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Ben King Diary: A different rider

Editor’s note: Ben King is a first year professional with Team RadioShack (Related: Ben’s previous VeloNews diaries)

2011 Tour of Utah stage 4
King on the front working for Leipheimer at the Tour of Utah. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

In 2009 I finished Tour of Utah, because, well, I’m not sure. Our team had gone into survival mode. The altitude and heat broke my mind along with my body. Hoping to qualify for the U23 world championships, I had trudged through each stage consumed in acidic misery, until other U23s like Alex Howes toppled my ambitions on Mount Snowbird. I ached to board that red-eye out of Salt Lake.

The next week at sea level Howes and I attacked the U.S. professional championships before our last ascent up Paris Mountain, leading me to conclude that I don’t belong in Utah.

This year, however, Team RadioShack called on me to help defend Levi Leipheimer’s title against a much stronger field, and this time with a chance to earn a place on USA’s Elite Worlds Team. Terrified, I arrived with my training partner Andy Guptill two weeks early to acclimate and preview stages. “You’re a different rider than you were two years ago,” my coach said.

During one unconventional and radical training adventure, we took mountain bikes into Park City and hucked gnarly singletrack for hours. We paused at “the spine,” a stegosaurus back of jagged rocks. Our companion decided to ride it. Extremely cautious I decided to film him and used my foot to scoot along the outside. Moving that slow allowed my front wheel to jam in a crevasse and sent me tumbling over the handlebars. I fell on the down slope and smacked my ear on a sharp rock.

Some hikers offered me a purple Harry Potter Band-Aid. After over an hour of twisty trail and constant deja vu we arrived at the car. Andy said I needed stitches. “Dude, I don’t need stitches! If that little Band-Aide can hold it together, I’ll be fine.” When the nurse removed the Band-Aid she cringed. My ear had split in half. 26 stitches, a big burrito, and a few days later, I was tackling monster training rides.

The crash deducted a few more points from my relationship with Utah, but during our stay with gracious host families, beautiful scenery, and the best fish tacos I wanted to race well so that I could return next year.

Halfway through our successful 2011 campaign, I read my 2009 race reports. The contrast encouraged me. If you doubt the training process, are a super fan, or have time to kill I published my 2009 and 2011 reports.

I write now from Boulder, Colorado, where we’ll maintain our altitude acclimations and recover for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge starting Monday.

Other news:

Andy Guptill of Jamis-Sutter Home announced his retirement from the peloton, but will continue to cycle for his profession as head of Miller School of Albemarle’s Endurance team and CBC’s development camp.

Revolutionizing cycling in the USA, Miller School of Albemarle, a high school near my home in Charlottesville, Virginia, races a varsity road and mountain bike team in high school and USA Cycling events throughout the year. The trails on campus, fully equipped mechanic shop, fleet of bikes, and enthusiastic students, including my younger brother, will cause a ripple in future collegiate and professional ranks.

Finishing his first two CBC summer camps just before Tour of Utah, Andy anticipates a fantastic school year. Before the week-long mountain bike camp, I was able to join the roadies for a time trial. They wobbled on their bikes as I held them up and released them one by one at Andy’s count. The competition, a personal test, closed out a week of training, mechanic workshops, bike fits, nutritional seminars, skill lessons, rope swinging, and living the dream.

For more information:www.msaendurance.com

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