At age 30, American Ted King will finally make his debut in the Tour de France, lining up at the start in Corsica for the 100th edition of the race as one of eight riders who will work to help Peter Sagan repeat as winner of the race's green jersey for the points classification.
It is a long awaited debut for the Cannondale rider, who rode his first Grand Tour, the 2009 Giro d'Italia, with the Cervelo Test Team, but has not been chosen for any Grand Tours since joining the Italian team in 2011.
"Naturally, I'm really excited," King told Cyclingnews. "In the past 24 hours [since the announcement] I've gotten a huge outpouring of support - over 1,000 messages between Twitter, Facebook, texts, calls and emails. It's nothing short of flattering."
King said he knew he was getting close to making the cut when he was still on the long list of 10 riders last week, but finally got the word that he was on the team on Monday, when the directeurs finalized the roster.
"It's exciting, but the race is still 10 days away, and there is a lot of work to be done before then. In some ways it's business as usual in terms of training, eating, and recovering, just like preparing for any race, but there is also a lot of demand from the media and other obligations."
Once in Corsica next Wednesday, King and his teammates will unite with a sole purpose, and that is getting Peter Sagan into the green jersey and keeping him there.
"We've had a lot of success racing together," King said of Sagan. "We have a successful, winning program designed exclusively to support him."
In his third season racing alongside the Slovakian sensation, King has become an important key to his success. He was part of Sagan's three stage wins and overall victory in the Giro di Sardegna in 2011, and has been by his side through all but two of his 10 Tour of California stage wins, and during his Classics podium romp this year.
A tireless worker, King can be seen patrolling the front of the race in the critical first 10 kilometers, carefully checking the composition of any breakaway that might try to go clear and pulling back any threatening moves. Once a suitable mix of riders goes up the road, he is frequently called upon to tap out a brisk tempo for hours to make sure the breakaway can be pulled back in time for Sagan to launch his sprint.
The main difference between Cannondale and other sprinters' teams, like Omega Pharma-Quickstep, working for Mark Cavendish, Lotto-Belisol for Andre Greipel or Argos-Shimano working for Marcel Kittel, is that Sagan doesn't require a classic lead-out train, King said.
"Sagan is a crafty and intelligent rider. He relies more on his strength and savvy in a sprint, and he used it to great success in his first Tour de France."
It's easy to forget that Sagan made his own debut at the Tour de France only last year, especially with his three stage wins and his utterly dominating performance in the points competition - he won by 141 points over Greipel. King expects that he will be called upon to work harder and later into the stages than he has in the other races he's done this year with Sagan.
King says he's as ready as he has ever been for this Tour de France, physically, but having never been on the race he has only a vague notion of the enormity of the circus he's about to perform in.
"Having done two Giros, I know what to expect physically to get through a three-week race, but as far as the other aspects, I'm going to go into it with an open mind."
King can count on the support of his family, who are currently looking into travel to France despite the fact that his father, also called Ted, had a stroke ten years ago and his mobility issues make travel difficult. "Travel isn't easy for him, but they're huge supporters of mine, and I'm sure they'll want to be there to see me race as a Tour rookie."
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