by Bryan Boyhan with photos by Einhard Buccheim
This week Cannondale Pro Cycling came to sunny southern California following a training camp in Tuscany to present the 2014 lineup and rest a bit before heading out to the Tour Down Under and the Tour de San Luis. We were invited to sit down with some of the riders, check out the camp, and even go for a ride with the pros.
Before divulging all the news from the camp, I have to thank Mario. The day before camp, editor-in-chief of Bicycle.net, JT, was on his daily commute ride to the office when only a block from home he was involved in a bike-on-bike collision. A “fixie foo” had come out of nowhere and blew through a stop sign, t-boning JT on his bike and throwing both riders to the ground. He was rushed to the hospital and suffered serious torn muscles in his shoulder, preventing him from attending Cannondale’s team presentation and season kick-off party. Lucky for me, I now had a chance to hang out with professional cyclists and get a behind the scenes look at their day-to-day life. We wish you a speedy recovery, JT!
The first day we went to the camp, or more specifically the Westlake Village Inn near Thousand Oaks, we had the opportunity to sit down with Moreno Moser, Ted King, and Ivan Basso for interviews (posted after the jump). Cannondale had taken over the hotel. Banners were hung everywhere, the team van sat in the parking lot, mechanics were out front tuning up the new Supersix Evo’s for the team, there was a Kenda tent, an FSA tent showcasing the 2014 wheels and parts, the Win’s Wheels trailer for extra service, and a full fleet of demo bikes for the press. Also Cannondale provided unlimited green apples for everyone, a nice touch.
Day two we arrived just in time to catch the team’s press ride. Official Bicycle.net photographer, Einhard, was invited onto one of the press vehicles to photograph the team on the road for a one-hour ride. During this time I was lucky enough to try out the new Guru Fit System.
Guru has the only automated hydraulic fit system on the market and it’s only four months old. Essentially, it can be used to determine what the perfect bike for you is before you buy it. Colby from Guru took me through the process. It uses a 3D camera to scan your body for measurements and then the bike automatically moves into a starting position for you to hop on. As you start to pedal and give the fitter feedback, he can apply adjustments while you’re on the bike, eliminated the need to hop on and off the trainer. Once you find your perfect position, it goes through an optimization process and sends you to Guru’s “Bike Finder” program, where you can choose virtually any brand and model bike and how to set it up perfect for your fit.
After the press ride and fit we attended the Amgen Tour of California press conference. This week the TOC announced a new UCI ruling for the race that allows 65% of the rider field to consist of world tour teams. This means faster, more dynamic racing for this year’s tour and a much harder race for the continental pros.
Peter Sagan and Ted King came to the stand to answer some questions about this year’s tour. Sagan is not excited about climbing the Rock Store ascent multiple times in one day but loves the “crazy” fans in America. King predicted his own stage win and said the Tour of California is great warm up for the Tour de France, and that the Tour de France is a great warm up for the Tour of California. For this year’s tour King said be ready to see Cannondale Pro Cycling on the front a lot.
Before gearing up for the ride with the pros we were treated to lunch with the team. Most of the pros are on a salad diet, trying to trim down from their off season weight. Einhard and I dined with Richard Bryne, CEO of Speedplay Pedals who is very excited to have Cannondale on board this year.
For the ride I got to try out the 2014 Cannondale Synapse. This bike features a seat tube that splits in two near the bottom bracket creating what Cannondale calls a “power triangle”. The split effectively widens the BB area and reduces weight – plus it looks pretty cool. The demo bike was equipped with a wonderfully smooth SRAM Red 22 gruppo and Mavic Kysirium wheels. The Synapse has a less aggressive position than the Supersix but rides as smooth as butter.
The ride was a 20-mile loop up the Rock Store climb, along Mulholland Highway, and back down Westlake Boulevard. The bike was very comfortable on the flats and climbs, but the challenging descent with winding road and off camber turns called for a bike that is a little more responsive and snappy. Midway through the descent Matej Mohoric, the U23 World Champion, flew by me while sitting on his top tube and spinning out. Some riders that tried to follow him ended up over the barriers and on the embankments.
I did not decide to become a pro cyclist, the team decided. I started to race when I was a child, basically being born on the team in my village. I started racing as a job when I was 16, and by the time I was 18, I won a race and understood what it meant to be a pro.
You won the Strade Bianchi last year solo after passing the breakaway group. What inspired you to dig so deep for that race?
I think motivation comes with a good leg. When the legs work good, the mind works good. I felt a good sensation and knew that all the guys were watching Peter and I could get away. I decided in the moment to go, it was not a tactic and I thought the group was going to catch me.
What did you have for breakfast before that race?
Like always, pasta and also an omelet. In a race of 200 kilometers you can eat whatever you want. You might not feel so good for the first 100 kilometers but what matters is that you feel good after about 117 kilometers, before that, I think it’s better not to feel good.
After a few years under your belt racing professionally, how has your role changed on the team?
My role changed almost immediately because in my second year as a pro I won my second and third races. I’ve never been a real gregario.
Ivan Basso said you have no limit to your racing abilities, is he a mentor to you?
He is and I have to improve at everything. My favorite is the short climbs.
Are you going to target the Strade Bianchi again?
Yeah. For now I need to focus on my start in Argentina. I will decide after that if I will also target the Giro. I need to listen to the legs.
How’s training camp been going in California?
The weather is good. In my home it is 5 degrees. The roads in Malibu are amazing. The only problem for us is the jet lag.
Any personal goals for the season?
I think it’s stupid to say, “I want to win this, or I want to win that.” It’s a race, no? Anything can happen. But this year I want to win something important to be considered an important racer.
What’s your favorite beer?
Double malt Weissbier.
What’s your favorite climb in Malibu?
Latigo is a good one. I like Tuna even though you’re swimming upstream; it’s only as dangerous as you make it but I don’t recommend anyone break any traffic laws. I mean, cycling is dangerous. Riding on PCH alone is probably way more dangerous.
How’s camp going?
Camp has been awesome. There’s a good mix of media stuff, obviously, but the team presentation was a blast and the rock and roll theme was very cool. I’ve been doing a lot of riding and showing the guys around at what southern California has to offer.
As a super domestique, how many water bottles can you carry at once?
I think anybody who carries more than eight bottles is an idiot because no one will ever take more than one bottle and so when you see guys come back with sixteen, you’ll see them again ten minutes later after having struggled to get back to the front, chucking them off into the woods and wasting an exorbitant amount of energy.
At what moment in your life did you realize that you wanted to pursue professional cycling?
My evolution into the sport has been relatively unique. I got into cycling through collegiate cycling. When I first got to college I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I thought I might play some intramural hockey because I had played a lot as a kid and have been skating since I was two years old. Then I wanted to focus more on academics but then lo and behold I found cycling through my older brother who was a collegiate national champion. For a while I figured I would have gone to Wall Street. I was an economics major and that’s what all of my colleagues were doing. When it came to be senior year I was like, “I think I’d rather apply to race my bike professionally.” So rather than send my resume to Bear Sterns, I sent it to a variety of American cycling teams.
I raced three years in America and didn’t really have any expectations. I just sort of lived in that moment. Then I got the call to come over to Europe and was like “Heck yeah, let’s rock and roll.”
What was the transfer to Europe like?
I’ve been in Spain now for four years. It’s wild. I’m very much accustomed to European racing now. It’s a totally different beast. I still remember the initial year here. You get used to races that are so much longer, harder, and faster. Not to discredit American racing, obviously that was my stepping-stone and it’s at a supremely high level there but I think the biggest testament to it is Philly (). It’s the longest race in America and all things considered it’s relatively flat but its 250 kilometers. In my first Giro we did three stages back to back that were over 250 kilometers each in the middle of a three-week stage race. It’s wild.
Did you have to earn the respect of the Europeans?
It’s really more of a global sport. You see a lot of guys coming from Anglo countries that you haven’t seen so much before. There’s a lot of guys from New Zealand, Australia, a lot of Brits, a lot of Americans. You’re not swimming upstream as much as you were years ago but it’s still a different animal being an overseas rider coming from America. A lot of these guys can go home after a race and have their mom cook them some food and do their laundry – you don’t do that anymore. But I feel that I’ve come into the sport at a really good time.
Where do you channel your inspiration from while digging deep at the front of the peloton?
I am purely fueled by maple syrup. I still love to race my bike. It’s my passion. Obviously France was not the France that I wanted but I got to come back and race the Tour of Utah after and I spent two days in a breakaway. I still have the fuel and passion to race especially if I’m racing for Peter [Sagan] because his winning percentage is way higher than anyone else in the race. You would much rather raise a toast to a win than finish in fourth.
What are the team’s goals for the season?
Win more races, yo. This is bike racing.
How about personal goals?
I need to capitalize on circumstances. The Tour of California is a big aspiration. And National Championships next week, fueled by more maple syrup.
We’ve all seen the 300 Not On 100 ride and the famous maple syrup shots.
I’m not kidding, as a fuel source, it’s incredible. If you look at what’s in a gel or even fake maple syrup there’s a litany of ingredients which is just disgusting. Maple syrup is one pure thing. The mineral and caloric profile is actually what you want to fuel a ride.
Going into your ninth professional season, how has your role changed throughout your career?
It’s just a matter of earning more respect rather than just sort of fledgling in the middle of the peloton you have an understood position in the peloton. Especially if you’re working for the likes of this team, it commands a great deal of respect. Every race is a fight. You have to get in the right position, the right spot, get the right jersey, if you earn a good reputation than respect is given. And I’m the frickin’ man, yo.
Do you think pro cyclists posting their ride data on Strava has changed the game?
It’s the nature of the evolution of the sport. For one, cycling is very humanizing. Anybody can go suffer. If you like football, you’re probably never going to know what it’s like to get hit by a 350-pound linebacker. I don’t think many linebackers weigh 350 pounds but still it’s very humanizing. The development of cycling is considerably more transparent. With the advent of social media to know where somebody is at any given moment opens up the transparency and the fun and the humanizing nature of the sport.
How’s camp going?
Very well. It’s not specific for training because we have the team presentation… [Interrupted by Moreno Moser and both begin shouting in Italian, then Basso motions to Moser slicing his throat.]
That’s why they call you Ivan the Terrible?
Ya. Let’s get back to the real interview.
It’s not easy to train well with the jet lag and traveling so we try to just ride the bike. We have fantastic roads and country here for riding and finding our form and we go back to Europe after and start again.
How does riding in Malibu compare to Tuscany?
Here is good but we only have a short time here with a lot of things to do like the team presentation and interviews so it’s not easy to adjust.
You’re a veteran of the sport now but at what moment in your life did you realize that professional cycling is what you wanted to do?
When I was 16 or 17 years old I felt like my future was on the bike. Sometimes you don’t have to feel it. It’s the other people pushing you to do cycling because they see that you are good. There was no one particular moment, it takes a lot of feedback to know you are becoming a good rider.
How has your role changed throughout your career?
It doesn’t change because I have to win all the time. I am not the teacher for the team. I am a rider. Of course the older rider tries to look like the veteran but the intelligent rider doesn’t have to say, “do this, this and that.” Just keep it to yourself. If a rider has to ask what to do all the time, in my experience, they won’t become a good rider because they don’t use their head. The smart rider just looks all the time and learns.
But surely the younger guys on the team see you as a mentor.
Yeah, yeah. But you don’t have to be like a school. When I ride, they watch and try to get something good out of it.
What is your goal for this season?
Giro. Giro. Giro. The last time somebody won the Giro for the third time was in 1954.
What does it take to win the Giro d’ Italia and where do you get your inspiration?
You have to do something every single day that will contribute to the win. The difference between first and second is only a few seconds. You have to think about it everyday and work specifically for it. The inspiration comes from looking up and seeing all pink. All pink, all the time.
What is the hardest race you’ve ever done?
Every race. Because sometimes you forget what happened before and what’s harder is still coming.
Tell us about Il Borgo, your new blueberry farm.
My grandfather had a blueberry farm many years ago. Life is changing and now I have the land to do that and I’ll start it again. In the future I’ll live on the farm.
What is your favorite beer?
Special thanks to Bill Rudell and Cannondale for this incredible opportunity and endless hospitality. Cannondale seems to have a great 2014 season ahead of them.