After racing in Europe and the Middle East earlier this season, American Ben King won the Best Young Rider competition Sunday at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. By placing 6th on the decisive final day, King secured his 7th overall spot on Father’s Day. After the race, the Trek-Livestrong rider was quick to give a shout out to his dad, who got him into cycling.
“To win the white jersey was a goal for our team, as an under-23 team. Today, I want to dedicate the success of the team to our dads, and to my dad in particular for all the support he’s given me,” King said. “On Mother’s Day I won the U23 Pan-Am road race, so it’s fitting to win another jersey for my dad on Father’s Day.”
King’s father, Mark King, raced for years after college, but quit with Ben turned three.
“He came waddling up to the door and asked me, ‘dad, are you riding today?’ I said, nope. It seemed like a good reason to stop doing the 300- to 400-mile weeks,” Mark King told VeloNews by phone from his home in Charlottesville,Virginia.
“Then, when he turned 13 he said he wanted to ride. So I went and got my old Bianchi with downtube shifters, and we went at it,” Mark King said. “Now his youngest brother Jake is 15, and I’m just trying to hang on and get him on the road, then I’m really going to quit. I turn 50 this year. When Ben’s home, we do some of the races together. But he’s getting too good, and I’m getting too old.”
But Mark King hasn’t hung it up just yet. He raced four criteriums Saturday — the 30+, 40+, 50+ and the pro/1/2. In fact, he raced as many criteriums that day as his son has raced all year.
“Apart from the one at [the SRAM Tour of the] Gila, these are the first crits I’ve done all year,” King said in Minneapolis, where he ended up — unharmed — in a hay bale during stage 4. “It took me a little while to get my nerves up.”
King began his season with Trek-Livestrong at the Tour of Qatar, racing against the likes of Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara. He also raced in Europe with the U.S. national team.
“I’m missing not racing in Europe,” King said. “But the great thing is that we have the depth on [Trek-Livestrong] to field two teams to different races. Right now Tim Roe is second at the Thüringen-Rundfahrt.”
Mark King said the directors of his son’s two teams, Axel Merckx for Trek-Livestrong and Jim Miller for the national team, have been instrumental in his success.
“Ben has received a lot of support, and has had a lot of doors opened,” Mark King said. “He didn’t get his success through genetics. He got his through a good work ethic.”
After headed to nationals next weekend with the American riders on Trek-Livestrong, Ben King will take a break then head back to Europe for more racing with the national squad. When he’s back in Virginia, he’ll ride with his dad.
“He’s an old guy now, but we train together all the time when I’m home,” King said. “I definitely owe everything I’ve accomplished to him.”
Joking about age comes easily in the King family. “Ben wants to be in a grand tour,” Mark King said. “If he keeps plugging along, and puberty helps him along, he’ll get there.”