a Porsche! The back bone of the squad for sure.

How would you describe your style of racing? How has it changed as your career progressed?

For now, my style is whatever it needs to be. If I have to blow myself early, thatís what I do. One day I may have to ride in the wind simply protecting teammates. Another I may be covering break in a crit. My style is all styles...well rounded.

Has it changed? Not much, Iím just getting stronger in my diversity. The more things I do now that I didnít do much of in the past, say the TT or chasing in a crit, the stronger and more valuable I become to the team.

Tell us a little bit about how you got interested in racing and your early years.

Ha... well, it was my mother's boyfriend, Kevin Evans who first lent me his bike and said, "Try this dude, you might be good at it." That was in 1992. I took my time in the lower categories, never once thinking Iíd make it here. The day I went from Cat. 3 to Cat. 2, I was shocked. Three years later, and after leaving my steady job, I wanted to be Cat. 1. The following year I was.

From that point, going pro became my primary goal. Sure enough, one year later, Iím getting what I wanted. Things just seemed to fall into place for me. I was never the "ordinary" type so pro cycling didnít seem to be too much of a stretch to me. Pro cycling was never a childhood dream or anything, it just sort of happened that I was pretty good at it.

Any favorite rider or riders who inspired you then/now? Why?

I liked to watch Claudio Chiapucci in the tour. He just didnít give a damn and always raced to win. He never held back. These days itís not hard to admit that Lance is inspiring. But you know, he is on another planet and that makes it hard for me (the little guy) to relate. Now, Tyler Hamilton won a stage in the Giro the other day; thatís totally awesome! Iím inspired that OLN TV has live cycling coverage! There needs to be more of that. If this sport is ever going be anything close to mainstream, it has to be on TV. Seeing myself on a network station...that's pretty inspiring.

In the last three years you have ridden races against some of the top USPRO riders. Who impresses you most as competitors (who is toughest, fastest, strongest, smartest, whatever you care to comment on).

Hmm, there are a lot.

Chris Horner: He did the smartest thing of them all and left Mercury!

Scott Moninger: Mr. Consistency. The "never-ending finish line" as he puts it.

Damon Cluck: A great guy who is making it happen in his big debut.

Eric Wolhberg: A total class act. He is always a man to beat, no matter what the race. He is a standout on a team of stars.

Danny Pate: "I just showed up and they all went slow." Well put...

Favorite race this year?

Well, Iíve only done 4 NRC events and none really felt good. Maybe the Roswell Crit in GA only because I was feeling a ton better after my disappointing debut the day before in the heat-soaked Shelby race. I guess the crit at the Mutual of Enumclaw, a local 2-day race here at home. I was killing my old team!

So it is a few days before the USPRO in Philly. Are you excited? What are you looking forward to most? Are you riding all the races, or if not, which ones so your fans can watch for you and cheer you on?

Oh, Iím excited! Canít say for sure I'm racing Philly though. Kirk has that decision reserved for that week. Iím doing most of the First Union series and the Capitol Cup. Weíre racing so much that week I canít even keep track.

Any message you would like to send to friends, family or fans. (This is your corner, Russ; anything you would like to say or someone you would like to give credit to for helping you along the way.)

Oh, just a simple thank you. Without the support of my family and friends, I wouldnít be here. I can thank them for keeping me motivated through the years. This is a brutally hard sport that keeps testing oneís courage to continue.

Any advice to young riders getting started?

Donít fear success! Learn to sleep with distractions.

Own a Rice Cooker and listen to your parents.

Is there any chance you and the Prime Alliance will be going to Europe this summer or fall?

I think next year for certain.

Our thanks to Russ, and good legs at USPRO!

More on Russell Stevenson:

Another interview of Russ by Jeff Nachtigal at Northwest Race Report

Russ' Spring race diary (Russ is a great writer too) at Northwest Race Report

More on Prime Alliance, including the extensive palmares of Roy Knickman, General Manager (former member of 7-Eleven Cycling team and La Vie Claire), Kirk Willet, Rider and Road Manager, and the rest of the Prime Alliance Team.

Daily Peloton USPRO Main Page

USPRO Interview Series: George Hincapie

USPRO Interview Series: John Lieswyn

USPRO Interview Series: Trent Klasna

USPRO Interview Series: Dylan Casey

USPRO Interview Series: David Chauner

USPRO Interview Series: Kirk O'Bee

USPRO Interview Series: Chris Wherry


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