VN: Before, if you raised your voice, you were an outcast, so now you’re saying if a rider is suspected of doping, they are considered an outcast? Do you have an example?
AT: That’s completely accurate. Maybe before, the outcasts were the ones who said something. It’s completely reversed. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I know for a fact there are people around who think I do drugs. They cannot understand how I have progressed in the sport. They cannot get their heads around how a rider who was getting dropped at the Tour of California three years ago is now doing well at ProTour-level races. These are people who are 30 years old racing on a Pro-Conti team in the USA who cannot understand how someone can be better than them. They think they understand what it takes to work hard, generally the ones who want to be outspoken about doping and who accuse all of us in Europe of doping.
I would like to call out Andy Jacques-Maynes — you can put this specifically — he put something in Twitter. I have raced with him in California. He went on Twitter and said that everyone who races in Europe has done drugs at some point. That is such an inaccurate statement, whether he intended to, he was implying that me, Phinney, Tejay, Stetina, Howes, that we’re all using drugs. He’s part of the problem in this sport. If you want to make an accusation, then you have evidence, but to make a blanket statement, in a public forum, from a so-called professional cyclist, I find it disturbing. Then he followed it up that he has exceptional physiology and what we do seems impossible.
We train in a completely different way than he can image. If he thinks he has exceptional physiology, then he’s delusional. Look at Wiggins; to win the Tour, you have to start at a different level. That is a genetic thing. It’s there or it’s not. No amount of training can change that. You have to accept that. He has to accept that if he trained exactly the way Bradley Wiggins did, he would never win the Tour. He might not even be able to ride the Tour. Those Twitters he posted made me sad. It gave me motivation for this race, because every day that I go out and perform, it’s proving people like that completely wrong. It makes me happy when Tejay is fifth at the Tour, Taylor won at the Giro.
VN: Ryder won the Giro…
AT: Yeah, Ryder won the Giro. Dombrowki is climbing with the best guys at Colorado. The list goes on and it proves guys like Andy Jacques-Maynes wrong every day. It just saddens me when someone who supposedly understands the sport would say something like that.
VN: If that’s truly the case, that the peloton is changed from within, that story is not being sold to the fans or media, these old doping stories certainly do not help change people’s minds about today, do they?
AT: To a point, that story is being sold. Wiggins did get upset at one point at the Tour, but he did follow it up with comments on how the sport has changed. At the end of the day, we can show them how the sport is clean. We can do all that stuff, but if they choose to believe we are on drugs, then that’s what they are going to believe. It’s not our job or anyone else’s job to change their minds. Those are the kind of people who are going to believe what they want to believe. Regardless of what facts they show them, they have decided something.
If you’re a true cycling fan, you might believe the riders are on drugs, you have to be open to also believing that we are clean. People who are so committed to believing that we are all on drugs, well, at the end of the day – cycling is not hurting. These climbs have so many people. Every climb we’ve done has people and they are cheering for us and they clearly believe in cycling. I feel like the minority of people, they do not believe, who are not even open to changing their minds, those are the people I have no responsibility to. The people I want to try to give hope to are the people who want to believe that it can be true.
I think some journalists are biased against cycling now. If you have an innate belief, that’s not enough to give Bradley Wiggins a hard time after he won the Tour. At least not for me.
VN: With so much negativity around the sport sometimes, where do you take joy? Out of winning a race?
AT: What I have really come to understand this year is that I don’t get joy out of winning a race or a certain result. I get joy out of doing this –– being a professional bike racer. I get to wake up every day and I get to do what I have dreamed about my entire life. I am thankful for that every single day. I am sure in this world there is a very small minority of people who get to do what they dreamed about for a living. I work very hard to be able to do this.
I understand at the end of the day, it is a sport. I am not changing the world. The best I can hope for is to inspire somebody else to follow their dreams. The process is incredible. People always say cycling is sacrifice, but for me, there is no sacrifice. I am not sacrificing anything to do this sport. It’s a sport of dedication and how much you’re willing to put into it. I hope that my performances… Wiggins’ performance at the Tour was inspirational to me and I am a professional cyclist. I hope that the performances that I can do, if it helps one kid in Miami believe that they can be a pro cyclist and that’s their dream, that would make me really happy. You have to fight for what you want, but sometimes it doesn’t work out.
VN: When did you start to believe you could be a pro?
AT: I knew about the Tour de France before I was part of cycling, because when Lance was winning, everybody knew about the Tour and that it’s in July. People were always telling me I could become pro. For me, there came a point when I was racing with Amore e Vita, even though it was a disastrous year, I decided either I am going to do this the right way or go back to college. For me, that meant riding for a ProTour team, making a salary to support myself, for a family someday and to have a life. I didn’t want to race for some U.S. pro team, and that’s not a criticism of anyone who does, it was just not what I wanted. It’s the way I want to live my life. I love cycling, and I would ride my bike even if I wasn’t a pro. I decided that after U23, it was to sign a real contract with a ProTour team or go back to school. I didn’t want to live paycheck-to-paycheck without having a future.
VN: What would you have done if you hadn’t become a pro?
AT: Journalism (laughs).