LUGONES, Spain (VN) — The Vuelta a España is hard enough as it is. Crashes, mountains, and tired legs make the Spanish grand tour one of the season’s hardest races.
Add the pressure of earning a contract, and the Vuelta becomes just that much more intense for riders looking to secure their respective futures. Cannondale – Drapac’s Ben King is still smiling each morning, including Monday ahead of the grueling Lagos de Covadonga, but he would like to already have a contract in his pocket going into 2017.
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“It is pretty late in the season, and I still don’t have a contract. So I am working on that,” King said before Monday’s start. “It is extra, unrelated stress, but I am doing my doing my best to enjoy the Vuelta and do my job.”
Every season, the peloton plays a high-stakes game of musical chairs. As teams fold and new ones come on, riders are caught in the middle, working contacts and posting results as they try to secure their professional cycling future.
King, 27, is already an eight-year veteran of the WorldTour peloton, and has been posting steady results since joining the Slipstream organization in 2014. A stage win last year at Critérium International and another in stage 2 at the Amgen Tour of California confirmed his growing maturity and experience.
He nearly scored his first career grand tour stage win in this year’s Vuelta, riding to third in stage 4 out of the winning breakaway. King is hoping results like that help him secure something for next season before the Vuelta closes out.
“As soon as possible. If it’s possible [to stay with Cannondale]. I am open to anything at this point,” King said. “Riding well here, and finish strong with Andrew [Talansky], and go into breakaways, that definitely doesn’t hurt.”
King comes to the Vuelta on double-duty: helping Talansky ride for the overall and sneaking into breakaways when he can.
“Every bullet you can save for later on goes a long way. Grand tours are about efficiency, and knowing when it is appropriate to use the energy,” King said. “It’s not been an easy race up to now, but I still wake up feeling chipper in the mornings.”
Cannondale comes to the Vuelta with a dynamic team mixed with stage-hunters and Talansky for the GC. So far, the team has been active in the breakaways, riding to three top-10s through eight stages in the Vuelta. Talansky started Monday’s stage 13th overall, with Lagos de Covadonga poised to further shake up the GC.
“We are halfway through, and I am feeling good. We have been present in the breakaways, and we’ve been close a couple of times. I think it’s only a matter of time,” King said. “The main priority is to protect Andrew, but having someone in the breakaway can play into that strategy, and it gives everyone an opportunity as well.”
The Vuelta eases into its first of two rest days Tuesday, giving King and the other Cannondale riders a chance to decompress and reload going into the second half of the race. With the season winding down, King is also thinking about the good things that wait for him back home in Virginia.
“I have started thinking about hamburgers,” he said with a laugh. “I will be back in the USA soon after this, so I am daydreaming a little bit about that. Something with bacon, caramelized onions, and barbecue sauce. That is hard to come by here in Europe.”