American Ted King has made a comfortable career for himself in professional cycling as a loyal and effective support rider. But the Liquigas-Cannondale man does not see the role of the domestique being changed by the UCI's system of choosing WorldTour teams based on the points accumulated by the riders.
Often finishing off the back or well out of the points, domestiques can have a difficult time demonstrating their value to a team come contract time, especially when a team's place in the WorldTour can be decided by a matter of four points.
While King lacks a single WorldTour point, he had a chance to shine at the US national championships, where he took third, and he has helped teammates like Peter Sagan rack up enough to ensure Liquigas-Cannondale's place in the WorldTour, and because of that he doesn't see the new points scheme devolving the sport into an every-man-for-himself endeavour.
"It's an interesting year with teams folding and merging, and there are a lot of dynamics in terms of the teams that still exist, but I don't foresee people changing the way they race," King told Cyclingnews during a visit to San Francisco. "If you're a second-tier rider trying to make it, that's going to affect things differently - [the points] are going to affect your salary, but I don't see the politics of racing changing."
Of course, King is in the midst of a two-year contract so he admits that he hasn't focused on the possibility of points impacting his ability to secure a job. "It's not something I'm stewing on. I'm a domestique, I'm a support rider. I'm not out there searching for points. Once I do that the whole scheme and how I race a bike is thrown in to the blender. I don't want to do that. I would rather show what I can do as a rider than go chasing points and messing up the politics of the team."
Yet King acknowledges that a rider's fortunes can change quickly. His fellow American Craig Lewis suffered a broken femur, and was just coming back when his HTC-Highroad team announced it would fold, making his search for a new team all the more difficult. King had his own serious crash in Philadelphia this summer, which ended his hopes of racing in the Tour de France.
In 2010, King's Cervélo team suddenly announced it would end, and while other riders were folded into the Garmin-Cervélo line-up, he had been fortunate enough to secure a contract with his Italian squad in advance. "Cervélo said they were pleased with my performance, and I was optimistic I'd be offered a contract there, but for the sake of your own career, you have to keep searching anyhow." When Cannondale stepped up its involvement with Liquigas it was seeking some American riders, and King was offered a contract prior to Cervélo's demise. "I was glad I had other options coming into the crux of contract season. When you see Cervélo fold at the 11th hour there were a lot of guys scrambling because they didn't know if the team would cease to exist or what."
No fixed address
Riding for an Italian team has had its challenges - the first, and most obvious, was the language barrier, but King is happy to report his Italian has gotten better after a year of practice. Floating between his Italian base, his parents' house in New England and staying with friends, King doesn't exactly have a fixed address. However, he has found a home on the Internet: having mastered social media first as a way to keep up with friends and family, he's become a popular online personality through his blog and Twitter persona, 'IAmTedKing'.
"It's evolved into something I really enjoy, but it's not something I planned," King said. "It's on a bigger scale [than updates for his family], but it's still an ongoing thought process in my head - what you read, that's what I'm thinking.
"I think it's great because cycling's unique in a ton of ways, and one is the interaction the riders can have with the public and with fans - you train on public roads - it works in collaboration with the openness in the sport, and opening up transparency - saying where I am, what I'm doing, where I'm meeting."
King said he is frequently invited to rides when he announces where he is on Twitter, and that he was able to meet up with a college friend who is now at Stanford University to ride with the collegiate team.
"I'm a huge proponent of collegiate cycling because that's where I got my start in the sport. There were 40 or so riders, a good pace, and amazing riding down in Palo Alto. I think the public nature of social media opens those doors rather than closing doors on privacy."
King will head next to Italy for the 2012 Liquigas-Cannondale team's first training camp, and there he will find out what his schedule will be for the year.
"I completed two Giros, and I'd be thrilled to go back and do some more Grand Tour racing. But as an American, I can see myself racing the Tour of California while the Giro's going on. I'm perfectly happy with that. I think the Tour of California is heading in the right direction, and I love racing on home soil."
A schedule that includes the Tour of California, as his did last year, will line him up for the US Pro national championships and hopefully a shot at being selected for the Tour de France.
"That will be a great segue to go to the Tour. That will be my goal. I'd love to put a Tour on my palmares."