He was one of the peloton's workers - a "blue collar, lunch pail" kind of rider - in his own words. And now Mike Sayers, who spent his decade-long career as a consummate team player and lead-out man, hangs up his wheels and heads for a new and different adventure. Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo spoke with the California native about his history and his future.
It was BMC's Mike Sayers last race in his home state as a professional, and as usual he was on the attack. In early September at the Giro di San Francisco, Sayers made it into one breakaway which didn't quite work. After a ten-lap rest, he was back up the road again, this time in what turned out to be the winning move. He wasn't able to translate his uncanny ability to read a race and time his moves into a victory, but the peloton's bulldog held true to his ethos of riding as hard as he can every time he goes into a race.
However, the human body can only take that kind of punishment for so long, and Sayers knew his time was running out. He decided to make the Tour of Missouri in mid-September his last professional road race after a dozen years in the peloton. "I'm starting to feel it," Sayers says as he packs up his bike and carefully stowed it in the trunk of his car.
"It's not the training itself - I don't mind doing the hours and the efforts. It's taking me longer to recover, and it's getting difficult for me to do the big stage races," he admits.
After two seasons with BMC, a team whose main focus is falling increasingly on stage races such as Tour of California, Missouri and European races like the Tour de Suisse, Sayers knew his place on the team would be harder and harder to keep. "I get three days in [to a stage race] and I'm not recovering like I need to. Then a mountain stage comes and that's already not my forte. It was beginning to be a struggle, and the direction of the team is going toward being a ProTour and big stage race team. I knew deep down I would have a hard time making the cut next year, and I wanted to go out on my own terms."
He's a man of great pride and dedication to the team - a man who has spent his career sacrificing himself, giving every joule of energy his body could manage in order to help his teammates win while only rarely raising his own arms in victory. "I've always accepted that responsibility, and tried to ride as hard as I could all the time," he explains. "I think I can count on one hand the number of times I went to a race and didn't ride flat out. I may have been good, I may have been bad, but it didn't matter, I just tried to ride hard every race because that's what I'm supposed to do.
After giving so much, the last thing he would have wanted to hear is that he wasn't needed. "BMC is a great team - it's going to be in the Tour someday; they have big plans. I wanted to go out on my own terms rather than have them sit me down and say they couldn't have me back. Not that they were going to do that - I don't know - but I didn't want to hear that."
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