VeloNews interviews Team SmartStop director Michael Creed, who talks about his new team and its big successes
None of us should be surprised, really. Michael Creed’s been something of an underdog forever. An underdog with a bite. The very same traits that helped him as a rider are paying off now, too: Doggedness and an edge.
From the outside, the SmartStop Pro Cycling squad appears rag-tag next to the sheen of BMC Racing or Garmin-Sharp. But this is all part of the bike racing machine in the U.S. Everyone has his or her part to play, big teams and small teams, directors and soigneurs. It takes both ends of the spectrum.
“The sport in America has always been on the fringe for some of the smaller teams, as far back as the Coors Classic and Tour DuPont,” said BMC’s president Jim Ochowicz. “We did those races, too, at one point we did them as the underdogs, at least I did, with 7-Eleven when we were racing against LeMond and Hinault. So you know it’s not much different than that. We found our piece of the pie in all those races and they’re finding theirs, too.”
Thus far, SmartStop has netted a few big pieces of pie: Eric Marcotte’s national championship win in the road race (his teammate Travis McCabe finished second, as well), and McCabe’s wins at the Winston Salem Cycling Classic and stages at Nature Valley Grand Prix and the Cascade Classic. And Jure Kocjan held the leader’s jersey for two days at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
VeloNews recently caught up with Creed while he was directing his SmartStop team at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.
VeloNews: Seems like a great start for you. Are you happy with the season?
Michael Creed: Eh. We’d be insane to ask for more, right? It would be insane. It’s competitive nature, though, to constantly analyze what went wrong. So that’s hard. It’s hard because then we come to an altitude race, and these guys had to run it really hot. I had these guys racing Dominican Republic in February so we could get selected to this race [in Colorado]. And you saw that they were pretty tired here. But I would do it all again. I was talking to [USA Cycling’s] Jim Miller about it because I called him around Beauce time and just told him, “Man, I’m so tired. I don’t know if I could do it again. Look at what we did.” And he framed it pretty good. And he just said, “Anybody can make lightning strike once. Try and make it strike in the same place twice.”
VN: I hear you’re spending a ton of time with your guys. Are you doing more than the other teams, director-wise? How much can you really do differently?
MC: I don’t think I’m doing that much more. I think I recruited really, really well. I think recruiting took care of 85 percent of it. The 15 percent is I don’t have kids, I don’t have family; I don’t have this stuff. So I have the ability to obsess more than anybody else. I have that ability. I kind of hit the nuclear button on my life, for better for worse. Now I can obsess about this. Yeah. But it’s not like I’m working nine times as hard as anybody else. I got lucky.
VN: Is it harder to be a racer or a director?
MC: Ugh. Oh man. That’s always what side of the fence you’re on. I think the grass is always greener. I’ll say this. The team bombs a race, I’m not necessarily at fault. So there is more upsides than downsides, where as a rider, you bomb, you’re completely down, and that’s you. And when the team does well in a race, somehow I get credit, too. In that way it’s much easier to be a director.
VN: How would you characterize your team?
MC: It’s a pirate ship, man. On Optum it kind of felt like the “Bad News Bears.” But this team, I kind of feel like it’s a pirate ship, definitely.
VN: Just take your chances and plunder?
MC: I think we’re annoying to deal with. That’s for sure. And if you don’t treat us accordingly I think we can win the race.