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With news of the passing of Eddie Borysewicz, coach and trainer to several generations of America’s best cyclists, we caught up with Mike McCarthy, one of his prodigies.
McCarthy first started working with Borysewicz at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado when McCarthy was just 15 years old. And while he was not always easy on the kid from New York, McCarthy readily admits that Borysewicz was a huge motivating factor in his life. The two continued to work together long after their initial meet-up, as McCarthy would join forces with Eddie B again in the 1990s with the Subaru-Montgomery team.
VeloNews: Mike I noticed that you wrote a very moving tribute to Eddie B on your social media pages and remember that you worked with him on several occasions over the years. What are some of your first memories?
Mike McCarthy: Well I got a text from Wayne Stetina saying that he had talked to Chris Carmichael who told him that Eddy had passed. He had gone back to Poland and apparently got COVID there, and then pneumonia. I hadn’t spoke to Eddie for a number of years, but he was a huge part of my cycling career, starting from when I was a 15-year-old junior at the OTC. I was a permanent resident at the training center and so I got a lot of Eddie.
VN: Is there one moment in particular that you remember over the years?
MM: Well my favorite Eddie story is one that I kept on my shoulder throughout my entire career, and probably even afterward. In 1985, I was a first-year junior along with Scott McKinley and there was one place left for the annual Euro trip in the spring with three of second-year juniors.
Eddie calls both of us into his office. This was April of 1985 and he sits us down as says, “Gentlemen, this is a very difficult decision because I have two very talented, young riders and I only have a spot for one of you in Europe. Now I had ridden really well in the previous camp and thought I was going to Europe. But Eddie says, “Mr. McCarthy, great results this spring. I think you are really making progress. But when I look at you and I look at Mr. McKinley, well, Mr. McKinley has a much better body for cycling for we are going to take him to Europe.”
This was my first big chance to go to Europe and I was getting denied. I went back to my room, used the payphone, made a reservation, and flew back home to the East Coast the next day. I was 16 at the time and I raced 27 times in 30 days for the month of May in 1985. Any chance I had to pin a number on, I did it. And when I went back to Junior Worlds Trials, I won all of the races and qualified for four events automatically. I just never wanted to worry about being selected again. It was probably the first time in my life where I realized that the more people tell me that I can’t do something, the more likely I am to do it. I remember, later on, I told Eddie that. I said, “You doubted me and I actually really appreciated that. It lit this fire in me that never went away.”
Looking back, I think that was Eddie’s way of saying, “We believe in you but we also believe you have more under the hood. I think he intentionally wanted to make it a bit difficult for me and he wanted to light a fire under me. And truth be told, I worked hard, but I think there was more to give and he saw that. In truth, it was Eddy’s way of trying to push me.
VN: Well, it certainly didn’t prohibit you from working together over the years. I remember several years later, you were a key building block of the Subaru Montgomery professional team in 1990. Do you remember talking with Eddy about what your role in the team would be?
MM: The Subaru-Montgomery team was coming off the Subaru-Avenir team from 1989 and they brought in some really good riders in 1990. I don’t think I was ever really considered a building block or anything, I think Eddy saw it more holistically. I think he just wanted to bring in as many good riders that had real talent as possible. You have some super-strong, established riders, and then you had guys like Lance Armstrong on the team and Bart Bowen, young guys that had huge promise but had yet to have lots of results. But those were both guys that went on to have pretty big careers in the sport. It was a super fun team. We all lived in a house in Escondido, California for a big part of that first year and we got pretty close. And I think, that for a first-year team, we did a good job battling the more established teams out there. And we had a lot of fun doing it!
VN: Reading the stories of his passing, there is often mention of blood doping within the U.S. team at the Los Angeles Olympics. Did you ever have any conversations with Eddie about this?
MM: Yes I was aware of 1984 but all I can really do is relate my own experience. I’m not sure when it was, but at some point, I was made aware of the blood doping issue at the Olympic Games. I lived at the OTC, so it was hard not to hear things.
I came into the program as a junior in the fall of 1984 after the Olympics. I was a resident athlete at the OTC and Eddie oversaw those programs, but doping was never a topic for us. It was certainly never encouraged in any way that I ever saw, and he certainly never suggested that I go down that path. Maybe they looked at me and figured I had as much to gain if I’d just quit eating hot dogs, but it definitely wasn’t a part of the Eddie culture that I grew up with, so it is hard for me to comment on doping issues when I just didn’t live it with him. But I know it happened in ’84, and to be honest, it bums me out, not just because it tarnished my heroes a little bit, but also because it’s what a lot of people associate Eddie’s legacy with.
VN: What was the one race or moment where Eddie really helped take you to another level?
MM: I’m not sure I can pinpoint that. I did well under Eddie. Perhaps the one moment that really turned my career came during the 1989 season when I was asked to move from the track, where I had raced in the team pursuit at the 1988 Olympics, to the team time trial on the road. We had a great team that year that went on to get fourth in the World Championships in Chambery. I came in and rode with Jim Copeland, John Frey, and John Stenner. I was brought into that team because of my ability to ride technically well and they wanted somebody that could be the anchor rider on the technical side.
But man, those three guys that I got to ride with were just monsters. And really, that was the catalyst for me and allowed me to get a lot stronger in general. I ended up getting third at the World Championships in the individual pursuit the following year. And it really upped my road game at the same time. Eddie wasn’t the running the show at that point, but I think he drove that decision. I know that Eddie pushed in that direction and it proved to be a real turning point in terms of athletics for me, as well as my own belief in my own capabilities. It made a huge difference in terms of my confidence for years to come.”
VN: Well it is clear that Eddie B really had an impact, not only on your career, but on your life.
Mike McCarthy: Yeah, Eddie was very human, very caring, and someone I really enjoyed working with. There are a lot of great Eddie stories and I am happy that I got to be a part of a lot of those stories and I will miss him. He was an amazing guy and an amazing character, and I just really enjoyed my time with him!