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2010 pro champion Ben King (RadioShack) reacts to his teammate Matthew Busche on the top step of the podium.
US rider talks USADA, anti-doping and the new generation
After an eventful year for him and his team, Ben King (RadioShack) is looking forward to calmer, more successful season in 2013. The former US road champion was hit by a car in June, and crashed a total of six times in an injury prone year but despite the upsets and the USADA investigation that affected his team, King believes that the team and the sport has turned a page.
“This season I trended with the rest of the team and had a lot of bad luck. I was hit by a car, I was sick but I was still able to do my job for the team in the races where it counted and when the team was counting on me,” King told Cyclingnews.
“One highlight was the Tour of Austria where we won the team GC, the overall, we won stages and had the best Austrian. We cleaned up there and as a domestique I had a lot of work to do but I pulled through.”
“I’m looking forward to improving a little bit more in 2013 and without any bad luck it could be a much better season for me. It’s going to be a big year so I’m putting a little bit more pressure on myself.”
One race King has his eye on is the Giro d’Italia. The American is yet to compete in a Grand Tour and with the Vuelta a Espana not until the tail-end of the year, he’s hoping for a shot at Italy’s major stage race. A ride in the Giro d'Italia as opposed to the Vuelta would allow King to structure his season well in advance without the pressure of any last-minute roster reshuffles that can often play out before the Vuelta.
“I’m hoping to get one of the Grand Tours in my legs. I think that’s the next step in my progression. I’d prefer to do the Giro but really it’s up to the team.”
King has remained relatively quiet on the issues that shadowed RadioShack this year. USADA’s investigation gutted America’s recent cycling past and forced Johan Bruyneel to leave the team under a cloud. King was brought to RadioShack by Bruyneel after serving his apprenticeship on Lance Armstrong’s Trek-Livestrong team. The team was also hit by Frank Schleck’s positive doping test from the Tour.
"I don’t have anything original or constructive to say about the negative stories in cycling. Of course. I wasn't there then, so what can I say about it?”
“I've been in the ProTour for two years and racing internationally since 2006, and I've never seen anyone take an illegal performance enhancing substance. Clearly it still happens when a guy has nothing to lose and everything to gain, but in the current anti-doping environment they have to sneak around like cheating sleaze bags.”
“How can they live like that? As far as what was or wasn't done before I entered the scene, I cannot comment. I'm still grateful for things like an encouraging word in the peloton from [Christian] Vande Velde or [Tom] Danielson. Levi [Leipheimer] was a grateful team leader. Lance has invested a lot in my career through Trek Livestrong where I learned to live a balanced professional lifestyle and strive for excellence. I'm grateful for things like that but am sad that we are dealing with the consequences of things that happened before us.”
With several sponsors leaving the sport, including Nissan, King believes that the riders and the sport have a duty to uphold.
“We owe more to our sponsors and supporters than to dwell on the negative history. Fans of cycling owe more to us who are working hard at training camp and freezing on long rides all winter than to dwell on what’s already done. Even now guys like Tim Johnson and Jeremy Powers, battling on icy cyclo-cross courses, are overshadowed by it. There are a lot more current, positive, and inspiring human interest stories in cycling than there are guys who doped back then. If they doped, they should pay the price, not us. I'm excited for 2013. Team Radioshack Nissan Trek camp is going great. The atmosphere is motivating and progressive. Onward!”