LAST YEAR SCOTT SAVORY didn’t start racing till June, which is about mid-season for most of us roadies. Yet he managed to still do about 20 races. What’s more, the then unattached rider got seven wins and a dozen or so top 5s.
This year, the Guyana native wants to begin racing a lot earlier, and he’ll be doing so with his new team, Jonathan Adler Racing.
This week I caught up with the 19-year-old to find out how he earned so many good results, get his tips on winning park races, and ask him about racing in Guyana.
How long did you live in Guyana?
I was born and raised in the Alberttown area of Georgetown, the capital city of Guyana. I have lived in the US since April 2008. I was brought here because at a young age I lost my mom to cancer, and my grandparents wanted to look over us. Also, the opportunities here in the States compared to Guyana are far greater. Lots more to do, such as further your education and career. I live in Ozone Park, in Queens.
How did you get into cycling?
Well, as a very young boy I had a little blue BMX with rubber wheels, and my dad would take me into the park to ride or just into the yard. A few times he put me at the back door of the house to wait for him to get whatever he had to go back in to get. One time I was waiting for him to go to the park, and the door was open and I rode the bike down the steps and thought I’d made it, only to be stopped by the gate! [Laughs]
But that was just childhood stuff. I guess the real reason goes back to when I was in high school. The major sport I was participating in at the time was table tennis. After school, we would go to my friend’s house and do small races, like a corner drag, and most of the guys were older than I was, and I would win most of them. I guess I was naturally faster than most, or at least that bunch. I was about 13 then. In that bunch, I had one friend who had just started to race in the park close to my house, and one day he asked me if I wanted to go and race. At the time that he asked I didn’t have a bike. I was borrowing my friends’ bikes. So he said talk to the family and see if I could get my hands on one.
So I went home and called my grandma, who lived here in the USA, and she said, yeah, she’ll send the money to buy whatever bike I wanted, and gear. Meanwhile, my dad was arguing with me, trying to get me to make up my mind, because I was doing track and field for school, tennis seriously, and was playing basketball at night, and on weekends playing soccer. I just love sports. I’m a natural at most, so I said I wanna do cycling. I always had a passion for it.
My dad raced in his 20s also, and he had a Panasonic racer with the shifters on the frame and everything—a real dinosaur! Prehistoric compared to the technology now. He is a pretty tall guy, so I couldn’t ride it sitting on the saddle, so what I would do is, when he took me to work, sometimes I would take the bike near something high, like a rock in the yard of his company’s building, and stand on it, climb onto the bike, and sit on the frame and stretch to touch the pedals and ride off and do a few laps around the compound. And to stop I would have to slowly ride up to that same rock, or something high, and stop and put my foot really quickly on it or else I would fall over. My feet couldn’t touch the ground. [Laughs] Also, at home I would brace the bike against a wall and climb up with a chair and just lean on the wall an pedal backward until he screamed at me for probably shifting while not going forward and knotting the chain up.
So back to the story. I bought a BMX from a friend. It was chrome with fenders, red aluminum wheels, and gears, which I liked but at the time didn’t know gears were weighty for racing and that if I had a single-speed it would have been better, but I liked it. Wasn’t exactly a race bike, but my dad stripped it of the excess parts to lighten it up, and I was ready to go get clipless pedals, tights, a helmet, jersey, and was off to the park Saturday morning with no knowledge whatsoever about cycling racing, didn’t know about drafting, holding my line, aerodynamics. I was just there to have fun. But it so happened that I won the race, my first, and from then on I was hooked.
I dropped table tennis and started cycling, learned a lot very quickly. It was summer, and there was a cycling coaching program conducted by Hassan Mohammed, Guyana’s No. 1 cycling coach. It was held in the park from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. He did his best to teach the basics: pedaling technique, proper fit on the bike, drafting, motor pacing, sprinting, and lots more. It was a real learning experience, especially because most of the senior cyclists would be there training also. So they would be constantly giving us pointers. Also, I learned a lot, because at the road races the juniors would normally race among the seniors, but placed differently unless we got top 10. So we would get their prizes and ours!
Eventually I got a coach and started to train with the big boys, went on to win the most outstanding rider of the year in the 12-to-14 age discipline. Moved up to a road bike a few years later and did two tours in 2007, one to Trinidad and Tobago, to ride the West Indies versus the rest of the world track cycling championships, then to the junior Caribbean road cycling championships, where I got an unlucky fifth because of a crash and very bad weather conditions. Stopped cycling that same year because I had two bad crashes, one in a road race. Kid swerved into me, hooked my handlebars, pulled the bike from out under me; we were doing about 30 mph. It was raining, and I slid across the road into a truck, hit my back really hard on the wheel of the vehicle.
Took me a while to get back on the bike but finally did and was having a great season till, once again, when in the last stage of the annual five-stage race across Guyana, I fell going downhill and injured my wrist badly and had to go to the hospital to have the doctors put it in a cast, and that was the end of my year. After that, I just traveled the country a little and had fun before arriving here in the USA, in 2008, to resume cycling in 2009, when I had a wonderful season.
I really don’t know. Maybe it’s the pain, suffering, the addiction to the sweet taste of victory, speed, hard work invested, and ability to reap the benefits, staying in shape, the respect you earn, the relief of stress on a long Sunday ride with the guys, meeting new faces, seeing new places. I really don’t know. It’s just love for the sport I guess.
Cyclist have gotta be mad, crazy, call it whatever, but most of the time you are feeling some sort of pain and the sport itself has so many risk factors. The only other time it feels really good is after winning a race. Which everyone loves. It’s just love. Love for this oh so sweet sport!
And no other sport, because cycling is just simply the best. It’s what I find most pleasuring to me. I do enjoy other sports very much, but it just isn’t the same.
What qualities do you possess that make you a good cyclist?
I don’t know. I don’t wanna judge myself and say I’m this and I’m that, but I guess it’s just a positive attitude toward everything. My dad always said this when I was much younger: “If you’re gonna do something, do it well, put 100 percent, or don’t do it at all.” Also, perseverance, the ability to suffer and endure, will power, I assume the wanting to win and do well always, every time I get to that start line I wanna be the first guy to cross it at the end.
When the cycling season starts and I’m cycling I’m a very disciplined cyclist and will do whatever it takes to sacrifice myself for the team to win. Every time I swing my legs over my bike it feels like I’m in a different world. I enjoy cycling a lot, just being out there all day long with good friends training, not because we have to but want to.
How do you like racing in New York City?
I love the NYC cycling scene. There are a lot more races here than where I’m from, so your form is always up there. Also, many more cyclists, so many cool people to meet and ride with, and I love the races here as they suit my style of riding. Nice big peloton to coast in, whereas in the Caribbean it’s a lot fewer cyclists, so drafting is limited, and there races are like some European races with attack after attack until everyone is destroyed.
In Guyana there only a few different routes to go cycling. Here in NYC I’ve been on some pretty sweet rides. I love that one hour out of the city and over the George Washington Bridge it’s so different: the air is so much cleaner and the atmosphere is lovely. I always enjoy a ride over the GW, whether it’s to Nyack or the Orchards.
What changes would you like to see?
Pushing the weekend races to a later time, maybe an hour or two forward. [Laughs] It would mean more time to sleep and to recoup after FBF a little.
You rode unattached last season. Now you’ve joined Jonathan Adler Racing. What attracted you to Adler?
Well, to tell the truth, I really didn’t know much about the team and didn’t notice them much at the races, but during the off season I was contacted by Matt Cutler, one of the cyclists on that team, and he asked me if I had chosen a team to ride for next year, 2010, and if not would I consider Adler. So I did some research and I liked what I saw. I met with a few riders from the team and they all seemed like a great bunch of guys and a good team to be on.
What I like about Adler most is their teamwork and communication skills. In New York City there are a lot of teams that I think lack that. Also, factually speaking, I’m still a Cat. 4 but will be a 3 soon. But that this team saw my talent and is a 1-2-3 team and considered me to ride for them, well, I’m proud of that. I look forward to sharing a great season with the Adlers this year.
And then there are the very pro kits! And the Kissena track hour record holder, Ken Harris—there is a lot to learn from this guy. Adler offers a lot. I think I just like the team itself. Great place for me to build a foundation and a lot of cool guys to do it with. Teamwork, organization, and communication is what this team has.
What will you bring to the team?
I shall bring it all! Speed is what Adler doesn’t have, and hopefully I have it. [Laughs] With style and some Caribbean flavor.
Besides Adler, which teams impress you most?
I would say Mengoni and Champion System. Mengoni mostly because of their good teamwork, tactics, organization. Really good sprinters. Can’t wait to go up against Amaury Perez this year.
What’s your favorite New York City race?
Prospect Park. I did very well at Floyd in ’09 and also had great results in Prospect. Prospect Park because I love the course; it is a very easy race for me. One little climb and most of the time you descend, so I can recover well and keep the heart rate low. Also, a lot of the races come down to a bunch sprint, which I love. The rush of the field and every man trying to get to the front, bumping and barging to get up the little incline first before that finish. Most go too early, so with my good timing I almost always win. Think I lost only two bunch sprints in Prospect.
I am kind of a nut when it comes to sprinting. It’s what I love. The only training exercise I love. And only thing I want come race time. Race starts and I can’t wait for the finish, those last 1,000 meters. Unbelievable feeling. I’ll be walking in the subway and pretend it’s a sprint, dodging people and looking for small openings to pass. [Laughs]
I’ll just stand and go into a small daydream pretending that I’m in a pro race in the sprint and I can feel the speed, see the line, pass my opponents, give a few elbows, knees, maybe a Robbie McEwen head butt and win it.
How does one win a race in Prospect Park?
I would say the best way to win in Prospect is to stay up front in the peloton, maybe eight to 20 riders from the front. Stay as attentive as possible, and make sure no breaks go, and if they do, make sure you are on it. Start making you’re move in the final two laps, not too early. I prefer to make mine on the final downhill where you will use much less energy to get to the front, then when I get there, I start looking for the sprinters, the fast guys. If you can’t identify them, look for the guy who’s looking the most pro—pedaling style flawless, looks in good form to take you through and to the front of the pack.
Now you’re down on the flat section and in the final 1,000 meters, the 1-km marker. This is when the race really begins—and my favorite part. This is where the bumping and barging starts, elbows being stuck here and there trying to maintain speed, not get caught behind anyone slow. Be very focused, look for the moves going on the right or left, if a train is going on either side try to get on it. It’s a little tricky to follow the right wheels.
So now it’s the final 250 meters. This is where I wait until the inexperienced guys on the front or the guys who moved a little too early explode and provide just enough slipstream for me to wait until the final moment when it feels just right so that I can find that little opening in the field and use the draft to slingshot my way through to the front to win and throw my hands in the air.
It’s all about positioning and timing, picking the right wheels, and moving when the time feels right to you. If you have a long sprint, then go early; if not, wait until you can taste that line—and move! Give it all you’ve got. With me, I normally win races in bunch finishes, but if I were to win in PP via a breakaway, I think I would move in three or two to go, just after the downhill where it’s flat, so it’s harder for most to follow, then a little climb and downhill to recover.
I have not raced in Central Park.
What about winning at Floyd Bennett Field?
As for Floyd, it’s all about sheltering and reserving energy for the breaks or sprints. It’s a little more aggressive out there. Many more attacks and it’s flat, and do I have to mention the wind factor? [Laughs] I like to relax the first few laps. Nothing really goes off the front because everyone is so fresh. Start to move up and be attentive again. Most of my races here were won sprinting, but if I were to make a move I think it would be done on the first turn, into the headwind first stretch, cross wind second stretch, most times, then tail wind to recover, and one more stretch of headwind to motor to your victory.
If it comes down to a sprint, I would advise making your move to get to the front really early. Positioning at FBF is hard, so maybe three laps to go start moving up and in the final find your wheel and DO NOT make that last turn on the INSIDE. It cost me a few races and near crashes to figure out that the center of the pack is preferred. In this race I wanna make that last turn in about 10 to 15 places back, because the headwind destroys most of the guys on the front and it’s a nice wide finish, so I’ll have space to go up the outside, inside, or middle, depending on how the field has split once the sprint has started. And I just concentrate on that line and go full throttle all the way for the win.
What off-the-bike training do you do?
I do gym, some swimming. I don’t like to run but occasionally I do. Also, a friend of mine gave me a yoga DVD; he said it would really build core strength. I started it and it really isn’t so bad, so on the really bad weather days I’ll do a little yoga at home.
What are you riding?
A Scott Addict R3 in 2009, but for the new team going to be on Spooky Bikes, racing Easton EC90 aero tubbies and training on Bontrager race wheels.
You must be one of the tallest riders in the New York area.
I’m 6-3 and normally weigh 165 during the racing season.
What are your race-day rituals?
I try to stay off my feet as much as I can. This is normally how my day goes if I’m not working and racing in the afternoon. Sleep as late as possible to get maximum rest, get up, have a good breakfast. It would be lunchtime by now so maybe some spaghetti. I know it’s a slow card but I just love spaghetti on race day. I’ll go easy on the sauce, maybe just some Prego. Relax a little, then make sure the bike is in perfect racing condition, racing wheels are on, she is all wiped down and clean, chain well lubed, etc. I’ll air my race tires up just before I leave the house. I’ll lay out everything on the bed to make sure all is well, do some stretches, place my feet against the wall in an upward form so that the blood can run back to my heart, hit the shower, start getting ready. If I’m sore from races earlier or training in the week, I’ll soak in some cold water in the tub for a while to freshen up the legs.
When I’m out of the shower and I’m putting on lotion, I try to give myself a mini massage. I’ll eat a Clif Bar on the ride to the race, and eat a GU maybe 30 minutes into the ride, then every 15 minutes after. I have favorite socks for racing also: the tall, white Champion-branded socks. I try to shave the day before races.
In the days before I do a lot of prepping also, like two days before my race or a day, I go to an Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue called Bravos to get pasta. I’ll have the pasta with the meat or vodka sauce and spicy chicken and meatballs. I have a playlist that I listen to while working on my bike and heading to races. And just before I leave the house I stand in front of the mirror and give myself a little pep talk to get into the zone. Also, I pray.
What do you think about as you’re racing?
A lot goes through my mind when I’m racing—a little too much. I’ll be thinking about my HR, technique, positioning, making sure I’m anticipating all the moves, and try to stay aware of everything that is going on. I’ll be worrying about the sprinters, attacks, everything. But the thing with me is, when a race gets underway, I can’t wait for those last 1,000 meters—that’s what I really think about. In those last kilometers, all I can think about is winning, crossing that finish line first. In that instant I think I’m so focused I go into a weird state. It’s like I have a lot of time to think, but sometimes it feels like everything is happening so fast and then it’s over. I find that singing a tune in your head works and keeps me calm throughout the race and keeps my mind off most of the stuff at least for a while.
What differences did you notice going from racing as a Cat. 5 to racing with the Cat. 4s?
It was kind of a big change. In the 5s the field is normally small, and when anything goes, such as attacks, everyone would look at me to bridge the gaps. Guess because they knew I wanted to win so I had to work. No one really to shelter from, and it all just came down to me making the sprint and winning it.
Then, with the 4s, races go much faster, and you have to be very attentive because a lot of attacks go often, but it’s a way bigger field of riders, especially at Floyd Bennett. You HR is always high in the 4s and it feels like a real race compared to the 5s. My first time in a 3-4 race I took the sprint prize and blew the field away for third. Two guys had gotten away in the final two laps.
You’re close to upgrading to a Cat. 3. What challenges do your foresee there?
There will be a lot of changes. The competition is going to get way tougher. Instead of me coming home with two or three fast guys, there will be about 10 guys with the same job that I have. Sprinters! So I’ll have to be on form, but I like that. I want competition. I want lots of it. There are a few guys in NYC right now who I’m just curious if I’m faster than. I can’t wait to go head to head against them.
But in the 1-2-3s it’s going to be a totally different ball game. Now is when teamwork comes into play. I think in the 4s and 5s you can get away without a team, but for the 1-2-3s you need a team to win. Cycling is a team sport, and you’re only as good as your team. So I’m putting my eggs in Adler’s basket. And I’m hoping they hatch! [Laughs]
Who is your favorite pro cyclist of all time?
Mario Cipollini. If we are talking about today, it’s hard for me to decide for sprinters. I can’t decide. Cavendish has too much media attention and not enough competition, but this year he will. Contador is clearly my fave to win the Tour and Robbie McEwen is still a champ in my books. But there is some real nice talent to be showcased this year for sprinting.
Who are some riders you admire?
I would say my older friend Ruben Osbourne. The guy is probably in his late 50s and does a lot of the century rides that a small group of us do, and for an older guy he can take a beating and push through the pain. He can really suffer. He got third overall at Floyd Bennett Field last year in the 5s. But I don’t think it’s that. It’s just the kindness of his heart toward others, very kind, understanding, and generous. A real gentleman and friend. Don’t get me wrong: There many other cyclists I admire in NYC, but I just think this is a guy to mention.
And Shaun Fowler. He is my supervisor, and I don’t think anyone has done as much as this guy has done for me. He does not race but rides all the time.
Outside cycling, who do you look up to?
They are a few guys, but it would be best for me to say my father. He has been influential to me throughout my life. I’m a simple human; I live life and I love living it. I believe in karma, so I try to do right by all and just to be a happy soul. My cup is always half full.
If you could win any race in the world, which would it be?
Definitely worlds. A one-day race for all the marbles, bragging rights for life, to bear those beautiful colors of the rainbow on my sleeve. Decked out in all white. To defeat the best of the best in a one-on-one battle to the finish.
Do you think about going pro one day?
I do think a lot about going pro. I think about the ins and outs of it. We all know cyclists don’t make a lot of money going pro. And then you ride 10 years and then you’re off the team. Then what? Work again? But I think about as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a chance to do what I love. Whatever the pay is, it really doesn’t matter. To see the world in all of its beautiful colors on my bike would be a dream come true. Thoughts of going pro cross my mind way too often, and I have spoken to many people about how to go about it. Going pro as a cyclist is way harder than many other sports, but I’ll do my best, and if it’s meant to be it will be.
What’s your diet like?
Last year I ate whatever and didn’t really care. I was 179 around Christmas. In the off season I was talking to a friend, and he gave me some good advice. All I did is cut back on a few foods like regular milk and started to use almond milk. Things like cheese I stayed away from, anything fatty, no junk food. I started to carry lunch to work, all home-cooked food. Backed off soda a lot. Stopped snacking at work; we would eat a lot of cookies and junk. Instead I started to pack snacks like a banana, an apple, a sandwich. Or on most days I’ll just get a bag of trail mix and snack on that. And I’m down to 171 now, and it isn’t even summer, and I haven’t been training as I should, so I would guess I have another four or five pounds to lose.
What advice would you give to somebody who’s new to bike racing?
Train hard! When I was a Cat. 5, I was doing century rides every Wednesday, riding back and forth to races to get maximum miles, and so forth. I was training with Cat. 1 and Cat. 2 riders. Get yourself involved with a team or someone experienced to pass along their knowledge. In the Cat. 5 races I noticed a lot of riders who didn’t know the basics, like how to draft, sprint, and such. With guidance all that can be resolved. Like something as small as getting a bike fit. Train, invest time in your bike. Hard work will pay off.
What are your tips for doing a great sprint?
I think keys to doing a great sprint is positioning, technique, timing, and, obviously, speed and power to finish. Technique is needed also. Sprinting is something everyone should practice. Not everyone is good at it, but in many races you will have to know how to sprint. Not many may be good at it, but if you work on it enough, improvement will come about, and it will pay off.
Timing is all about waiting for the right moment to make your move, draft for as long as possible, and try and make sure you are in a position where there is room to move. You don’t wanna be caught on the front 300 meters ahead unless you’ve got quite a kick. With me, I’ve got a lot of acceleration, so I’ll wait until maybe 150 to 200 meters to go. Speed and power. Good luck developing that! [Laughs]
What do you admire in other cyclists? And despise?
In a bike racer or any person, kindness and a pure heart, personality. As a racer, I try to lend a helping hand if I can to whoever I can, whether it’s just giving the little advice that I can offer, or stopping on your ride to see if the cyclist on the side of the road is okay. Cycling is fun, and I love to be around fun guys.
Now what I despise is that cyclist who passes along without a wave of the arm or the guys in a race who don’t care whether or not they cause an accident just for the win. Just jerks!
Which cycling Web sites do you go to?
VeloNews, Versus, Universal Sports, NY Velocity, BikeReg, Yahoo Sports, SBS Cycling—and now CyclingReporter! [Laughs]
Thanks for the utterly shameless plug. Who are your closest cycling friends?
Geron Williams, Enzo Matthews, Daniel Ranchurejee, Christopher Holder. These are some of the guys I grew up with and raced with in Guyana. That’s the junior team, and we still communicate. But here in NYC, Ruben Osbourne, Adam and Joshua Alexander, my fellow Guyanese cyclists, and the Adlers. There a lot more guys I can mention because here it’s not like I have a specific training partner; I train with everyone, whoever wants to ride and is available.
How many days do you plan to race this season?
I really can’t answer that as I’m not sure. I’ll target a lot of the big ones and do most of the NYC races.
Which races would you most like to win this year?
I’m still new to the NYC racing, so I haven’t studied the race calendar, but from the few I’ve done in the past season, I think I would love to win the Chris Thater Memorial.
Are you aiming to upgrade this season?
I want to make it to Cat. 2, at least if I have the opportunity and the points. And if I’m doing well I will definitely go to Cat. 1.
What’s the secret to your success?
I don’t know. I would say hard work and training. I do a lot of research on nutrition and try to get advice from others, a lot of reading. But I think it’s just hard work on the bike putting in the hours, listening to my body and experience.
One last thing. I heard you have a nickname. Care to share?
Here in the US I have earned one for my infamous flaming-arrow salute done at FBF, which got my win and me DQ’d. So it evolved from a few names and in the end the guys at work started calling me Cupid. I’m not too happy with it! [Laughs] It is funny, but I wanna earn a stronger and more powerful name but, yeah, that’s it so far. Well, a lot of guys who know me as a sprinter just call me Sprinta.
Thanks, Scott. Have a great season.
Thank you. You, too!
Stop daydreaming in the subway about becoming a winning sprinter. Become one. Get a pro’s tips here.