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MAASTRICHT, Netherlands (VN) — Rory Sutherland slithered between the Amstel Gold Race’s stage and the kilometers of fence, headed back toward his team bus. The fans pack into the square thick, and riders, journalists, and team managers can hardly move. Exuberance for Amstel is high on this morning. Sutherland, who signed with Tinkoff-Saxo last year after a long stint at UnitedHealthcare, took a few moments to chat with VeloNews about life on the road.
VeloNews: I haven’t seen you in a while. How’s it been going?
Rory Sutherland: Good. Really good this year. Good program with the team. Obviously Alberto [Contador] is riding pretty well; it’s pretty nice to be on that team.
VN: Yeah, what’s it like, riding with a star?
RS: It’s awesome. When your captain is so good, obviously the competition is also really strong. But when you have a captain like him, you ride better as well. You want to do the best job you can for him so he can do his job. You’re not going to screw him. The fact is he’s a super nice guy as well. Great guy, very thankful, very respectful, and knows that as long as everyone does their best then he responds really well to that.
VN: Seems like he’s just flying.
RS: He’s going pretty well.
VN: What about these Ardennes races do you like?
RS: love it. Of course the cobbled classics are really cool, for a different reason. But … you never go further than 20, 30 kilometers at the most away from Maastricht [in Amstel], and you’re doing 260K. It’s like back and forth and up and down. I crashed last year in one of the big crashes, and I still loved it. It’s just a really cool feeling and the people out there and the fact that the sun is shining — it’s a beautiful area to ride a bike.
VN: You obviously made a big shift, from domestic to full-on Euro-pro again. Was that the right call?
RS: Yeah. With Tinkoff-Saxo it’s been fantastic. It’s a year last year getting used to it and coming back into it a little bit and opening the eyes up again. And this year I feel with a year behind me from last year, just racing, racing, racing, I feel a lot stronger for it. And now the team’s kind of figured out a little bit more of what I can do and where I can be used and we’re aiming toward that, which makes it a bit easier. But look, my wife’s happy here. The kids are happy here. So it’s not like we’re living somewhere we don’t want to be.
VN: Where will you go from here?
RS: I do the next [races] to Liège, then I have a break after Liège. At home in May. And then I don’t know. Everything is kind of up in the air for what happens in June/July.
VN: You hope for the Tour de France, then?
RS: Yeah, I think everybody does. Especially with Alberto, the way he’s going, and I think I can do a good job in an area of the team that we don’t have people, you know? Kind of the middle mountains, the middle group. Not the end group, not first flat group, but it depends on, you know, so many different things coming into June and July. That’s why it was good to ride with Alberto the last couple races, because then he knows whether he wants you around or not. But we’ll see.