LOS ANGELES (VN) — Coffees came in the door, four at a time. Journalists slid by one another with polite nods and handshakes. At a media launch, everyone shares time. And coffees.
There was a mixture of languages stuffed inside a cramped hotel room-turned-studio just north of Los Angeles at the Cannondale Pro Cycling launch in January. Peter Sagan posed for his two-thousandth picture of the day. Ivan Basso was in another room, holding court, referencing the “rumors of the wind on the road.” Good stuff.
Ted King sat calmly amid the hustle and bustle of the former Liquigas-Cannondale team’s media launch, the only American on the heavily Italian squad. It’s easy to see that King is whip smart, and he’s a keen interview. He sat down with VeloNews at the team’s launch earlier this year and here’s what the 30-year-old New Hampshire native had to say.
VeloNews: It’s a bit of a rough season for cycling right now. What are your thoughts on the tumultuous offseason?
Ted King: I think something has to be done. Something has to be said. There’s a school of thought that you just want to sweep it under the rug or forget about it. If that’s the case, then what have we done?
You have to confront these things and move forward accordingly … This offseason in particular the sport has been dragged through the mud — it’s perpetually dragged through the mud. It’s tough because cycling actually does something about it. Cycling tries to combat the issue, and that’s why it’s forever in the news. You don’t hear about baseball players.
I think there is a sea change happening right now, but it’s so hard to put your finger on and try to sell it to a cycling audience … because we’re going to say the same things they’ve been saying for decades: “The testing’s really regimented” and blah, blah, blah. So why do people have to believe that, and I completely get that. Cycling’s cannibalized itself. My thesis is that we’re in a sea of change. There are so many young riders who are sick of all this shit happening. You don’t want your name dragged through the mud. You don’t want your sport, your livelihood, to be dragged through the mud. So, as a result, I call it drop in the bucket advocacy. I can only do my part. I can race clean, the guy next to me can race clean. As drops in the bucket, we’ll make this change.
VN: The United States Anti-Doping Agency is in charge of testing here. Do you believe in the work USADA does?
TK: I do. It’s tough because there are people who are always going to be chasing with resources greater than the doping agency, and that’s where the sea of change happens. We’re a clean generation. And it’s awesome to be a part of this revolution.”
VN: You’re the only American on the team. Is there ever a bit of culture shock?
TK: The culture shock happened two years ago. I’m accustomed to it now. It’s an honor. It’s an American company, definitely on an international stage. Over the past couple years, they’ve become a big, big brand … My first mountain bike, road bike, cross bike, were all Cannondales. It’s an honor to be an ambassador for the brand.
VN: You’re most often asked to help others win races. What are your own ambitions?
TK: You’re always searching for a win. And this is where you pick. A team like ours, they’re not going to throw all the eggs in my basket for a shot at a podium, for a shot at a top five, which would be, in certain races, a huge goal, because you have the capability of winning a race. So, if the right circumstances unfold, yeah, I’ll win a race. Nationals, I’ve been knocking on the door there. With Timmy [former teammate Timmy Duggan] winning, you can obviously see that a small group can take down giants. And boom, bada-bing-bada-boom, Tour de France. That’s my one goal. And with that comes a lot of mutual goals with the team. It’s going to require a real strong spring campaign. Peter has real high goals during the classics, so I’ll be right-hand-man there. If I do well there, which I’m motivated to do, if I have a good [Amgen Tour of] California… fingers crossed, Tour de France.
VN: Speaking of Peter, what’s he got to do to get over the hump at the classics?
TK: It’s not a hump. He’s done the classics one-and-a-half times. He’s been second and fourth in the biggest ones. So what’s it going to take? Another year of experience. In all likelihood, he’ll be there this year, whatever “there” means. He has what it takes. He is — I think the way he rides, the way he learns the sport, the way he appreciates what’s happening, how serious he is on the bike, I think he will do very well this year.
VN: Has cycling lost any of its luster for you after such a rough offseason, and after riding as a pro for a few years?
TK: My roundabout answer is no. Everyday is an adventure. Like there is always something around the corner, whether you’re in a race … or you’re back home and you have to figure out how to pay a parking ticket in Italy, which I will tell you is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done living overseas.
I’ve got another decade of potential to race in Europe. It’s an absolutely phenomenal opportunity that I want to embrace. I’m inspired every day to ride my bike.
VN: But aren’t they’re easier ways to make more money?
TK: Shit ain’t easy my friend … There are less fun ways to make a living. There are less fun ways to make more money. Somebody called it a blue-collar professional sport. And I’m like, “you know what? I dig that.” You make a modest living by professional sports standards. … and again, it’s — I have this other strange theory. Throughout life you are attaining, you are always gaining or increasing your value — you are building upward your potential, your resume. Whereas in cycling, you have a timed career. It’s going to last this long. And so you have to really embrace it for all it’s worth in that short period. I live a liberal-arts life. This is one chapter of it. Who knows what I do after this.
VN: Well let’s say you were out of the sport tomorrow. What then?
TK: Does anybody at Stanford want to put me through business school, preferably somebody who has a building named after them?