In their second year, Wonderful Pistachios Pro Cycling has come along way in their quest to be a top American based organization. Bicycle.net has been there from day one, and have truly enjoyed our interviews with Josh Horowitz (Team Owner). In this our 4th interview with Josh we dig a little deeper into the team, the goals, the future, and what it is like to be living your life long dream.
Q. Now that you are a second year team, what kind of changes can we expect from Wonderful Pistachios Pro Cycling?
A. You will see a more polished, more finely tuned program. Having a major corporate sponsor like Wonderful Pistachios means that everything we do has to be smooth and clean. Part of that will come from the fact that I will no longer be racing myself but running the team full time. I am also very happy to have the team’s Technical Director Yan Lee helping to run the show and Director Sportif Robert Coble managing the program from the road. Last year I ran the team mostly on my own and also raced so this is a big step forward in that regard.
The partnership also allowed us to improve our roster. We have added Tom Faiers from Footon Cervetto, Iggy Silva from Trek Livestrong and Sterling Magnell, one of the most accomplished sprinters in the United States. I am also expecting to see some big things from two time UK National Time Trial Champion Neil Coleman and 6’5”, 190 lb Menso de Jong who believe it or not is shaping up to be one of the best climbers in the country. Having riders like these means that we will be in contention for the win in every race we do.
Q. At the end of the 2011 season, what will a successful year look like for the team?
A. I have set some very specific goals for the season so that at the end of September we can ask ourselves this question and get a definitive answer. My main interest is creating a large and far reaching fan base. There is something about this team and its sponsors that is already creating a lot of excitement amongst cycling fans around the world. These days, a lot of that means a strong web presence. I would like to see a lot of activity on the team’s website http://www.wonderfulpistachiosprocycling.com/ and to see a lot of fan participation on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/WonderfulPistachiosProCycling.
In terms of racing, I expect to see some wins at the NRC level. We have diverse talent on this team that will allow us to win road races, crits and time trials. Honestly, I am not too worried about race results with this group. We have already won one race this year and have had a few podium finishes. So it’s not so much the results that I am concerned with but how and where we get them. The team’s marketing plan revolves around sampling. We will be handing out thousands of single serving sample bags of Wonderful Pistachios throughout the season so it is important to me that we put on a good show both on and off the race course and that fans leave with a positive impression about the team and the product.
Q. Tell me us little about your sponsors and how they fit into the overall structure of the team?
A. Wonderful Pistachios is the biggest producer of pistachios in the world. They are in almost every supermarket in America but also in Europe, Asia and South America. This is great for the team because it will allow us to race all over the world while continuing to spread the Pistachio health message. The message by the way is that pistachios are one of the healthiest nuts with a high fiber and anti-oxidant count. The fact that this message fits in so perfectly with the cycling and fitness world and that they have interests all over the world means that there is almost no limit to how far this program can go.
I am also very excited to have Orbea on board. I started this program as a club team just 3 years ago so when Orbea called me up over the winter and told me that they wanted our guys to ride their bikes it felt like we had finally made it. Edge Design is also a huge part of the program this year. They are providing the team with top of the line carbon race wheels, disc wheels and bars and stems. Beyond that, it’s actually a pretty impressive list. Biemme, Selle Italia, Sock Guy, Maxxis, PowerBar, Twinlab, Smith Optics, Kinetic trainers. It’s a dream line up.
Q. Give us a behind the curtain look at the day to day of a professional cycling team owner?
A. At least once a day I wonder to myself how in 2010, I ran the team, trained 20 to 25 hours per week and raced every weekend. I really do love every aspect of the job but there are a lot of balls in the air. I am responsible to 20 sponsors, half a million dollars worth of product, 12 riders and 5 staff. We have about 75 days of racing and will be on the road for about double that. Beyond the day to day operations of the team, there is also the coordination of our media campaigns, photographers, website and social networking.
So if you want details, I would say I spend about three hours a day just keeping up with e-mails, another hour working with our PR coordinator Sean Weide and our photographer Colleen Brown and another hour updating the website and doing social networking work. The rest of the day involves coordinating travel plans, tracking and inventorying incoming product shipments and also keeping up with my coaching business.
I have a two year old daughter and another one on the way so no matter what, I try to knock off by 5:30 and spend some time with the family. After Polly goes to sleep I go right back to work but it’s very important to me to take that time. Finding balance is not something that comes naturally when you have a job like this. It really takes a concerted effort to decide what is most important to you and make a conscious decision to put away work and say, this is time for my family.
Q. What is the 2011 secret weapon? And how do I get one?
A. The secret weapon is rider synergy. Part of this is chance and part of it is intention. I like to think that I did a pretty good job of picking riders this year. I got a strong personal recommendation from a respected member of the racing world for every rider I hired. That I was able to find incredibly talented riders whose personalities worked with the program was just a stroke of amazing luck.
Jonathan, I know you are a grassroots racer so since you asked how to get the secret weapon my advice would be to find teammates who aren’t wrapped up in ego and sponsorship support but are racing purely out of a love of the sport.
Q. We know that you are a huge supporter of training the brain. Tell us how training the body, training, the brain, and nutrition all converge on Wonderful Pistachios Pro Cycling
A. The one thing that I have brought to every team I have ever been involved with is my passion for training the brain right along side every other part of the body that cyclists have to exercise. My philosophy is that to succeed in this sport you need a strong heart, strong lungs, strong muscles and a strong mind, not necessarily in that order. I do hypnosis sessions with the team before major races and have all the riders listening religiously to the Ultimate Cyclist CD which I created for Levi Leipheimer and other pro tour riders like Marco Pinotti. The CD is not just about winning races but about having confidence, motivation and focus no matter what you do in life. Riders at any level will benefit from it. http://www.ultimatesportspsychology.com/
Having said that, a strong mind without a perfectly fine tuned body is not going to do the trick. We have great nutritional sponsors this year in PowerBar and Twinlab. It’s nice to know that the guys have the best nutritional support on the planet and that a poor diet will never be the limiting factor in their performance. We are also one of the first cycling teams to be using ASEA as part of our daily training regimen. It is an interesting product because unlike other anti-oxidant drinks, ASEA actually improves cellular communication and the body’s ability to create it’s own anti-oxidants. I started using the product last year and saw amazing results. http://www.teamredox.com/active
Q. You just had your training camp this week. Tell us what surprised you the most and what you think the biggest challenge will be?
A. The biggest surprise was that for weeks building up to camp we were hearing that the worst storm to hit Santa Rosa in 35 years was on the way. Weather stations were warning residents to stay inside their houses and avoid the roads at all costs. We showed up and got nothing but sunshine. It seemed to me like a positive omen for the season.
But honestly, that was just the icing on the cake. The real surprise was just how quickly the team came together. This is easily the best group of riders I’ve ever been involved with. On past teams there have been egos and rider conflicts but by the last day of camp these guys were all fast friends. In fact, we had an empty van heading back to Los Angeles because most of the guys decided to stay up north to do some racing and training with their new teammates.
The other surprise was just how damn fast Menso can go up hill. That dude is big!
The challenges we face are the same challenges that everyone in the cycling industry is facing. The economy is terrible and doping scandals have driven all of the corporate money out of the sport. Frankly, I’m a little frustrated with the way the cycling media is handling it all. It’s a very small picture outlook. Sure people like to read about scandals but in the long term it is going to kill the industry and that includes the publications that are publicizing it. It just makes no sense to me that a major cycling publication would put a doping story on the cover when they know that eventually it is going to put them out of business. I am not criticizing the great anti-doping efforts that are being made but I do think the cycling media should make a pact to not report on it.
I have this vivid picture in my mind of the last cycling fan in the world sitting in front of his computer looking at the very last cycling website in the world, reading the very last cycling story in the world and guess what the story is about.
Q. You have told Bicycle.net that you are living a dream being the Team Owner of Wonderful Pistachios Pro Cycling. But what is your dream for the team?
A. Ok, this is the first time I have put this in print but I envision this team in the Tour de France some day. As a team owner how could I aspire to anything less? I don’t see it as a pipe dream though. Wonderful Pistachios is a very successful company and they are growing by the day. They are in every part of the world so as much if not more than any sponsor currently in the sport, they are poised to benefit from the exposure of an event like The Tour.
We will be doing our first international race later this year (the Irish Post Ras) and the Amgen Tour of California is the goal for 2012. In 2013 I would like to move to Continental Pro and take the team to Europe. However, the only way that any of this will be possible is if we are able to make money for our sponsors so that objective is always on my mind.
Q. If you could sign any rider you wanted who would it be?
A. I’m going to choose to not answer this question. I think it would be a disservice to the riders I have hired. This is a sport where the rider compensation rarely matches their effort and their sacrifice. My dream rider is anyone who commits to race for my team, putting aside ego and individual aspiration and I’ve already got 12 like that.
Q. Can you tell us what the team’s race schedule looks like?
A. For 2011, we decided that the races that best suited Wonderful Pistachios marketing goals were the one day races and the crits. These are the races with the greatest fan participation and sampling opportunities. Therefore I have built a team of powerful sprinters and lead out men who can do well in the crits and time trials but also in moderately hilly road races. Some of the season highlights include Redlands, Post Ras, Dana Point, Battenkill, Philadelphia and Manhattan Beach.
Thank you Josh for your time, your honesty, and the chance to get to know more about the Wonderful Pistachios Pro Cycling team.
Good Luck 2011. We will be watching you.
Photo: © Colleen M. Brown