I caught up with the BMC team at the start of the 2008 Tour of Missouri stage 5, in St James where the riders were getting ready for another aggressive stage in high humidity. Mike Sayers announced his retirement earlier this year, and is racing his last big race at the Tour of Missouri. Going into the day, Jeff Louder was sitting in tenth place in the overall classification and had been very aggressive in the previous day’s break. Darren Lill had a great time trial result finishing in seventh place but missed the move on stage 4, and is now back to hunting for stage wins and assisting his teammate in moving up the GC. Finally, Jonathan Garcia is hitting his form after suffering two hard crashes this year.
This is your last big race, this is it. How does it feel?
Mike: Yes, this is it. I get mixed feelings, the team, I think they finalized the roster this week, and they are doing a press release, I feel a little bit left out honestly but it’s part of it. Especially after a day like yesterday where I suffered a little bit and those are the days I’m not really going to miss. I think as we get closer to Sunday, it’s going to be a little more difficult. The only good thing is that Ive known it’s coming and I can prepare myself for it, just going to give the last couple of days everything I got. The team is riding really well which is awesome, that’s one thing I’m really proud of, how far the team has come, how far the team is going. It’s just kind of the natural evolution of things.
The BMC team seems to have brought it up a level in the last few months, what brought this on?
Mike: I just think it was the progression, I just think it took us some time to get guys organized and get some experience in the bank, again I think we’ve reached that point, obviously the leadership from Gavin[Chilcott] and John [Lelangue] has made a big difference, they were always pushing guys to be aggressive and I think it does help you get a little more cohesive. I think it’s just a combination of things, I just think it’s generally the natural maturity of how things are going. And you bring in some more experienced riders like Tony [Cruz] and Jeff [Louder], they make a big difference, it’s not just me telling guys what to do, those guys are talented enough to kind of lead by example, it’s been really nice and a really nice team to finish up with, that’s one of the great things, I get to leave on one of the best teams and just kind of be proud of that whole thing.
What’s next for you? Are you going to announce your unretirement in a few years?
Mike: No, I don’t think so, I don’t like to play that game, I’m not a big fan of that. There is no reason for me to come back. I don’t know exactly what’s next, I’m working on it, I think with the team in some capacity next year but we haven’t finalized that, I need a regular full-time industry job I think, so I’ve been talking to people, and it’s been really nice because I’ve been getting a lot of good advice and a lot of help from a lot of different people so right now, I’ve got nothing but hopefully by the end of October, I’ll have something lined up.
Jeff, what’s the plan for the next few days?
Jeff: We still want to be aggressive and put ourselves out there, race how we know how to race, we’ve got things to defend but there are people with a lot more important things to defend and we can play off of them and see how it goes. Hopefully, Columbia is still expecting to race hard and I think we’ll play off of that, it’s still a long way to the finish, three days to go and today and tomorrow look pretty tough.
What’s going to happen today?
Jeff: I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a group to the finish but I think it will be easier today, guys are really tired plus there are just a lot more guys that they can let go. There’s not that much in the equation, there are twenty guys there, ten only to be one hundred percent concerned about. The odds are greater that something will go up the road that is twenty minutes down, it’s easy for them, it just neutralizes things. I don’t expect Columbia to roll over, it should be fun.
Darren, you said that you were a bit disappointed about your time trial result. But you had a good ride.
Darren: It was a good time trial, like I said I rode as hard as I could, I didn’t feel bad so I’ve got to be happy. The guys that were up there doing better than me are all true world-class time trialist I guess.
What’s the plan?
Darren: I missed on that break yesterday, I was in a good move with Rodgers and Pinotti and we got caught up and swamped and somehow Rodgers and Pinotti still made it to the next move, I don’t know I got a bit caught in the field and by the time I got enough space, it was already over, it was too late to ride across, it was really disappointing. I think if I had made that move, I would have moved up to fifth overall, it was but frustrating at the end of the day but at least we have Jeff up there.
I think today, trying to get into a good break and see if anything goes to the line, I think it might be similar to yesterday like rally fast in the beginning because I think Columbia is going to do everything they can to try and move somebody over to first place, they’re going to have to be aggressive and I think it’s going to be a hard start again.
Do you think Garmin will win the overall or will Columbia take it?
Darren: They were in difficulty yesterday, it depends how they play it. Yesterday, there was a small move with Hincapie and a couple of other guys that I think they should have let them up the road actually because it would have been easier for them just to bring back three of four guys then to just keep on chasing for the rest of the race. I think they have a lot of young guys on the team, I’m not quite sure who is calling the shots, for awhile Vande Velde was riding at the front trying to bring it back because he didn’t have any support, I think it was just really hard for all of them and they’ll rally today and do a good job. I think it could go either way.
Are you with BMC next year?
Darren: No, I’m not. I found out at this race that Andy Rhis’ sponsor wants Swiss and American riders, specifically he wants 8 Swiss and 8 American riders, that’s pretty much for me. It’s pretty disappointing, now I have to find another ride. It’s going to be sad to leave the team, I liked the riders and the staff and everyone as getting along great, it’s sad.
Jonathan, how’s the form?
Jonathan: It’s good, it’s definitely back to where I want to be just in time for the end of the year. I had some bad luck at Tour de Suisse and then again at Cascade, during the crit. Just two really bad crashes, it could have been way worse, pretty lucky to have been able to do Utah, do US Pro and be here. Just part of the sport, how it goes.