After five seasons with the team run by Jonathan Vaughters, Danny Pate made a surprise switch by going across to Garmin's rivals, HTC-Highroad. The American said he has no regrets about his time with Garmin but that it was time for a change.
I had a lot of good experiences [with Garmin] and I've grown as a rider," Pate told Cyclingnews at the recent HTC-Highroad camp in Northern California. "I've gone through so many years there, I've also grown as a person over that time. All the experiences you pass through over that time shapes who you are. I don't ever regret being there, but I felt like I needed different scenery, different people around me."
After two years of racing the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France plus Paris-Nice leading up to them, and following his 2009 break-through result with third overall in the Critérium International, Pate's start to the 2010 season was vastly different. After beginning the year working for sprinter Tyler Farrar at the Tours of Qatar and Oman, Pate returned for a disappointing Critérium International before being plunged into the Classics: Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne.
"That was one of my reasons for changing; some of it was on my side, some of it was on the people working with me," Pate said, adding that not being put in the races he felt he was best suited for was unmotivating. "Some of the forethought of where I should be or what I was doing wasn't there, so I didn't end up at some of the races I thought I should have been at."
It wasn't just being left off all of the Grand Tour teams that led to the decision, he explained. "It was the whole thought process in general with my schedule and the way I was dealt with. I don't think a lot of it was personal. I think sometimes relationships change... people and organisations grow apart and it really just wasn't working for me anymore. I needed a change."
Different colours, similar roles
Pate may be going across to a rival team, but he doesn't expect there to be big differences between how the two teams race. "I think the two teams have similar strenghts, and that's why they have a bit of a rivalry going on. Garmin for the most part did a good job of utilising my strengths. They do a lot of the same things, so I thought it would be a good fit in that regard.
"I think I'll have more opportunities in this team, but some of it is not about being given opporunities, it's about making them for yourself and being focused enough to seize the opportunity when you get it. That all comes down to motivation and the people you have around you keeping you motivated and focused. I feel like I'm going in that direction by making the change."
For the upcoming season, Pate said his main objective is to get back on track in time trials. "I felt the past couple years I haven't been at the best I could do there, so that will be one of my main focuses.
"Also, doing everything the team asks me. Coming from a team that has a great sprinter to another team wth a great sprinter, you're going to be riding a lot of sprints. I can [do lead outs], it's something I learned to do when I was doing criteriums in the US. I won't be right in front of Mark, but hopefully a few guys out."
Pate may find himself banging elbows with his former teammates in the final kilometres of the Tour de France stages, if everything works out the way he'd like, but he said that won't be a problem.
"I think it will be fine. If I'd have left on different terms with those guys it'd be harder, but I'm still friends with Julian [Dean] and Tyler [Farrar]... when guys say they have a lot of respect for each other alot of times they're just saying it for professional reasons, but I mean it - they're still my friends.
"Sometimes things happen on the bike that aren't friendly because it's racing, but I think everyone - that's something about cycling at the highest level. Things happen in the race and that's where it ends. After the race is over, everyone realises that it's not personal. That's how racing is done sometimes, it's a little physical at times either on accident or on purpose. Most of the time after the race is over the animosity is over.
Other than making the Tour squad, Pate said he would like to focus on being competitive in 2.HC stage races like the Critérium International and Tour of California. "I'd love to focus on races like that and target the time trial. I've got a bit of a speciality in that, and if I hone it I can do much better."
The new Quiznos Pro Challenge might also become a target, he said. "I wasn't that interested in it before, but it starts in my home town, so now I kind of want to do it. But I also want to do the Vuelta [a España], and I don't think you can do both."