Cannondale Pro Cycling rider Ted King is back on the bike this week at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah following his disappointing removal from his first appearance in the Tour de France in July. King failed to make the time cut during the Tour's stage four team time trial as he struggled with a separated shoulder suffered in a crash in the confusing finale of stage 1.
King told Cyclingnews this week that the Utah race will be a good test of his form and fitness before he ramps up the end of his season at the USA Pro Challenge, the Tour of Alberta, the one-day WorldTour races in Quebec and then, hopefully, the world championships in Italy.
"The injury is doing very well," King said after stage 1 in Utah on Tuesday. "I'm plateauing a little bit. The first few weeks coming back through training were productive and with incremental improvements over time. But when you have a broken bone it's going to take months to be fully healed. So I'm basically 90 to 98 percent back but not quite 100.
"It's fun to catch up with the guys and to be pedaling with a little bit more vigor than I do when training," he said of his return to the peloton.
After 10 years of plying his trade and moving through the cycling ranks, King earned the ultimate prize for a domestique with a start in the Tour de France to support team leader Peter Sagan's quest to win his second green jersey. But when the Orica-GreenEdge bus wedged itself under the stage 1 finish line banner and organizers moved the finale – then moved it back to the original spot once the bus was freed – the peloton paid the price. Multiple crashes occurred, one including the 30-year-old from New Hampshire.
King struggled on despite his injuries, but the pace during the team time trial was just too much, and he dropped out of the Cannondale paceline within the first kilometer, eventually finishing seven seconds outside the time limit and being cut from the race just as his family was arriving in France to watch him compete. King's popularity in the States and the seemingly merciless decision from the Tour's commissars generated a "flattering" show of support back home.
"It really tugged on the emotions," he said of the outpouring of support from fans and fellow riders. "I really wasn't expecting it, especially in the 24 hours after it was happening. It was sort of through the power of social media. I got a lot of messages on Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. It made it all the more bittersweet I guess."
But King said that once he was back in the States and into his recovery, putting the disappointment of being cut so early from his first Tour de France into perspective and finding new motivation was not difficult.
"The first 24 hours were difficult," King said. "But when you look at the global picture – I mean, for one I literally opened up the New York Times and there's war in Egypt and terrible things happening in the world – I was like, 'Eh, this is really tough, I worked 10 years of my life to get where I am and the rug got yanked out from under me, but it all depends on how you look at it.'
"It's all perspective," King said. "And if this means I can't ride my bike in France for a few weeks, there's always 2014 on the horizon."
Season finale at road Worlds?
But before King can focus on 2014, he'll have another opportunity to support Sagan at the USA Pro Challenge and the three Canadian races. His final goal of the season will be to represent the US at the world championships road race, where, King said, he would likely take up a support role for riders like Tejay van Garderen (BMC) or Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), who finished 10th overall at the Tour de France this year.
"I lived close to the course when I was living in Lucca," King said of the world championships. "And I think guys like Tejay will be gunning for it for sure. I don't know the roster, maybe Talansky, too. But we'll have a very strong team. I'll be there, much like 2010, as a worker, for sure."
King is also in the final year of his contract with Cannondale, so he wouldn't mind finding some results for himself along the way to worlds.
"It's funny how it works," King said. "I've never been one to be racing for results. That's just inevitably the way being a domestique works. You lay a lot on the line for someone else's benefit. But, yeah, it would be nice get some results of my own heading into next season."