American Ted King will ride his fourth season with the Cannondale Pro Cycling team next year in support of leaders like Peter Sagan, Ivan Basso and Moreno Moser. The 30-year-old from New Hampshire is the only US rider on the Italian-based outfit's recently announced 27-man roster.
The journeyman domestique got his first start at the Tour de France in 2013 but was time cut from the race after losing pace with his team early in the 25km stage 4 team time trial. He had been fighting through injuries suffered after crashing in the chaotic stage 1 finale, but he was outside the time limit by seven seconds on the fourth day and was not allowed to start the next stage.
King went home and recovered from his injuries in time to help his team bring home eight more wins at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, the USA Pro Challenge, the Tour of Alberta and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal, one of two end-of-the-season WorldTour races in Quebec, Canada. The team grabbed 36 wins in all during 2013, with Sagan responsible for 22. King was present for 15 of those.
King started his pro career in 2006 with three years at the UCI Continental level before moving to cycling's second division with the Cervelo Test Team for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He signed with the Liquigas-Cannondale WorldTour team in 2011 and has been with the Italian program ever since. Fellow American and 2012 US Professional road race champion Timmy Duggan was also on the team in 2011 and 2012 before moving to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff for the 2013 season.
Cyclingnews caught up with King briefly via email last week as he was traveling to Italy for the first team meeting leading into the 2014 season.
Cyclingnews: Roberto Amadio, Cannondale Pro Cycling's general manager, recently said your future with the team was never in question, but at the Tour of Alberta in September you said you hadn't heard from the team yet about 2014. Did you ever have any doubts you'd be back with Cannondale next year?
King: I knew I had a place at Cannondale even if my pen hadn't hit the paper yet. You look at the market this year and everyone was signing contracts late in the game. More than that, there are still some of our nation's best as well as the sport's top names without a ride next year. It's coming on four years for me with this organization, and I've carved out a really nice home-base here. It's calming to have that sense of being acquainted and well adapted to your surroundings, especially when bouncing around the world racing on an intensely international circuit. I was highly confident that I would be back in this telltale green.
CN: It looks like an especially tough market for riders this year. Have you been touched by that, or have you witnessed any other riders affected by it?
King: I can't speak to the accuracy of the claim, but the rumor is 10 percent of the ProTour will be without a contract in 2014. I understand that there's constantly going to be an ebb and flow of roster spots with teams coming and going, expanding or contracting, one team joining another, and the whole lot; that's natural and part of the game. I have some very good friends and former teammates who have been hit hard with the current market, so that's been really tough to witness. I've helped out as best I can, but it's a cutthroat market so that goes only so far.
CN: Do you envision a program similar to what you did in 2013, with a mix of one-day Classics, stage races and North American UCI tours, or will there be some changes?
King: I'm headed to Italy as we speak for the first round of meetings, team building and some early season riding. I'll receive my full 2014 race program there. I can take an educated guess based on history at what my race calendar will look like, and yup, that's a very likely scenario. Hopefully something good there in July, too.
CN: How important is returning to the Tour de France given how it ended this year?
King: It goes without saying that I have unfinished business at the Tour. With very few guarantees in cycling, it's taken my lifetime in the sport to have made it to the Tour. But there's far more to be had. I am tremendously proud of how I raced and how I conducted myself despite the circumstances. This off season I've connected with lots of friends and fans and am floored with the reception I received. 2013 wasn't the Tour I hoped by any means, so to go back this upcoming season would mean a lot on a personal level.
CN: Sagan had 22 wins last season. Does riding for such a successful "favorite" add a lot of pressure for domestiques such as yourself?
King: Cycling is a self-fulfilling sport. You train more, you'll see better results. Train less, the opposite comes true. So sure, there's plenty of pressure already typically applied by your own conscience. You line up ready to race and have a job to do. Peter handles the pressure on his shoulders well and that trickles down to us. So from that self-fulfilling stance, you do work for Peter and you often see the result. Again, as a sport with few guarantees, working for some of the sport's best is very satisfying in that regard.
CN: How have you been keeping busy in the off season? Have you been taking advantage of USA Cycling's moratorium on enforcement of the "no-pro" rule to get in some mountain biking? How's the charity work coming?
King: The off season was busy as always. It's that entirely too brief chunk of time to catch up on all the fun shenanigans that are frowned upon the rest of the year. The biggest highlight was running an enormously successful Krempels King of the Road Challenge [KingChallenge.org]. Now in its third year, the event absolutely hit its stride and was just a smashing success. Plenty of travel throughout New England for the rest of the down months; a few grand fondos, hosting kids' cycling clinics, and a pair of mountain bike, umm … festivals is a better word than race. I took in some Red Sox playoff games, and I hosted a stunning cycling tour through Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties in Northern California. The emphasis there is on the cuisine with some amazing riding thrown into the mix to earn it day after day. Family time, friends and all the fun stuff filled in the rest. No rest for the weary!
CN: What's on the horizon for you, and when does training for next season start in earnest?
King: I start riding a bit in November, and now we have a training camp in Tuscany here in December. I'll be back stateside for the Christmas and New Years holidays and then a team launch in Southern California to chase some good weather before setting off to the European tundra late winter/early spring. Funny how the calendar has hardly technically hit winter but it's time to start rolling in earnest.