Tyler Hamilton successfully completed his comeback to top flight racing on Sunday, winning the US Pro Championships. The win in Greenville was his first single day race victory since the 2003 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and signalled that he once again should not be discounted from the possible list of winners, even at the age of 37. Cyclingnews' Paul Verkuylen spoke to Hamilton about what his future holds.
After a turbulent comeback season in 2007, Hamilton decided to retire from cycling, not that anybody knew. There were no major announcements or farewell parties for the Colorado resident. Frustrated and demoralised by his experience at Team Tinkoff, he didn't see a future in cycling. Tinkoff had sidelined him from racing since May that year, and had no intention of racing him.
"If I didn't resign from the team they just wouldn't race me," Hamilton explained. "Sure enough Oleg Tinkov did it [not race me]. So come September I retired. Basically I didn't make a big announcement; I didn't feel I owed the media anything."
To Hamilton's amazement, controversial Rock Racing team owner, Michael Ball rang and convinced him to once again pick up the pieces and start racing again. Just three months after he retired in September, Hamilton was again on his bike training for the new season ahead. Fast forward nine months and Hamilton has two wins under his belt, the 2.HC ranked Tour of Qinghai Lake in China and the US professional road race, a race he has dreamt of winning many times.
"It is something that I have ridden a few times in my career and American cycling has progressed a lot. There are so many talented riders. Winning the championship means a lot more than it used to."
Hamilton didn't expect to win it this year though, seeing himself more as a support rider for his teammate Fred Rodriguez. "For me it's all about the team. A win for the team is a win for me. If I can help Freddy win then that would be great," he told Cyclingnews during the Tour of Qinghai Lake.
As it turned out, Hamilton was one of the riders who animated the race the most and once he made the final move, put in 100% effort to make it work, while Blake Caldwell was playing the team card for Garmin-Chipotle. His reward was a stars and stripes jersey to wear for the next 12 months.
Great Britain is the next stop for Hamilton, where he will ride the Tour of Great Britain with his Rock Racing team. It will mark his return to European racing, since being sidelined by Tinkoff last year.
Hamilton's career stalled in 2004 shortly after he took gold in the Athens Olympic Games time trial. His medal was then placed in doubt after he failed a blood test for blood doping. He was later exonerated when his B sample was deemed unusable as the Athens lab where it was stored had frozen the sample.
Read the full feature on Tyler Hamilton.