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King: ‘Looking for experience to pay off in 2010’

Ted King is ready to apply the lessons he’s learned in 2009 to have an even better sophomore season in the pro ranks.

Ted King is ready to apply the lessons he’s learned in 2009 to have an even better sophomore season in the pro ranks.

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Ted King before start of Wednesday's stage 1 at Volta ao Algarve

Last year in his rookie season with Cervélo TestTeam, King bounced back from a broken arm in February to start and finish the Giro d’Italia, an important milestone for any first-time experience in a grand tour.

With a year’s experience, King rolls into 2010 with renewed confidence to step up for the team, both in terms of results and as a loyal domestique for team captain Carlos Sastre.

Racing this week at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal, King has a busy spring schedule. He is slated to race Paris-Nice and a return to the Giro in May.

VeloNews caught up with King at Cervélo’s training camp last month. Here are excerpts from the interview:

VeloNews: How do you reflect looking back at your rookie season last year?

Ted King: I started off with a speed-bump, with the broken arm. First race at home, obviously, you’re trying to prove yourself on home soil, it obviously didn’t go to plan. Then when I got back into it, they threw me straight in. It was trial by fire, we did Ardennes week, straight to Romandie, straight to the Giro. That was great, right off the bat, doing the biggest races of the season. No doubt, it was a highlight to race the Giro. That was phenomenal. Not only that, the results we had … the team had five stage victories, and Carlos, once you remove Di Luca, was on the podium. It was almost surreal. Those were my two goals — help Carlos as much as I could, and finish the Giro. Check that off the list.

VN: What surprised you most when you compared racing in Europe to what you experienced in the United States?

TK: Three pretty obvious superlatives: longer, faster, harder. That’s the easiest way to say it. From training to racing, it’s night and day to the point it’s almost a different sport. You’re not training for a three-hour race any more; you’re training for a five-day race where every day is four or five hours to six hours.

VN: Did you find the transition difficult? Did you ever wonder what you had gotten yourself into?

TK: I never really had any doubts, never really struggling. The Giro is a good microcosm of my season. You take every day one day at a time. It’s almost cliché to say that, but that’s what you have to do. That’s the best you can do. You start the season with some struggles breaking your arm, but after that, you’re there to race, it’s a job, it’s a business.

VN: What lessons did you learn most last year that will help you this season?

TK: Living in Girona, you’re training with a lot of North Americans or English-speakers, that’s been a real benefit. Being around those guys who’ve been over here doing it for 10 years, you pick things up. You train really hard, you rest really hard. That’s something I didn’t do as much in the past, because in the States you don’t need to train nearly as hard. Back home, you have a hard day training and then you take it easy. I don’t know if I can point to one thing. The entire experience to have that under my belt is huge. That experience will pay big dividends. They say finishing one grand tour will do wonders for you down the road, so I am looking forward to seeing that.

VN: Teams often like to give young pros a season or two to find their place, have you discovered what kind of rider you want to be?

TK: I still see myself as an opportunist. I am never going to out-sprint the sprinters and I am never going to out-climb the climbers, so maybe somewhere in the middle. George Hincapie is a great example, or my teammate last year, Simon Gerrans. You have to be very strong, have to be very calculated, you have to know the stage, know how the race is going to unfold, and be knowledgeable. I did that well in the States. Here, it’s almost a different sport, but you learn how the races unfold. Those experiences I learned last year and I hope they pay dividends in 2010.

VN: You had a solid race schedule last year, what were your expectations?

TK: Last year, at the beginning of the season, they presented my schedule. Half of them I hadn’t even heard of, but I was like a kid in a candy store. I was psyched. Now I know the races quite a bit more. Even this year, I will have a lot new races. Even in each country, the races have a different dynamic. The French race one way and the Italians race in another way that’s completely distinct. Those experiences are going to pay off.

VN: So how is your schedule shaping up going into 2010?

TK: Through the spring, the team was happy with how I performed in the Giro, so that’s the direction I am going. I have a lot of week-long stage races, Besseges, Algarve, Paris-Nice, Sarthe, Romandie, with the goal of aiming for being there alongside Carlos at the Giro. Wait and see, everything in the spring can be changed in a blink of an eye. Beyond that, we’ve penciled in some stuff, but it’s tentative. It is race heavy: get through that, then we’ll see.

VN: How was the experience riding in support of Tour winner Carlos Sastre at last year’s Giro?

TK: That was something that was very special. He has something about him. During the Giro, he was in a mode that we really hadn’t seen before. He was extremely focused and put on his captain hat. It was great to see. To win those two big mountain stages. When the race was hard, he was unstoppable. He’s very focused on the Giro this year; we’re going to send the best team we can.

VN: What will your role be in the Giro this year?

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Ted King: All dressed up and ready to ride.

TK: In the early part of the stages, I was there to keep him protected, keep him out of harm’s way. That was basic and sort of expected. This year, the team time trial will be big. There’s a chance we’ll see some of the Classics guys, but having not done the Classics, I will be looking to have a good ride in the TTT. Perhaps I will be having a bigger role navigating the team in the early part of the stages compared to last year … and just staying there as long as I can. We will have a great climbing team, so he will be taken care of the climbs, so it’s my job to be there before that.

VN: Is it satisfying for you to work for GC riders like Sastre?

TK: Chances are, I am never going to win a grand tour. So the next best thing is to help out your team captain. And when I say I am an opportunist and I want to go for stage wins, that’s only when the opportunity presents itself. I am not going to the Giro, and say, “Carlos, good luck, I am going this way.” That is understood. I am there to work for Carlos the entire Giro.

VN: Is Sastre an easy captain to ride for?

TK: I like him because he’s real. He’s a very approachable, down to earth guy. A family man. In my opinion, he won the Tour de France, he could have an ego as big as he wanted, but he’s not. His English is good; he has a great sense of humor. He’s a real great guy to be working for.

(Editor’s Note: Ted King writes a monthly column for VeloNews.com.)