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'Cross, a criterium and MTB race for Liquigas-Cannondale pro
September is a very good time of year for US professional Ted King. The 29-year-old from Brentwood, New Hampshire, wrapped up his 2012 racing obligations to Italian ProTeam Liquigas-Cannondale earlier this month at the WorldTour races in Québec and Montreal, and now he's capping off his season with a few choice events near home.
"This is the fun time of year after the road racing season ends," he told Cyclingnews Saturday while driving through the Green Mountains to a cyclo-cross race in Vermont. "Both last year and this year the season ended at Montreal, so it's a bit early to be hanging up the bike for the next two months straight. As a result, being in New England with a really good cyclo-cross scene, here I am kind of milking fitness for another few weeks."
King recently signed on for at least one more year with Liquigas-Cannondale – although the Italian team will likely have a different title sponsor next season. And so with his 2013 ride secured, King has scheduled his own eclectic mix of races to wind things down at the end of the year, starting with some cyclo-cross at home in New England.
"It's something I don't take seriously at all," he said. "I go out and have a good time and very undeftly go over the barriers."
Undeftly or not, King finished 13th both days at the Green Mountain Cyclo-cross Weekend in Williston, Vermont, the first round of the UCI-ranked Verge New England Cyclo-cross Series. Next he plans on traveling to the Las Vegas desert for Interbike and CrossVegas on Sept. 19. It's the first UCI C1-ranked cyclo-cross race of the year in the US and should bring out most of this country's heavy hitters.
"At which point I'm pretty certain the UCI points I earned this year will have expired," King said. "So I'm pretty sure I'll be starting in the caboose area of the race. I'll probably be tail gunning."
King's last race on the road will come the following weekend when he competes in the TD Bank Mayor's Cup Criterium in Boston on Sept. 22. The race is the last event of USA Cycling National Criterium Calendar and will provide King with a chance to race in front of his hometown crowd.
"The agreement that the UCI and USA Cycling have is that we can do these NCC races," he said. "So that will be fun. It will be good to have a lot of friends and family out and to go head-to-head against folks I've been racing with and against over the years. I'm excited for that."
But King says he saved the best race for last. "The following weekend I will bypass racing Gloucester and instead race the Vermont 50 mountain bike race, where, I should point out, I'm going to be defending my title – high, high stakes mountain bike racing."
Changes in the "family"
Despite sticking with the same team for another year, King will have to prepare for some key changes in important areas once his off-season ends in earnest. Liquigas-Cannondale will be managed by a new company for 2013 and will likely have a new title sponsor.
Brixia Sport will manage the team next season, taking over from Liquigas Sport, which ran things since the team's inception in 2004. Longtime manager Roberto Amadio will remain, as will most of the 2012 roster, including Ivan Basso, Peter Sagan, Moreno Moser, Elia Viviani and Damiano Caruso, but high-profile team leader Vincenzo Nibali will leave for Astana.
The 27-year-old Sicilian has ridden for Liquigas since 2006 and has worked his way into the position of team leader for the Grand Tours. He won the Vuelta in 2010 and finished third at the Tour de France this year. King said it's too early to tell how losing Nibali will affect the team, but he suspects the dynamics and goals won't change all that much.
"What Liquigas has done really well is develop these really young riders coming up through the Italian ranks," he said. "Like Nibali has grown into a Grand Tour contender and Grand Tour winner. Moreno Moser, just a 21-year-old kid now, he's won his first race this year, and he was second last week at the WorldTour race in Montreal.
"I mean we still have Peter [Sagan], who's just a phenom and a great guy to be working for," King continued. "Ivan [Basso] is certainly the heart of the team, and he's going to be going for Grand Tours as much as ever. So I don't necessarily see a lot of changes coming down the line, which works out well when you see the success of the team."
The change that will likely affect King most directly, however, is the loss of teammate Timmy Duggan, the 2012 US national champion who signed with Spidertech p/b C10 for next season. Duggan and King were the first two Americans to sign with Liquigas-Cannondale, joining the squad in 2011 and becoming quick friends over the past two years.
"Going into the Liquigas team he and I were very good acquaintances," King said. "But two years later, having spent as much time as I have with him and really getting to know him – you know he'll say it as much as I will – we're truly best friends in every sense of the word. So it will be tough not to have him on the team and as a roommate week in and week out."
Now Duggan will lead the Canadian-based Spidertech Pro Continental squad on its quest to reach ProTeam status. King said his friend Duggan is an experienced hand at riding teams to the next level and should be a perfect fit for the aspiring team.
"It probably caught a lot of people off guard, with the success he's had this year," King said of his friend Duggan's move to the Pro Continental team. "But he's a product of the Garmin and Slipstream programs – I think he was the longest-running rider on that program – so he's seen the full evolution from the 5280 days straight through to the ProTour. And everything I hear, you know it's all hearsay until it actually comes to fruition, but I hear that's what Spidertech is really trying to do."
Even if it's without the US compatriot who has been there since the beginning, King said he's already excited to tackle his third season on the foreign team. He gets by with his growing knowledge of Italian, which he refers to as "functional fluency," and he says he's happy within the family atmosphere fostered by the Italian culture.
"It's part of the adventure," he said. "Racing bikes is certainly a part of it, but the whole cultural experience of being overseas and just how ingrained you are in the culture is a big part of it. So it's cool to have something out of the American and out of the Anglo-Saxon box."
Fall means back to school
But until the 2013 season starts, King will be hanging out in the US box long enough to soak up the fun and reinvigorate his love of the sport. He spent the weekend of the Green Mountain races in Middlebury, Vermont, where he went to college and first got involved in cycling. In the morning before the race he shared coffee and war stories with the current era of cyclists who ride for his former college team.
"Collegiate cycling was my intro to the sport," he said. "I wasn't racing before college. It's just really cool to see the enthusiasm and the vibrancy still there in a really small liberal arts school."
The enthusiasm and vibrancy are still clearly apparent in King's own approach to cycling, which he views as an ongoing adventure. "I'm doing a lot of traveling to get around to all these things," he said. "But it's just an absolute blast. Temperature's right, weather's right. I'm going to races that I get to pick and choose that I really want to do. It's just awesome."