Young American in old Europe

An interview with Ian MacGregor, September 27, 2004

With the 2004 World Championships in Verona fast approaching, the American team roster was finalised a few days ago. One riders' name missing from the list, which a number of people assumed would be there, was American Under 23 champion Ian MacGregor of the TIAA-CREF/5280 team.

On September 19, at a time where the World's team roster selection was not yet known, Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner spoke with MacGregor at the Tour de Moselle espoir race in north-eastern France, and again after he heard the news of his omission.

20 year-old Ian MacGregor has had a long 2004 season. So I asked him for a wrap-up: "For me, this year started pretty early," he began.

"I was racing in February on the California circuit for the first time, which was a really good experience for me; I learned a lot. I did struggle a little bit with the pollution out in Woodland because I grew up in the mountains, so I'm used to fresh air. From there, I went to Georgia, where I had a hard time - mostly, I think, because I was really sick after Woodland and I'd taken a few days off the bike. But Jonathan [Vaughters, the team director - ed.] really wanted me to go to a big race to get the experience and the miles in my legs."

The coached proved right, as MacGregor later admits. "After that, I trained very hard, made some steady progress. I didn't always have results but I had some very good rides. When I went to the Nationals, Jonathan as well as myself had a lot of confidence in that I had amazing form, and if I played my cards right, we could make things go my way and make a really good result."

Asked whether he really did believe in being able to get the title at the time, MacGregor replied: "You know, Nationals wasn't really a focus of mine from the beginning of the year. It was a goal, but I wasn't trying to peak there. The timing just worked out. With my form coming around and the support of my entire team, TIAA-CREF, Jonathan really believed we could make something happen there for me. I have to thank the whole team, they did an amazing job. It was really great to see a bunch of 20, 21, 22 year olds racing unselfishly in a race like the Nationals - that can do so much for someone's career. Not that it changes everything, but it's really nice feeling and a good step."

MacGregor is now maintaining his good form now with the Espoir National team by racing in Europe at the Tour de Moselle and a one-day race in Italy on September 26. "I'm trying to ride consistently, ride well - basically ride as a good teammate. Not as a leader, because some of these guys know how the racing over here works and I am still new to that. The races in the U.S. are a lot different. So I'm just trying to learn as much and as quickly as I possibly can."

At the time of our meeting, MacGregor was still hoping to get selected for the World Championships, and although he was uncertain about it, he did have some plans ready: "I'll be in the best form I can come October 1st, and if I'm chosen to go to the World's, I'll do the best I can. But I have to be realistic about it. I'm pretty new to European racing; the World Championships are going to be yet another level above that. Therefore, I would have individual aspirations to do well there, but I'd probably put the team's best interests above that. If a rider like Saul Raisin, Tyler Farrar or Timmy Duggan [all selected in the five man U23 squad - ed.] is having a really good day, I'd have no problem giving it everything I have to put one of those guys in front in a position where they can make something happen."

After the selection was official, I asked him how it felt not being chosen. "Representing my country at the World Championships was something I was very excited about. However, it seems that not being on Noel's team [the U23 national team led by Noel Dejonckheere and based in Belgium - ed.] combined with my lack of experience were more important than the great rides I had in the US as well as at the Nationals. I know that I could have been a valuable asset to the team. It saddens me to have been left off a team with so much potential, but I wish the whole team the best of luck at World's this year!"

However, Ian's plans for next season put his career into a new perspective. "With team TIAA-CREF, we'll be doing a sort of split programme next year. We'll have one large domestic scene doing the pro races in Georgia, San Francisco, New York... But we'll also spend a little bit of time in Europe, maybe two trips of a month each, doing some international racing. That's where I hope to show Noel and everyone else that I should have been on the World's team with a great ride at the Tour of Flanders."

MacGregor is thrilled at the prospect of racing in Europe. "It's somewhat a different scene as what the U23 American riders are used to, it will be more Spain, France and Italy based. Jonathan Vaughters, our team director, raced there when he was a professional, that's where his connections are, where he knows how to race. Most of our team are good stage racers and better going uphill."

He is also very happy with his current team: "It would take something really drastic to make me sign somewhere else right now," he said.

"Jonathan has become not only a friend but someone who really helps me look out for my needs as an individual. He runs a great team with a great programme. Colby Pearce is great to have on the road, it's awesome to be able to ride with him. He's really willing to work for any one of us, even though he may be stronger. He teaches us a whole lot, not just on the bike. How to survive in hotels for the whole year, being away from home, how to call your girlfriend... All the little things you just have to learn somehow. The company TIAA-CREF also offers amazing support; we actually have close contact with a few of their employees who are interested in what we're doing, supportive and even patient."

About his long-term goals, the 20 year-old admits he "definitely want to race in the 'big leagues'.

"I still think that U.S. racing and the domestic scene has a lot to offer. I haven't won very many races there at all, so I don't think I can down-talk American racing. There are plenty of riders there that I consider almost idols of mine, that could drop me on any given day. So I don't have a right to downplay it at all. But my overall goal is to race in Europe in a top-level team, and see what I can do."

Other Talking Cycling Interviews

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