"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
Those immortal words of the fictional Michael Corleone in Godfather III may be ringing true this week for Mike Sayers, the former BMC and USA Cycling team director who left the sport at the end of last season but is back in the team car this week with Israel Cycling Academy at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
Sponsorship obligations left the team shorthanded for the US 2.HC race, and Sayers had a previous relationship with team mechanic Jost Zevnik, who used to work with Sayers on the USAC U23 team. Zevnik reached out to Sayers about a month ago, and the deal was done.
"It really worked out well for both parties," Sayers said. "It's really great to be back on the scene and see everybody. I haven't seen them all year, so I come in with some fresh energy.
"The riders have been really great. Very gracious," Sayers said. "It's not easy when a director they don't know comes in. So it's been a really amazing experience. I think the team has a really unique model and I think they have a lot to offer."
Team manager Ran Margaliot said Sayers brings a lot to the table for the Pro Continental team's US efforts.
"He's a local guy who knows everyone on the race," Margaliot said. "We are fortunate to have him here with us. He's been a great help. He's a great motivator and he's been a pleasure to work with. I hope it's a start. We'll see.
"For us, it's a big asset," Margaliot said. "We are coming from Europe, where it's a different kind of racing. We don't know all the American teams, so it's great for us, and he definitely knows his job."
Sayers rode his final season as a professional in 2008 with BMC, then jumped into the director's seat with the US WorldTour team through 2012. He moved to USA Cycling and ran the U23 program for four years through last season. Now the 47-year-old is running a brick-and-mortar coaching business in Sacramento, but he was available when Cycling Academy made the call.
"The vibe here is always good," Sayers said. "It's just great to see everybody. This was my home for a long time, and there are a lot of people here who are like family. It really is like family and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel when I got back, but it was very comfortable right from the get go."
So does this mean Sayers is ready to hop back into cycling full time?
"Hard to say," Sayers said. "Right now we're just going week by week. I've got responsibilities at home I need to take care of. I've opened a new business and that's the priority right now. Clearly, it was good for me to come back this week and just kind of see how I felt about it."
Sayers left the USA Cycling program when the two parties couldn't reach an agreement to move forward, and for Sayers part of the problem was the amount of time the job required him to spend away from his family.
"Probably 50 to 60 per cent of my time was in Europe," he said. "Because you're managing more than 30 athletes at any given time, it's really 24-7, which was not a problem. I was happy to do it, and not only that but handling the elite guys at the Olympics and World Championships. Those were highlights of my career, and I miss it a lot.
"But at some point, you know cycling can be finicky at times, and we just couldn't come to an agreement with USA Cycling, and I had to figure something else out," he said. "I'm pretty happy. I'm pretty happy, and if for some other reason I can do more races in the future, I'm definitely open to the possibility.
"I have talked to a few teams, and it has to work around the schedule," Sayers said. "It's something we'd need to work out, but again, I think if both parties have an open mind you never know what can happen."
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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