Ted King is a 27 year old New Hampshire native riding for the Cervelo Test Team. We exchanged what must have seemed (to him) an endless series of emails as he was racing at the Etoile de Bessèges.
Photos courtesy York Wilson.
schmalz Last year was your first year in the European peloton with the Cervelo TestTeam, we you at all prepared for the amount of bedazzled clothing you encountered last year?
King In a word: no. In America, I figured sequins and beaded clothing was reserved for the same adolescent female crowd that uses "LOL" and test faces, like ;) and :P
Boy was I in for a rude awakening.
schmalz Correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the impression that whenever Heinrich Haussler enters a room, there's a techno soundtrack booming in the background, and he strides upon a carpet of rhinestones—it that accurate?
King Naw, that's inaccurate. Techno is mostly reserved for my new Austrian teammate, Stefan. I think João paid note to that in a past interview with you. In fact I don't know what sort of music Heino likes.
Heinrich formerly wore a fair amount of Ed-F*#king-Bedazzled-Hardy but I think my passive attitude towards Mr. Hardy and Clothier changed his mislead ways. For example, I couldn't help it but I used to either vomit or go into sudden seizures whenever I'd see Ed Hardy clothing. Anyway, he took my hint and ran with it.
schmalz So now that João's on the team, I believe that will make two Americans on the Cervelo Test Team (America does claim you, João). How will this upcoming season be different with another American on the team?
King João was trying to tell me that he's American the other day as well. What, you give the guy an American passport, he lives in NYC for a quarter century, let him practically run the publishing industry for the biggest bicycle magazine in America, and suddenly he's American?!
No, just kidding. I will point out, however, that his race license is Portuguese (I think) and his name on his shoes are accompanied by the Portuguese flag. Plus the name-badge on his bike shows a Portuguese flag.
Speaking of which, allow me to hype the iamnotTedKing name badge found here.
100% of profits go to a brain injury center in my home state of New Hampshire, the Krempels Center. It's an extraordinarily worthwhile charity, after seeing what my Dad's gone through with an extremely unexpected stroke seven years ago.
Soooooo, umm, what was the question? Oh right, João. We were teammates at Bissell in 2008 and seriously got along great then. We've definitely remained friends and in touch with each other since then, so I think this year will go swimmingly having another "American" on the team.
schmalz Feel free to hype away—that sounds like a great cause, and everyone loves stickers. How did you come to be the only American on Cervelo Test Team last year?
King That's a good question. Probably a better person to ask is the general manager who does the hiring.
After a successful 2008, I caught the attention of the right people. As late summer rolled around I found myself on the phone with Gerard Vroomen who explained to me what the soon-to-be Cervelo TestTeam was all about. I logged one season on the US espoir national team in 2005 and I knew I wanted to get back to Europe, making the decision to join CTT a virtual no-brainer.
schmalz You're at the Etoile de Bessèges right now, and I'm assuming that the race is being held without radios, if so, how are the riders faring? Are you all going hungry as you cannot locate your feeds? Are you directionlessly bouncing off one another like misguided lottery ping pong balls? Do some of you get lost?
King Thankfully, cyclists spend an exorbitant amount of time staring at our computer screens (when off the bike, obviously). The modern social media craze sweeping the world hasn't escaped cyclists, so when on the bike and away from our computers, we resort to Twitter on our phones. The 140-or-fewer rule is actually quite an efficient mode of communication. You just need to be sure you're following your director.
Aaaaaand that's a lie. To answer your question, radios are not yet outlawed. At least not in this race.
schmalz Is every cyclist on Twitter or is that just a hurtful generalization?
King I'm not hurt by it, so I'll let it fly. Obviously the cool ones are. As for everyone else, I'll leave it up to you to ask them on Facebook.
schmalz In the past, American riders overseas often felt isolated, but with the advent of the internet, that isolation might not be as pronounced—how hard is it to be away from friends and family?
Are you able to stay abreast of the latest developments in American pop culture? Do you know who Snookie is?
King Look, I love the life I'm living. A bachelor, professional cyclist racing my bike all throughout Europe. That said, I'm an American through and through! I proudly sport my Captain America boxer-briefs while I gnosh BigMacs in my jacked up Ford F350.
That last sentence is a slight exaggeration, but for sure I stay in touch with my family, friends, and most of what's going on stateside. NYTimes.com and my local newspaper's website are visited daily. Inevitably, staying apprised with people back home, I was bound to find out Snooki is. The Jay Walking segment on Leno with the Jersey Shore Battle is priceless!
schmalz Where is your European base? And isn't it hard parking a F350 there?
King I happily call Girona, Spain my European home. It's a pretty stellar place to rest and recover between races or really yank it in training. What I tell people is that it has everything I'd need in a home base: good terrain, good weather, good people, and a fun town.
As for the Ford pickup, yeah, I'm sure you'd end up parking on top of more things than you'd park next to. A scooter is a more apt mode of transport. Or bike.
schmalz Last year, you participated in and finished your first Grand Tour (the Giro)—how did that experience change you?
King For the better. Is that a short enough answer?
Seriously though, everyone says you take an enormous physiological step forward when you finish a three-week race. For me though, I think the biggest thing it did was pad my confidence. For some quick background there, I broke my arm at the Tour of California and didn't get over to Europe until early April. Thrown right in the deep end, I did two small one day races and then directly to all of Ardennes week, straight to Romandie, then a few short days off before I went to start my first grand tour. Carlos was very focused at the Giro, so obviously we were going to send a strong team. Exciting doesn't even begin to describe it, especially in the manner we did. A handful of noteworthy stage wins, especially towards the end of the race, and when the dust settled, Carlos is 3rd on GC. Awesome.
schmalz How nerve wracking is it to do a TTT at a Grand Tour?
King If one is being on a first date and ten is diffusing a bomb while blindfolded, I'd say it's about a five. Ehh, maybe four.
schmalz How were the fans at the Giro—were you surrounded by throngs of adoring ladies, or were you stuck signing autographs for 45 year old guys shoved into stinky team kit from the 80s?
King Ha, you're obviously attuned to homogeneous demographic that describes most of the European cycling fan base. Despite the unseasonably warm temperatures in Italy last May, there was a shortage of bikinis in my opinion. That said, it was a much more, let's say, colorful crowd than at a typical Belgian race, where 45 year old dudes gnawing on cigarettes or pipes rule the day. The Italians are also extremely animated and enthusiastic which is pretty fantastic. Yes, I just said fantastic.
schmalz Since it's relatively close to the beginning of the year, I'm going to ask a few "best of 2010" questions—firstly what was your best "on the bus" moment of 2010 with Cervelo Test Team teammates?
King You mean 2009? We have had like 2 hours together on the bus this year, if that.
schmalz OK, let's just pretend that I'm not an idiot for a second and go with 2009.
King I'll kindly spare our reading audience from the standard dick and fart jokes. Don't be upset by that; we are on the road with eight male riders at a time and generally an equal number of male staff.
One highlight that comes to mind is watching how our Italian bus driver extraordinaire, Francesco, operates on his home soil in his home grand tour. Honking little ditties at traffic and the crowd, singing Springsteen, and emphatically yelling out the window are standard while rallying the bus over hair-raising mountain roads. Lord only knows what he does when we're all off the bus. Fran is hilarious.
schmalz It's nice that you think that highly of our readers, and there are some less classy people (me) whose entire literary canon is dick and fart jokes. Can you describe what happened in today's (February 6th) stage at the Etoile de Bessèges?
King Southern France in late winter features weather that is predictably unpredictable. The first three days were never horrible, but overcast, single digits (Celsius... I'm sooo Euro), precipitation ranging from a deluge to spitting rain, and wind have been the order of the week.
Also the first three days have gone down in standard French fashion, where, as I like to say, "the French are trying to out-French each other." By that I mean for the first hour or two of the race are a non-stop flurry of attacks, mostly by the French, because they simply can't stand the sight of another Frenchman up the road - even if it's their own teammate. I kid you not.
Following this order of operations, around minute 90 when everyone is pretty gassed, a pair of riders slowly yet casually sneaks off the front and they are the breakaway of the day. Days one, two, and three: bingo, that's how it's gone down.
This being the first race of my season, I'm primarily here to build fitness for races later this spring. That being said, if the opportunity present itself, I'll go on the attack looking for a result depending on the situation. I was motivated to be aggressive today and really give it a go, so around kilometer five I attacked and drew out a huge group, by French standards, of eleven riders. I figured this was doomed from it's inception being way too large, but when I turned around and saw a quickly growing gap, it was head-down-full-gas for the next half hour.
Blah blah blah, fast forward a bit, we were eventually caught around kilometer 70 by a large group of the peloton that split on the 15km KOM. Cervelo was sitting pretty though because we had five riders in the front, two to drive the pace away from the now-dropped yellow jersey, and three for the sprint.
Again, fast forward now to the final 300 meters, it's completely strung out, we have our three guys in the top ten, we hit a roundabout and the course marshall indicates we can go either way. Some guys go left, others go right, and all three CTT riders who go left are almost immediately slowed to a halt by a crowd of fans and barriers, since we're on the wrong side of said barriers. Race over.
Wow, that was a long story on a Blackberry.
schmalz Well described. That's an interesting observation about the French, do other nationalities have particular styles of racing? Are the Italians flamboyant? Are the Spanish laconic? Do the British ride on the wrong side of the road?
King Nah, not really. The French style of racing is the easiest to characterize.
schmalz Was anyone bent out of shape after the "roundabout affair" (adding the word "affair" makes everything sound more important, doesn't it?) at the Etoile today? Or did you just shrug it off and chalk it up to racing?
King Basically people shrug it off. Sure I'm pissed, but we just keep it in perspective. I think that more to do with it being February. If this is a big mid-summer race, plenty of people would be putting up a stink.
schmalz Speaking of mid-summer races, are you going to try and weasel your way onto the CTT Tour team? How does one go about that?
King I don't think it's even possible to sneak one's way onto a Tour team. How do you actually earn a spot there? Winning every race all spring is a great start. Second to that, racing consistently well, factoring into the races—be it in breakaway, being on the podium or helping CTT reach the podium, etc— are all worthy recommendations. I'm sure it's understood by most of you, but the Tour is our Superbowl, Stanley Cup, and World Series all in one. It's the big show and we all want to be there.