RIDER OF THE WEEK – Ted King
Ted King, also known as the King of Style, graduated college in 2005 with an economics degree, and then turned his career to pro cycling (thank god for that!). He rode for Priority Health and Bissel Pro Cycling before joining Cervèlo Test Team in 2009 and making his European debut. He’s currently living in Girona, Spain, where he’s drinking coffee, riding his bike and punishing team mates for wearing ankle socks. He is also regarded as one of the most thoughtful and intelligent riders in the peloton. Make sure you have a look at his blog, and especially the post ‘For Dad’. As part of our ‘Meet the Riders’ series, Ted has been kind enough to answer our mix of set questions and questions you wanted us to ask.
-What got you interested in cycling and when did you start?My older brother, Robbie, initially got me into cycling, but it took a while. After he went away to prep school and stumbled upon cycling, he raced fairly consistently for two years or more before I found any interest in it. After dabbling in road racing, he brought a mountain bike home from school one summer and then after borrowing that, I was hooked. So there’s my progression into bike racing: recreational mountain biking, mountain bike racing, recreational road riding for mountain bike training, then finally road racing. I didn’t do my first road race until I was 19 or 20.
-What have you sacrificed for cycling?Ha! My best answer is “If you only knew…” Probably my second best answer is “Everything.” When cyclists are emotionally down, we often commiserate together about this one. I think it’s enormously different for guys who are traveling across an ocean to race their bikes; among that crowd, we give up seeing family and friends; this is time in my life when my friends are getting married and having children so that’s a hard thing to miss being part of. You give up any sense of normalcy – you don’t go to the movies, you don’t drive a car, you don’t speak your own language, you don’t use your own currency, even trips to the grocery store can be a headache-induced adventure. We give up a lot of fun – go to bed early, no partying, no drinking – all the mischievous things that people my age are engrossed in so that basically we live the life of a monk.That all being said, I love what I’m doing right now and really wouldn’t change it for anything. My philosophy is that life is an adventure. This is one fascinating chapter of my life and I’m really embracing it to the fullest. I have the benefit of living in a great town with a lot of other cycling friends from around the world, so that helps quite a bit. I really can’t imagine what it was like fifteen or twenty years ago when forerunning guys came across the Atlantic and lived in a French closet not speaking a lick of the language, hating life, all in the name of racing a bike…
-Do you look up to anyone? Who, why?I do, but not to any extreme. Take George Hincapie, for example. He’s a neighbor and training partner of mine, so as an American myself, he’s a great guy to look up to. Among other reasons, he’s had a very successful and lengthy career, he has prospered in this tough racing environment, he’s seen in a highly esteemed regard throughout the world, blah blah blah the list goes on and on. So for sure I admire him and would be pleased to have a career vaguely similarly to his, but it’s not like I’m emulating his every move to ensure that happens.
-What would a perfect 2010 season be for you?Great question, but I prefer to play my cards close to my chest. That way if things don’t unfold the way I would like (or if they unexpectedly blow up in my face), I’m not letting those around me down.
-What 3 things make you proud to be a cyclist?Uno. As an athletic kid growing up, I always dreamed of being a professional hockey player. I was skating from the age of two and by the age of twelve I was playing hockey year round – fall and winter is the regular season, spring has a league of it’s own, and summer is full of extremely rigorous hockey camps. I retired that dream around the age of seventeen and found cycling just a few years afterwards. To cut to the chase here, just being a professional athlete is a pretty awesome feather in my cap.Dos. I’m proud to be among this new generation of clean cyclists. There are clearly still people being popped periodically for doping, but by in large it’s a cleaner sport with a more level playing field (that’s an ironic thing to say since we race up viscously steep mountains, but you get the point). I think this generation will be remembered admirably in years to come.Tres. Success in this whacky business of professional cycling really says a lot about the cyclist as a person. You need a concrete mental fortitude continually telling yourself that you can succeed beyond all odds. You need the hardheaded personality that wills you to go outside and slog through countless hours despite the wind, snow, rain, hail all brutalizing your body. You need a mental stamina to keep pushing well beyond you feel your body should have said stop. Yup, just being professional at this level is an enormous accomplishment.
-How is it different living in Girona?See above, the questions about sacrifice. It’s just an entirely different story living overseas while racing your bike, as opposed to living and racing in your home country. If nothing else, it certainly adds to the adventure of it all.Oh, not to mention the difference in racing. I often say that racing in Europe is that much longer, that much more difficult, and that much faster that it’s virtually a different sport. A 60 kilometer crit is not exactly comparable to a 200km mountainous road race.
-Do you have a significant other? How does the lifestyle of a cyclist affect relationships?Nope. Single as it comes. Why, you know anyone in the market?
-How is it being in Cervèlo? Do you get a chance to get to know everyone?This team really is a great atmosphere for me to start my European career. Being that the Cervelo TestTeam itself began in my first year in Europe was perfect because there were no preconceptions and everyone was basically seen in the same light. At camp, the directors really stressed that we ride as a full team every single day, which is rare among pro teams this large. But since camp is generally the only time all twenty-five riders are in the same place, it’s a great way to meet your team.Since my specialties are diversified on the bike, I’m pretty sure that last season I was the first guy on the team to race with everyone – the climbers, the sprinters, the Classics team, and everyone else. So yes, I did get a chance to get to know everyone, staff included.
-How do you relax after a particularly hard race?The physical demands of racing here are obvious. What is often discounted are the mental requirements. The mental fortitude needed to be switchedON for five or six nonstop hours – fighting tooth and nail for position, dodging traffic islands and other miscellaneous obstacles, racing your brains out – are enough to make a mere mortal crack. What I’m alluding to here is that when you’ve finished a particularly tough race, you’re so drained both physically and mentally that you mechanically do things out of habit. Shower, grab a bite to eat, get a massage, go to dinner… and get yourself horizontal as much as you can between activities. Rinse, rest, repeat.
- If you could invite 5 people to a dinner party (dead, alive, or fictitious) who would they be?In no particular order: Anthony Bourdain, Steve Jobs, Will Ferrell, Barack Obama, and Jesus.