Former US pro rider Burke Swindlehurst will direct the Hagens Berman domestic elite amateur team for the 2013 season, the Pacific Northwest-based squad announced this week.
The latest job is one of several ways the former Continental pro, who retired from Bissell Pro Cycling after the 2009 season, is staying connected with cycling and the pro peloton. Swindlehurst also promotes the Crusher in the Tushar, a 70-mile trek over the dirt and gravel roads of Utah's Tushar Mountain Range. That non-sanctioned race has drawn top road, mountain bike and cyclo-cross pros – along with a hardy share of amateur and recreational riders – while growing steadily since Swindlehurst dreamed up the event in 2010.
Swindlehurst has worked as a course consultant for races and as a part-time director with the Champion System UCI Pro Continental team when the Chinese-registered squad races in the United States.
“Once you retire from professional cycling, people definitely come to you and say, 'Hey, would you be interested in doing this or that?' And I was certainly presented with a lot of unique and interesting opportunities,” Swindlehurst said. “But you kind of have to sit down and decide which one is going to resonate best and be the right fit for you. And for me, working with cycling teams is a pretty natural fit in terms of having the knowledge base and the experience.”
After leaving Bissell in 2009, Swindlehurst rode the 2010 season solo with his own collection of sponsors, but by 2011 he was out of racing completely and was beginning to forge his post-racing career. Aside from organizing his Utah race, he helped out with the Jamis-Sutter Home team early last year and picked up another gig helping Ed Beamon and Chris Wherry with the Champion System team at the big UCI stage races in Utah and Colorado.
When Hagens Berman called up in September looking to replace previous director Joe Holmes, the job seemed like a perfect fit for Swindlehurst, who said he had watched young Utah riders like Chase Pinkham and Robbie Squire rise through the ranks and enjoyed the experience of offering any mentorship he could provide.
“When [team manager Alan Schmitz] called me, I really liked his perspective and the way he approached me,” Swindlehurst said. “I wasn't expecting that phone call, and to get it and have someone from a development team call and ask if I'd be interested, I said, 'Yeah, I'm really interested. I'm glad you called.' It's a privilege to be involved with a team like this, that's been in it so long.”
Swindlehurst, who started the Tour of the Gila 16 times in his career and won the overall three times, was at the top Hagens Berman's list of candidates for the job. Swindlehurst may also hold a race record with 18 starts at the NRC Cascade Cycling Classic.
“When it comes to experienced riders in the US peloton, it doesn’t get any better than Burke,” Schmitz said. “He’s not only a great guy but has the patience needed to successfully work with development riders.”
The Hagens Berman Cycling Team is based in Seattle. The team's longtime title sponsor expanded its commitment to cycling this year by stepping up to support the Jamis-Sutter Home UCI Continental team. Team alumni include Tyler Farrar, Svein Tuft, Tom Peterson, Adrian Hedgyvary, Morgan Schmitt, Sam Johnson and Gabe Varela, who signed for US Continental squad Jamis/Hagens Berman this season.
“I'm really excited to work with a program that has a such a rich history of helping riders transition from the elite ranks to the professional,” Swindlehurst said. “That time in my own life is still very fresh in my mind and I remember how excited and eager I was to prove myself.”
The team will likely focus on top regional races and the USA Cycling National Race Calendar and National Criterium Calendar events. Swindlehurst will have his first chance to meet his new roster of riders when the new team gathers over the weekend in Seattle for a brief meet-and-greet. A longer training camp is scheduled for February.
“With the number of teams that have folded or had to diminish their resources this year, it certainly left the market open to get our hands on some pretty good talent,” Swindelhurst said. “I came into the game pretty late, but Alan has certainly done a great job of identifying riders. I have a lot of faith in Alan's abilities.”