Miss any of the great race in the Golden State? Here’s the highlight reel.
By Daniel McMahon
Ted King, a native of New Hampshire, turned pro in 2006 and has raced with several teams, notably Cervélo TestTeam and Liquigas-Cannondale (now Cannondale Pro Cycling). A domestique for some of the world’s best riders, he finished third at the 2011 U.S.A. pro national championships. King graduated from Middlebury College in 2005 with a degree in economics.
DM: Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is racing the Giro d’Italia, and he’s one of two big favorites to win, the other being Britain’s Bradley Wiggins. You were Nibali’s teammate on Liquigas-Cannondale for two seasons. What can you tell us about Nibali that we maybe don’t know already?
TK: Nibali is quiet. He’s not a big showman and doesn’t have a massive ego. I figure anyone who’s won a grand tour could jump up a rung in the ego department, but Vincenzo is still himself, drives a modest car, and just married his longtime girlfriend. Granted, I was only teammates with him for two seasons, but he’s a good, respectful guy.
DM: Much has been made of Nibali’s superb descending skills, which could be critical in this year’s Giro. Have you ever ridden on Nibali’s wheel on a descent?
TK: Everyone wants stories! They want a savage, epic tale of this or that adventure. Descending stories along those lines generally don’t end well, because someone typically ends up in the rail guard. Suffice it to say, Vincenzo goes downhill like a rock in water. When we’re training we might tear along a proper climb and then rip a descent to keep the pace high. But then, roads aren’t closed to traffic, so showing your grit on a descent in training is fairly dumb. In races, sure he rips descents, but I never watched him win a race that way. It’s just a matter of letting it all hang out. He who picks the best line and touches the brakes least wins.
Sure, bike-handling skills are 50 percent of the equation, but guts and an element of daredevilness seem to go further.
DM: Nibali’s one of two top favorites to win the Giro. How can he do that?
TK: I’m paying attention to the Giro with only a half ear to the ground. I know Nibali and Wiggo are the two overall favorites. I think Ryder [Hesjedal] has been quiet this spring, but I know he wants to prove that he’s not a one-hit wonder of the grand tours. The Italians take that race very, very seriously, so for him to have won on foreign grounds in 2012 is nothing short of awesome.
I don’t know the stages well enough, but for sure that’s where Nibali has the upper hand. Italians know those roads inside out and have honed racing that style of the sinuous, exceptionally small roads their entire careers. Pardon the phrase, but Nibali can cut a line like a hot knife through butter on the shorter and steeper climbs and descents, and that might be the crux of the race if it truly comes down to a race between him and Wiggo.
DM: You raced two Giri. What are your most vivid memories?
TK: My first Giro, in 2009, was trial by fire. I remember this as the beginning of the grand-tour arms race. It was as if every grand tour and tour director was trying to outdo the others, and outdo themselves in terms of difficulty and going over the top. Not to mention it was the 100th anniversary of the race, so [director Angelo] Zomegnan went out of his way to make it spectacular. The 60-plus-kilometer time trial, the criterium of Milanese railroad tracks, the back-to-back-to-back 240-plus-kilometer stages. It was something special. And our Cervélo TestTeam put on a show and won five stages, and eventually had Carlos [Sastre] third overall. So we were really pleased with the month of May.
In 2010 I was considerably more fit and more prepared mentally. It was, therefore, this 2010 edition I learned that no matter how ready you are, grand tours are always frigging hard! We didn’t quite have the success of the year before, but anytime you start and anytime you finish a grand tour, you’re stoked.
DM: How is it to be riding California this year versus the Giro?
TK: I get this question all the time and it honestly surprises me. I’m American, and the Tour of California is therefore a home race. The Giro d’Italia is an Italian home race for all the Italians. Half our riders are Italian, so it’s no wonder that I’m in America and they’re in Italy.
Having said that, I’m pumped. I love returning Stateside with a number on my back. Big beds, massive roads, super-enthusiastic crowds. I get to use my own currency and language! We had some massive success last year at California, with Peter [Sagan] chalking up five wins, a second place, and the sprinter’s jersey—not to mention being the story of the week—so we have high hopes for the 2013 race too.
Don’t Miss the Free Download: Cannondale Gazette for the 2013 Tour of California
Ted King online: iamtedking.com
On Twitter: @iamtedking