By Charlie Melk
Even though Mike Creed is only 24 years old, it really seems as if he’s been around forever. Here is a short list of his credentials—you can call it a highlight reel, if you like:
* 20 Time USA National Champion
* 6 time World Championship Team member
* U-23 National TT Champion, 2001, 2002, 2003
* 1st Sea Otter Curcuit Race 2003
* 6th U23 World Championships Time Trial 2003
* 8th place stage 5 of Tour Le Avenir-France
* 2nd overall Tour of the Gila, 2001
* 3rd overall Ronde De L'Isard D'Ariege, 2001
* 5th place finisher Junior World Championship Team Pursuit, 1999
* 5th place finisher Junior World Championship Individual Time Trial
That’s right—your eyes are working correctly—the screen accurately states “20 time USA National Champion”! As you can see, this isn’t your average 24 year old bike racer. Above his riding credentials, however, Mike also has his own personality. He’s a funny guy, very honest, down to earth, and determined.
As you’ll read, the 2005 racing season didn’t go the way he wanted it to, but he thinks better things are on the horizon, and after talking with him the other day I can emphatically say that I believe him. I think you will too
DP: So, are you feeling better lately?
MC: Uh, yeah—compared to how I felt a couple months ago—yeah, for sure. You know, it’s hard when you haven’t done much racing. There’s only so much training you can do before you start losing motivation.
DP: When did you suspect something was wrong with your health?
MC: Maybe after the Tour of Malaysia. I really didn’t notice—I think it might’ve started in January or December, but I really didn’t notice, because, you know, at that time of the year you just feel out of shape, anyway, and you always feel kind of tired. And, um, a lot of people around me were telling me how skinny I looked. And, you know, by far I wasn’t on any kind of diet already.
MC: I mean, I’d only been training for a month, maybe, and everybody went, “Wow, you look really, really skinny.”
DP: And that’s saying something, right, because you’re already really skinny normally?
MC: Yeah, I guess I kind of noticed that my pants were a little looser, but I didn’t really notice so much, because it happened so gradually. But, I mean, now I look back at photos of me, like at my wedding, and I was like, “Holy crap!” I mean, it was like I had veins showing in my head, you know?
DP: Yeah, right
MC: And, I mean, even my wife didn’t notice, because it just happened so gradually.
DP: Right, when you’re around someone everyday that kind of stuff is harder to notice.
MC: Yeah, exactly. But, my teammate, Pat McCarty—when he came to my wedding—the first thing he said to me when he saw me was, “Holy sh**—how much have you been training!?” You know, I just thought he was being nice, but then everybody started saying something to me, and I just thought—well, hell, maybe I just took good care of myself in the off season. I didn’t binge-eat, or anything.
McCarty, Pate, and Creed at the Wedding Festivities—photo courtesy of Mike Creed
But I really didn’t put anything together until after the Tour of Malaysia. I was cooked. I was done. I mean, one day I went out to do these hill repeats with Levi Leipheimer, and I thought—yeah, I’ll just do a decent tempo, like 350 watts, or so—that’s not an insane speed—I was on his wheel. I think that day was when I really knew something was wrong, because I couldn’t stay over 300 watts without wanting to fall over on my bike. And that’s when I knew something was wrong.
Then we got some blood tests done in Girona, and my hematocrit was, like, 37, and my uria nitrogen count, which is a sign of muscle wasting, was really high. So I rested for a week, went and did the test again, and my hematocrit went up by, like, half a point, and my uria nitrogen was still really high. That’s when we knew something was wrong.
DP: Where is your hematocrit usually at?
MC: In Colorado, it’s probably around 45 to 46—I’ve seen it as high as 49 if I’m rested.
MC: I would say par is in the 45 to 46 range.
DP: So it was way low.
MC: Yeah, 10 points low. So that’s about 25% of your blood flow count, gone.
MC: So that’s not usually a good thing. But, I think, the more concerning part of it was the muscle wasting. The Nitrogen in my blood was probably more of a concern.
DP: Right—so, did you come up with a plan right away, or did you just try to wait it out?
MC: You know—yeah, see, maybe that was my problem. Because we got these blood tests, but nobody knew. The team doctors went, like, “Ah, just rest,” you know?—rest, rest, rest.
So, I went back to Colorado and I rested. And I probably sat on my ass for about a month! And it just didn’t get any better. I mean, I probably rode my bike maybe an hour, or so, a day—just to keep from going crazy, but it just didn’t get any better. I didn’t put any weight back on. It just didn’t get any better until, finally, George Hincapie wrote me an e-mail, and George said, “Hey, there was guy when I got sick, and he was really good.” So, he sent me contact info, and I took it from there. His name is William Pettis. And he’s from I New Medicine, and it kind of got to the point where—he’s in Seattle—this is a big investment, you know—to go out there for a week—fly yourself out there, stay in a hotel—doctors aren’t cheap, you know?
DP: No, they aren’t, and I know all about that too.
MC: I was really scared that I was going to go out there and it was going to be horse sh**! So, you know, 24 hours after meeting William, I knew that this guy was pretty spot-on. He did a blood test and found out that it was Epstein-Barr, and he ran some anti-virals. I did some more resting, and a lot of vitamin and mineral treatments. I’d say that within 10 days of being at his place that I could noticeably feel a difference. So, it was good.
Creed with the staff at iNewMed in Seattle—photo courtesy of Mike Creed
DP: That must have felt great, yeah. So, did you trust yourself to start training again once you felt a little bit better, or were you a little sketchy about it?
MC: Yeah, it was a little scary, because you don’t want a relapse.
MC: But, at that point you’re so f***in’ out of shape that you couldn’t train much anyway. Like, I remember my first 3 hour ride, and I was f***in’ toast!
DP: Right, right—makes sense (laughing pretty hard)
MC: I mean an hour from home—I didn’t bring any food, or anything—I was in a pretty bad state.
DP: Yeah, so I assume it was at least a month, or so, before you raced again, right?
MC: It was about a month and a half. I mean, I did one local criterium.
DP: How’d that go?
MC: It was hard, man! I rode with my SRM, and I remember thinking, once I finished the race, like, man, we had to have averaged at least 350 watts—we were movin’, you know?
DP: Yeah, right
MC: (dejectedly) Then I looked at it afterwards, and we only averaged 260! And I’m goin’ ohhhhh . . . ok.
So my first real race back was Philadelphia week, and it didn’t go horrible, but the fitness was definitely lacking.
DP: And then you had the whole thing with that guy on the Wall, right?
MC: Yeah, but he got his.
DP: (More laughter) Yeah, I bet.
MC: I’m pretty certain that’s the last time he’ll f***in’ try to grab a cyclist.
You don’t wanna f*** with somebody in my position, when, you know, it’s my first race back, it’s your national championships, you’re riding like sh**, it’s a hundred degrees outside, and you’ve just done 200 kilometers. Sh** like that doesn’t f***in’ roll off you back anymore, you know?
DP: No, I bet not. So, it was the last time up the Wall?
MC: Yeah, it was the last time up the wall. Leif Hoste and I punched it coming into Manayunk. So when we hit the wall, we swung off. And, um, I was riding up the hill and this guy grabs my sleeve!
DP: Oh man
MC: And he didn’t let go.
DP: What a moron.
MC: So he pulled me toward the barriers. And, you know, you’re so tired—I was just thinking that it was a fan who, you know, wanted to touch the riders, and he may have underestimated something. You know, I thought it was an honest mistake!
But then I look behind me and see the guy high-fivin’ his buddy, and then I just kind of went off.
Creed on the Manayunk Wall at USPro 2005—photo by Sammarye Lewis
DP: So what did you do after Philly, as far as racing goes?
MC: After Philly, I did a pretty good block of training at home. I did a track race at home. Then I went and did the Tour of Austria. I mean, it didn’t go horrible, but it was my first race back in Europe, you know?
DP: Yeah, yeah
MC: And racing in Europe is definitely at another level.
DP: Yeah, for sure—the team did well, though, right?
MC: Yeah, the team did well. I remember thinking during the first stage that this was gonna be a long f***in’ race, but it didn’t go so bad.
But there just wasn’t enough racing after Austria. And I didn’t do anything until the Tour de L’Ain, which was a month later. I mean, you just can’t duplicate European racing in training—you just can’t do it. Lance has proven that he’s the only guy who can get away with not racing his bike.
And then I found out, about a week before Tour de L’Ain, that my contract wouldn’t be renewed.
MC: Yeah, so needless to say, the motivation was . . . I was feeling pretty bad for myself at that point. So the Tour de L’Ain wasn’t a shining moment in my career.
San Sebastian was a week later. It wasn’t so bad. I made it to the bottom of the Jaizkibel. I expected it to go a whole lot worse, but, given my performance at Tour de L’Ain, I expected to really suck at San Sebastian. But it wasn’t so bad.
So I flew home after that, and now I’m home, getting’ ready for San Fran in a week.
DP: Are you looking forward to it?
MC: Yeah, um, it’s the same old thing, though, you know? I haven’t raced in a month! (laughs) But, yeah, I look forward to it, because I really like the guys on my team! I really like George—George is a super nice guy—and Fumi Beppu—you know, EVERYBODY on the team—there’s not one guy on the team that I don’t genuinely enjoy spending time with. I like meeting up with the team, and I like racing with the guys.
But, yeah, it’s just a pain in the a** when you know that you’re under performing. I think, especially as an athlete, you’re your own worst critic.
DP: Yeah, and when things aren’t going right it’s really easy to get on yourself too much, and that almost shuts you down sometimes.
MC: Yeah, exactly. So, you know—whatever—I’ll do what I can. But after San Francisco I have some track racing.
DP: Cool—is that in the States?
MC: Yeah, it’s in the States. In October, there’re some time trials to make the track world’s team, and there’s a monetary bonus from USA Cycling if you do it. So, Yeah, I’m looking forward to doing it. Something different, you know?
DP: Yeah, it sounds like a nice change of pace.
MC: Right—I mean, I’ve done so many f***in’ base miles this year on the road. I’ve done so many 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 hour rides this year. I mean, maaaan!—I’m tired of riding my bike slow, you know?
DP: Yeah, I can imagine.
MC: I mean, I can’t even do it anymore. Now, I just go motor pacing for 2 ½ hours, you know?
MC: That’s pretty much been my training for the past week—just sittin’ behind the motor for 2 ½ hours. I mean, I can’t do 4 or 5 hour bike rides anymore this year, mentally. I’ve kind of given up that ghost.
DP: Yeah, I can understand that, after all the gaps in your schedule this year. So, I guess you’re pretty much done racing on the road after San Fran this year, right?
MC: Yeah, that’s what was communicated to me, per Lance—that after San Francisco my services were no longer needed.
DP: I’m sorry to hear that, Mike, because it’s like a wasted year.
MC: It was very much a wasted year. I so desperately wanted it to be my year, you know? I took really good care of myself in the off-season, trained well, and I was really looking forward to having good rides, so I could race Tour of Georgia, maybe. Really, I wanted to do the Giro, and I wanted to be a confirmed player on the team—somebody they could rely on to do a lot of work. And I never got the chance to show myself. I mean, a lot of that is just bad luck, but I didn’t perform when I needed to.
But, from a business standpoint, I don’t blame them for firing me. I understand why I got fired. I’m not bitter about it. I’m disappointed, but I’m not bitter.
DP: So do you feel like Discovery supported you the way that you deserved to be supported this season?
MC: Yeah, you know, there’s a double-edged sword to being on a team with 27 guys. The good side is, that when you’re sick, there’s no pressure to race. They’re not going to send you to races when you’re sick. The bad side is, when you’re sick it’s really easy to get lost in the fold.
DP: Yeah, I bet.
MC: It’s really easy to just disappear, because there’s no f***in’ dead weight on this team! Nobody is signed because their dad put in $50,000. None of that bullsh** happens on this team. Everybody on this team is a great rider. So, when you’re on a team with 27 other guys, and not a single one of them is dead weight, it’s REALLY easy to get lost in the fold, man.
So, c’est la vie—and maybe I find a new team, and show myself, and, you never know—maybe there’s a chance of getting back on in the coming years.
DP: So have you been talking to anyone recently about a contract for next year?
MC: Yeah, you know, I’ve been talking to some teams. I really can’t say anything yet, but I hope to announce something prior to San Francisco, or maybe directly after San Francisco.
DP: That’s great to hear.
MC: I’m fairly excited about next year. I mean—I’m a bike racer, and that’s what I do—that’s all I really want to do.
DP: Yeah, I think that there would be a lot of disappointed fans if you weren’t riding for someone next year.
Timmy is just one example of the juggernaut that is Creed Nation—Photo courtesy of Mike Creed
MC: Yeah, I just hope to prove to myself—I mean—I know I’m a good rider—I know that I can do it. I hope to prove to other people what I can do. I wouldn’t say revenge is a good word, but . . .
DP: Well, just proving to yourself that you can take it to another level from where you were at.
DP: I mean, everybody feels the need to do that.
MC: Yeah, yeah
DP: Well, good luck, man. I’m excited for you that you’ve got some good opportunities coming up.
MC: Thanks, I appreciate it.
DP: It’s good that things are looking up and that you’re being positive.
MC: Ah, you can’t really cry in your beer, you know? Sh** happens, man. It doesn’t do you any good to piss and moan about it.
Thanks a lot, Mike, and good luck at San Fran!
Creed and Damon Kluck, layin’ it down at SFGP 2004—Photo courtesy of Mike Creed
Check out Mike’s personal website here .