In part one of our conversation, Adam Myerson shared his journey in the world of cycling, his too early retirement and return to the sport that he loves to finally turn pro on the road at the age of 30. He also talked the early cross scene and his hope to one day focus only on cross for a season to see where it leads him.
In part two, we talk about the future, tackle how long Myerson can continue racing and the state of the cross scene. And, I asked him to put his prediction hat on for the upcoming US Cyclocross National championships.
More from Myerson, pro road racer, cross racer, president, head coach of Cycle-Smart and a race organizer, member of the management committee of the International Association of Cyclo-Cross Organizers (AIOC-Cross), president of the New England Championship Cyclo-Cross Series, and until recently he was a member of the UCI Cyclo-Cross Commission.
So any plans in changing things. And you also have your coaching business, you’ve got three or four hats. How many hats do you have?
Four, a good solid four. Monday when the other guys are having a real day off, the races are on the weekend and they get to have Monday like it’s a weekend day for a normal person, that Monday is my busiest work day. That’s the day that my clients are sending in their files from the week so I’m at my desk sometimes for twelve hours on Mondays. That’s not recovery, that’s not a day off, that’s doesn’t give me a day to run errands and wash my bikes, it’s another workday. I have no days off, my recovery day from one hat or from one job is typically a busy day from one of the other jobs. It never really stops for me. The only way that I could do it different would be if I was on a team… like with Nerac, which was really great, Nerac was a twelve-month program for me, the director of the team was a cross rider and was into cross so I had a twelve-month contract with them where my salary was through the cross season and I got cross bikes and clothes from the team and I had full support for twelve months of the year. They recognized the value of my cross season. If I had a team that would let me pull up early and do the training that I need to to really come into the start of the cross season at my best, that really would be the only way I could do it. Or if I didn’t get a road contract, it may sound funny but if for some reason I got to the point that I didn’t have a road contract for the next year, that’s when I can make my own schedule. And when I can make my own schedule, I definitely plan on changing around the structure of my season a little bit.
So how many more years do you think you still have in you? (laughs) Staying sane and not getting burned out.
I know, (chuckles) even when I was saying that to you that’s what I was thinking, I’m always planning and I’ll be 38 next year. I have no idea, in my head when I think about being 38 or 39 or even 40, it’s not old in terms of the quality of my life. I’m looking forwards to what is going to come next but if you had asked me when I was 20 if I was going to be a pro when I was 40? It seems ridiculous right? But if I forget about how old I am for second but think about how I feel, how fun, how motivated I am, how much I enjoy training and the fact that I’m still improving, it appears that I’m still improving. The fact that I can still improve shows me that in the early part of my career I didn’t reach… I’m not as naturally gifted as a lot of guys and that’s plain but with the proper training and the proper commitment and taking care of myself well, because I have a lot of motivation and I have a lot of discipline and I play the game of cycling well, it was possible for me to reach a higher level and I did but circumstances beyond my control, coming from a poor family, trying to put myself through college, being stupid enough to get involved in the organizational side of the sport when I should have been just focusing on the racing, spreading myself too thin kept me maybe from reaching the level that I was capable of. Now, even though I’m overcommitted still, I know how to prepare myself, I know what type of training I need to do and I’m starting to see the benefits of that. I never did thirty-five hour weeks when I was married let’s say. Who has that time you know?
I don’t count the Pro Tour guys when I think about American pros, but I think only Chris Horner and Lance are older than me. I don’t think anybody else is my age anymore, I’ll be 38 next year. I think those guys are 39 next year, I think I’m a year old than Levi but I’m not sure. But those guys are in a different sport than me, there a no 40-year old doing crits.
Does that mean anything?
I think it’s culturally loaded. I’m going to be racing my bike when I’m 40, it makes me stop and think ‘am I kidding myself about something’, why is this worth holding on to? Then I catch myself, do I really care how old I am, that’s not a factor. Am I making enough money? Am I having fun? Am I still motivated? And I do have to justify the financial side of it for sure because I can’t continue to put off focusing on my business and preparing for my retirement and things like that. I have to be careful not to live the dream for as long as I can live the dream because that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m getting paid enough to continue to do it right now, not enough to keep doing it at all costs so I have to find the balance.
You said that you went to the organizational side too early but I wonder if that’s not what made you stay longer?
Yeah, I think it’s possible. I had unfinished business and I think, I got sidetracked maybe and I quit sooner than I should have, so I do feel that I have a second chance. If you think about the fact that I didn’t turn pro until I was 30, I saw the second part of my career as my second chance. I spent ten years married, I retired probably before I should have, I consider myself in spirit to be a good ten years younger than I actually am and this is the career that I was trying to have when I was in my mid-twenties and so I want it to last for as long as… I think that’s where the excitement comes from, I didn’t get to finish what I’d started and right now I’m finishing what I started in the twenties. It’s like I paused for ten years to be married and to be a normal person and I didn’t like it very much.
Normalcy is so over-rated.
When I was talking to some other guys about cross, your name kept popping up a lot as far as how much you’ve given back and how much you’ve helped. How important is that for you to still build up the cross scene? You said that it changed a lot since you started off but is it where you want it to be? How much more needs to be done? What’s missing?
Well first, I can’t tell you what it means to me when that happens. When I read interviews with the other guys, maybe somebody like Jeremy is a good example, and when I won Collegiate Nationals for example, Tim was second, Tom Danielson was in the top ten. These guys have all gone on to reach a much higher level than I have reached and that window has kind of closed to me. It really means so much to me to have been a part of their success in a specific way but also the success of American cyclocross as a whole as a result of that. For those guys to give me credit for that and to not forget that, I won’t lie it really means a lot to me and I really appreciate it when they do it. Because everybody has an ego I guess and everybody has their insecurities and I’m happy when those guys value whatever they learned from me or whatever they got from me, I think that’s awesome.
Are we done? Am I done? No, and in fact, it’s funny, in the past year one of the things that I realized was just how overcommitted I was and just how much energy I put into building this sport up to the point where, how can I put this… there was a circuit here that didn’t exist that I wanted to participate in, this should be here and it isn’t here, this would have been what I wanted to do, I’m going to make it happen so that other people can participate in it but I wanted to participate in it too. So I was so busy building the stadium that I never got to play in it and I want to play in it a little bit. I want to get to the front of these races that I feel I’ve helped to develop in this scene that I helped create, this pro circuit so in the past year in particular, I’ve realized that I need some balance and it’s not up to me to save cyclocross single-handedly anymore.
A lot of the things that I was asking for have happened, we have Marc Gullickson working for USA Cycling in an official capacity with cyclocross as part of his title, we didn’t have that in the early 2000s when I really started documenting the change that I wanted to see. We wanted USA Cycling to actually do work on behalf of cyclocross and we finally have that. We have a full Worlds team every year. We have Bruce Fina and the USGP as a stable replacement for the Super Cup, so we have that National Series, we have the big, big races a couple of times of year that we really needed. We have a national racing calendar which is actually on top of that sort of pro-style circuit that GP is, that we have a weekend in, weekend out circuit. All of a sudden, I realized ‘hey we’re here’, I got a lot of what I wanted done done and I’m starting to trust other people with their stewardship of cyclocross and I didn’t previously, I felt that I had to do it.
For the past four years, I was on the UCI Cyclocross commission. In September I had to decide if I was going to do another four years, ‘you know what, I’m sick of flying to Belgium for all these meetings’, one of the big meetings always happens in the middle of one of my pro team’s winter road camp. I can’t skip my pro team’s camp to go sit in a meeting in Belgium even if both things are important to me and I finally felt confident and comfortable enough where we were to relinquish some control, to let some other people take on some that responsibility. Geoff Proctor, in particular, is a guy I trust immensely, he has the expertise, he has the experience, he has personal social skills, he’s a bridge-builder, he can build consensus, he’s a guy that I trust, he has the good of the sport first and foremost so once I knew that he could fill my spot in the cross commission then I was comfortable walking away from it. I might not have been comfortable depending on how was going to replace me, I might have wanted to hold on to it for four more years. With Bruce Fina running the GP and Marc Gullickson at USA Cycling and Brook Watts doing such a good job with CrossVegas and their promotions out there and really driving things in terms of promotions there and Proctor taking my spot on the commission, I’m psyched, it means that I can race my bike a little now.
It means that I don’t have to be saving cyclocross right now and I can enjoy these last couple of years of my career while I can, because I’m running out of time obviously, and in my forties, I can recommit to all of these little projects that I have my hands in, the Verge series, the Northampton race, Cycle-Smart. I’m just treading water, I did a lot of work to get them in place but right now they can’t get any bigger until I’m done racing. I’m just trying to do the minimum that I can to keep them all stable and then the minute I retire, that’s when I’m going to turn the lights on again for so many of those projects and I hope push us up another level again.
A lot of people have compared the cross scene right now to how big mountain bike was a few years ago but that fizzled. Any concerns that this will happen to the cross scene?
I wouldn’t call it worry, we’re always looking over our shoulders for sure. We did see what happened to mountain bike racing and even what happened to road in the nineties, the numbers dropped and that was a result of the economy. We do have to be careful. One way to look at it is look at the differences in the different regions, the best contrast is compare cross in Portland to cross in Boston.
In the North East, we didn’t like the idea that cross was this off-season, freaky, offbeat, weird thing for freaks. A lot of us had gone and raced in Europe, we knew that it was a serious sport and we wanted to be taken seriously. We thought that the best way to grow cross was to grow it in a serious way, to make it more professional, to raise the level of organization, to have more prize money but not kill the spirit of what made cross special, of what made cross fun. We were successful with that, it’s gone the way that we wanted to.
In Portland, they did the opposite, they said this thing is crazy and let’s go with the crazy, let’s focus on fun and low key and inexpensive and participation-oriented and look at how successful they have been. They’ve been just as successful with sort of an opposite approach, even though I’ve been responsible for a different approach when I look at Portland, all I see is success. Yes maybe their results aren’t as good as ours, and their level of production of the events isn’t the same as here but look at the numbers they get, the fun that people are having and the way that cross has grown in that town. No one has been as successful as that as they have and I have so much respect for them for getting it their own way.
For us in the North East, we have great prize lists and we have really well organized races, things are popular and we got what we wanted out of it but we get half as many racers on a given than they do. We get five hundred but we don’t get a thousand so success for cross has to be in the middle somewhere of those two things. And I think that as long as we continue to pay attention to what the other regions are doing, and what’s successful and what’s not successful, I think we’re going to be fine. I think that the fact that cross is just more fun in my opinion than mountain bike racing, mountain bike riding is a lot of fun but mountain bike racing I don’t believe is as fun as cyclocross, it’s not as much fun to watch, it’s not easy to organize. I think the entry fees got out of control, there was very little return for what you paid for, we need to remember that our participants are our customers and keep that in mind.
Do you think it can still grow?
I think there is a limit. I think the limit is that you can only put so many riders on a course on a given day and still run a good event. For my standpoint, we can’t handle a thousand racers on a single day, we don’t have enough daylight, we’re damaging courses and we want people’s racing experience to be positive so if you put two hundred riders in a field, how are you going to score that? I don’t care if you have chips, I don’t care what you have, that’s a mess, that’s not fun, that’s not a quality product. I think there has to be a participation limit on any given day so for there to continue to be growth, the calendar has to grow, we have to move Nationals to January. They’re already doing this where the weather is good, you see in California and North Carolina, they are racing in January. For the sport to continue to grow, the length of the season has to grow and it has to extend from the first weekend of September until the last weekend of February. Right now, we have so many conflicts with races where there will be two races on the same day but we don’t run a full season calendar. Why are we ending our season early if we have race-day conflicts? That makes no sense to me.
And forcing riders to go to Europe to keep on racing.
That’s right. We know that our best guys need to go to the best races if they want to race at the top level but they don’t stop racing in Switzerland because there are races in Belgium. It’s only Belgium and Holland that have races in February, every else does stop the weekend of Worlds. At the very least in the US, our cross season should be extended into January, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing that. We need UCI races in January, we need more regions, we need to be racing through Christmas because only five guys go to Europe. Are we really having Nationals in December for the five dudes that go to Europe? It’s time to actually prioritize the grassroots who want to keep racing and again to accommodate the growth, we need to move the goalposts of the season out.
I could talk to you for hours. You mention Nationals, so I’m going to put you on the spot. Who’s going to win?
I was thinking the other day… you obviously can’t discount Jonathan [Page], people are thinking oh he’s not riding great, look at his results in Europe, but I think the fact that he’s not killing it right now is by design. If you think about the year that he was on the podium at Worlds, when he’s allowed to progress at his own rate, when he’s given freedom to ride without pressure, he knows that he’s not a rider who can be in the top 5 every single weekend, especially if he’s racing clean and I think most of us believe that he is. So he knows that he can only be at his best a couple of times of years, if he’s allowed to progress at his own rate that’s when you see Jonathan crushing it at Nationals, and show up at his best for Worlds. So I would not be surprised if Jonathan comes home flying.
Now, that said, he obviously hasn’t been going that great and you never know what he’s going be showing with, but I think the real thing, I think there are five guys, solidly five guys. Even though we’ve seen a lot of repeat winners, we’ve only seen how many guys are won races in the US this year? Four or five, it’s the three Cannondale guys, Ryan [Trebon] and Jonathan. A few other guys have won, like [Dan] Timmerman, but Timmerman is winning the local series races, so I think it’s going to be one of those five guys. And the only guy I would add to that is Adam Craig, he’s been sneaking up, he’s been getting his points and if he can start at least on the second row. If he gets a clean start on a course that he likes, that suits him, he’s only getting stronger right now, he didn’t focus on the first part of the season, he’s focused on Nationals.
If we get him a really muddy day in Bend… that’s the other thing, the crazier the weather is, the more unpredictable the race is. Tim Johnson can put his derailleur into his spokes just like anybody else could. I think those five guys obviously is the battle, I can’t really say until we see exactly what the course looks like and what the weather looks like. If it’s a watts per kilogram race then Ryan is very very difficult to beat. If it’s muddy with a lot of driving, then I’d look to Tim [Johnson] or Jonathan. If it’s fast criterium-like, if there are a lot of speed changes, if there’s drafting, then I’d lean towards Jeremy [Powers] and maybe still Jonathan in that case. With Jamey [Driscoll], who knows, he can win but who knows. He’d win if everybody else takes themselves out of the race and he dieseled along… he’s fast and steady. Got to add Chris Jones to that list.
Chris…. if it’s fast and dry.
He’s gotten better in the mud though. He is a pure climber and that’s the thing that you have to remember with Chris, and so as a pure climber, he does well in muddy racing but his driving isn’t as good as say Tim’s or his ability to change his speed isn’t as good as Jeremy’s but if we get a hilly course. He’s surprised me with the courses he’s done well this year, it’s the first year that he’s a capable rider and not just a horses-for-courses, courses-for-horses kind of rider.
He also mentioned you in an interview, that you were the reason he started doing cross.
He’s one of my favorite teammates. We spent a lot of time together, we’re very different in some outward ways, you maybe wouldn’t expect us to be such close friends but we share a value system, I guess you could say, how to treat people and how to conduct yourself and we recognized that in each other pretty quickly. We always roomed together, we always tried to travel together.
And with that, we closed the conversation. But stay tuned for more with Adam Myerson in 2010.