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Q&A with Ben King: a ‘work in progress’ hunting an opportunity

The RadioShack-Leopard rider is "living the dream," and on track to ride the Vuelta a España

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Ben King (RadioShack-Leopard) keeps plugging away, continuing along his steady trajectory within the elite ranks.

Now in his third season with RadioShack, the 24-year-old from Virginia enters a new phase of his career. After learning the ropes in Europe, he’s ready and poised to take his chance when he gets it.

After describing himself as a “work in progress,” he’s hoping to make his grand-tour debut later this season at the Vuelta a España. VeloNews recently caught up with King for a chat. Tell us how things have gone for you so far this spring …

Ben King: It’s been a really hard, tough spring and winter. In Tuscany, where I am living, they say it’s been the wettest, coldest winter in 70 years. It’s been a tough beginning of the year, but it’s the same for everyone. I will be heading home to Virginia next week to get ready for California. I will spend some time with friends and family, so there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But yeah, loving it. This is your first contact with the Ardennes; do you like what you see?

BK: Yes, this is my first time in the Ardennes. This is a different animal. I didn’t race Flèche. I did Brabantse and Amstel. It was really eye-opening. I was on team duty, I didn’t even finish Amstel. Just to be there and racing, helping out where I could, I learned a lot. The guys who win those races, they have years of experience. They know every corner. When I am braking hard into the corners, they know they can take it full gas. It’s all the little ways you can save energy throughout the day. There are a lot of little tricks to these races. I am getting some experience and hopefully for the future I can play a role. Are you hoping to race a grand tour this season?

BK: I really hope I do. I was on the list for the Giro, but now I am going to California. That’s the next big goal right now. I am on the list for the Vuelta, so that’s the next big step in my career. A grand tour is a childhood dream. I am coming closer and closer; when I get the chance, I will take advantage of it. There is a lot of uncertainty about the team’s future. What are they telling you?

BK: I cannot comment on that. I know they’ve been working hard on it. Everyone wants the team to continue. We have a great team atmosphere, a great team morale. There are a lot of really talented riders here. I hope we continue for the future. The more teams, the more money in the sport, it’s good for cycling. I think our team is good for the sport. You’re now in your third season in Europe. Where do you see yourself right now?

BK: When I have an opportunity for myself, I want to take advantage of it. It’s the difference of finding the small things that can make a big difference in the end. Hopefully things continue to progress and I continue to improve. I see myself as a work in progress. I’ve shown big improvements every season. It doesn’t always show in the results. I can see it in my training, my power numbers, my experience. I feel like this is where I belong. I’ve been happy with my first couple of years in the sport. It’s always up and down, especially at this level. In this sport, you’re only as good as your last race. It can be tough on the head sometimes, but I feel like this is where I belong. I hope to continue on the same path. I’m living the dream. What is the best part of being a pro for you?

BK: What makes a big difference for me is the fan support, the people I have behind me. I haven’t scored a real result in a couple of years, and while that’s always a goal that comes through excellence, I’m finding ways to stay motivated. For me, one of the big motivators is all the people behind me, who believe and support in what I am doing. Is it hard to get chances on Shack to race for your own results with so many captains?

BK: Absolutely, but that’s something I am proud to be a part of. If we go to a race, and I play a part in a team success, I get a whole lot of satisfaction out of that. With the guys on the team, there is no one who I am not willing to 100 percent sacrifice my own chances for.