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National champ Ben King looks forward to first year in the big leagues

USPRO Road Race Championships, 2010
King won his pro road title with a long-range attack.

Most riders who have won the U.S. road race championship did so after racing on European-based pro teams. At age 21, Ben King hasn’t yet started that part of his career officially, but he’s looking forward to suiting up for races in his red, white and blue RadioShack jersey in Mallorca next year. VeloNews caught up with King at his parents’ house in Virginia.

“I’ll be a student this (coming) year,” King said of his role with RadioShack. “I have a lot to learn quickly. I want to have a long, consistent professional career. This is a whole other league, and I’m still developing.”

Riding for Trek-Livestrong, King racked up three national titles in 2010, the pinnacle being the U.S. pro road title. But before that he scored wins in both the road and criterium under-23 races. He also doubled up with U23 victories in the Pan-American road and time trial events. He also won the Best Young Rider competition at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.

“Every two to three years since I was a junior on Hot Tubes, I’ve stepped up to another level and have been able to make adjustments,” King said. “Now I’ve reached the top level, and I have years to adjust. Part of that process will be finding a role on the team. At the moment I believe I am geared toward being a support rider, getting in breaks, riding the front.”

King recently did a RadioShack training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona, with the other Americans on the team. The crew included the marquee names Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner as well as the younger riders Matt Busche and Bjorn Selander.

“It was low key because it was just a small group of people,” King said, “We generally did about three hours a day on the bike.”

While the time on the bike may have been reserved, there was racing — and burning rubber — involved in the Arizona camp.

“We got to spend one day at the Nissan test track. That wasn’t as low key,” said King, adding that a number of the riders and staff raced in Nissan 370Zs.

King will join the full RadioShack squad for the next training camp in Calpe, Spain, at the end of January. Then he’ll jump right into racing with the mellow season-opening races in Mallorca and Sardinia. Along with the change of jersey for 2011, King will also have a change of address. Lucca, Italy, will be his next home, where he’ll share a place with BMC’s Chris Butler, an American who King raced with on the national team.

King’s race schedule is not concrete, but he said he would love to do the Amgen Tour of California. “I think it’s a possibility for me. It will also be one of my last opportunities to race in the stars and stripes here. After that, I’ll be back at USPRO. I don’t know … I’m kind of afraid to comment on all that. I would like to get a lot racing. But the races are going to be harder and require more rest.”

For his training, King is continuing to work with Jim Miller from USA Cycling, and will also take direction from RadioShack’s Viatcheslav Ekimov.

Ben King will be joined on RadioShack by his current Trek-Livestrong teammate Jesse Sergent of New Zealand. Taylor Phinney, another Trek-Livestrong rider, opted to move to BMC for 2011.

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