Ted King: Learning the ABC’s of Italian and the Classics

When Ted King signed with Liquigas/Cannondale he didn’t speak a word of Italian. That had to change and quickly. Thanks to Rosetta Stone and his move to Lucca, Italy, he’s progressing nicely. Immersion is the key to his success.

When Ted King signed with Liquigas-Cannondale he didn’t speak a word of Italian. That had to change and quickly. Thanks to Rosetta Stone and his move to Lucca, Italy, he’s progressing nicely. Immersion is the key to his success.

King is testing a variety of wheels from Mavic.

While there are other Americans in Lucca, like Tejay Van Garderen from whom King rents a room, it was important for the 28-year-old to base himself in Italy.

“Lucca is cool. It’s crazy Italian. That’s why I moved there, to integrate into the culture, the language. That’s been a big help. You go to the coffee shop and you have to speak Italian. Then it’s trial by fire. Your meetings are in Italian, your manager is speaking to you in Italian. But you learn quickly.”

And the team has been a big help, in ways you wouldn’t normally imagine.

“Last night I had an awesome massage. My soigneur wants to learn a lot of English, so we went through the alphabet and translated. Numbers, days, basics too. It’s good stuff, it’s a freaking adventure.”

This year is also King’s first shot at the classics. He was slated to tackle them in 2009, but a broken arm at the Tour of California derailed those plans.

For the classics King said, “The anticipation is there. The energy is there. The preparation is there.”

The preparation that King alludes to is the testing of different wheels from Mavic, the M40, as well as different Cannondale models: the Synapse and the Super Six.

King is currently undecided on which bike to ride. “I’m a classics rookie, so I’m talking to the guys and asking for their opinions. My role going to this race is to look after Daniele (Oss) and Peter (Sagan). They’re our captains and they’re strong as oxen. So being a classics rookie I don’t know if I’ll be there at 260 k. So maybe I burn my matches early and ride the more rigid Super Six and still have that pop. Or do I ride the super supple, more comfortable Synapse and hope to go for 260 k.” said that he doesn’t pay attention to details like tire pressure. He leaves that up to his mechanics. “I’m a guy that sort of wings it. I let the mechanics do that. This is a very professional team. They’ve been through these steps before.”

While King doesn’t have a strong opinion on bike choice and tire pressure, he is pickier about some things, coffee and beer to be precise.

When the coffees we ordered arrived, he asked me how I liked Belgian coffee. I had to admit that it wasn’t my favorite. We chatted about Italian (never a bad coffee), Spanish (muy delicioso) , French (mutual disgust) and German (respectable) coffees. King said, “I’ve never had a bad Italian coffee, but the biggest gripe is that they’re too freakin’ small … by a factor of 700.”

King is a fan of good ol’ fashioned drip coffee. His initial attempts at making it in Europe ended in the smell of burning electricals instead of the wonderful aroma of coffee. He brought coffee makers over from the States and his converter wasn’t up to the task. Now he sticks mostly to French press, “it’s hard to mess it up.”

When in Belgium and the races are done, he likes Delirium Tremens beer, a strong pale ale. I myself like Duvel and anything from the Trappist monks in the area.

King is also coming off a knee injury, left side tendonitis, from riding at the front for hours on end in defense of Peter Sagan’s jersey at the Giro Sardenia. King and his overuse injury were well cared for though. His team doctor, physio, osteopath, soigneur and a sports therapist in Pisa all “worked in synergy together” to get him quickly on the path to recovery.

With treatment, a week off the bike and some light training, King was ready for Gent-Wevelgem and his Classics campaign.

So despite the slightly stuffy nose that he was nursing when we talked, Ted King is happy and excited to be at Flanders and Roubaix. In preparation of finishing his work for the team at the classics, he learned how to say “I’m cooked” in Italian: “ciao.”