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By Neal Rogers
A look at the newly updated U.S. Postal Service team roster reveals a surprise: the as of yet unannounced addition of American Michael Creed to the squad.
In a phone conversation from Tucson, Arizona, the Colorado Springs resident — who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Thursday with a 200km training ride — discussed his progression from the now-defunct Division 3 Prime Alliance squad to Postal with VeloNews. When informed of his appearance on the team’s Web site, the always-amusing rider was somewhat surprised, explaining that although his agent has been in discussions with the team, all the papers had not yet been signed.
“Really?” was Creed’s initial reply, explaining that he has not been on the Internet for days, preferring to take a solo road trip to train first in Silver City, New Mexico — far from cell phone coverage — before arriving in Tucson and eventually San Diego.
“I had to get out of Colorado,” Creed said, adding that before talks with Postal began in mid-December, he had begun considering returning to school and putting cycling on hold. “I haven’t been able to spend any time around the house or I get too frustrated. I had given myself a December 20th deadline, and if I didn’t have a monetary offer I was going to go back to school.”
Creed explained that as discussions with U.S. Postal’s director sportif Johan Bruyneel began to develop, it was all that the young rider could do to contain himself.
“It’s been so bad, looking for a team,” the three-time U-23 national time trial champion said. “You talk to these domestic D-3 team mangers, and they’d say, ‘We can only offer you ‘X amount’ of money, but at least you’d still be racing.’ You know, I’ve been on Division 3 teams since I was 16. It may be hard to believe, but I’ve raced Redlands seven times already. I’ve been racing.
“Then I started talking with Postal, around December 10th, and it was so surreal I didn’t want to get too excited about it. To be riding with Lance Armstrong…if it didn’t happen I’d be crushed. So I just rented a place in Silver City. I spoke with [former pro] Clark Sheehan, and Clark said, ‘Just go and train your ass off. If [the deal with Postal] falls through, you’ll be the most in-shape guy in school.’”
While Creed is fully aware his chances of making a Grand Tour team in 2004 are slim, he says he’ll be happy to do whatever is asked of him, adding that Postal may focus more on domestic racing this year than in years past.
“I think [Postal] is going to do Gila, Redlands and Sea Otter,” Creed said. “But it doesn’t matter, I’m just so thankful. They could put me on the U.S. crit series, and I’ll show up and race my ass off in those crits. If they let me start in a [UCI] 2.1 or 1.2 race, just to line up against guys I’ve read about in VeloNews would be incredible. I can promise them I’ll do my job and finish the race. Considering three weeks ago I had absolutely nothing and was considering going back to school, anything I get will be a bonus.”
Creed will be joining a pair of young North Americans new to the team including off-road sensation Ryder Hesjedal, 23, and former U.S. national team teammate Pat McCarty, 21, who finished the 2003 season the UCI’s sixth-ranked espoir rider.
“We’re pretty good friends,” Creed said of McCarty, adding that he and McCarty spent a week together in Vegas at the end of last season after the mid-October world championships, where Creed finished sixth in the U-23 time trial.
After a few weeks in Tucson training with area pros like Gord Fraser (Health Net) and Phil Zajicek (Navigators) Creed will head to San Diego before joining Postal at its team training camp in central California in late-January
“You better believe I’m going to have my digital camera at that press conference,” Creed said. “Years from now, I can tell people, ‘I was on the team poster with the greatest American cyclist ever.’ Any time Lance’s name comes up I can say, ‘Yep, same team, me and Lance,’ and then just embellish the hell out it. It’s something I’ll have forever.”