The roads are about to go up and up at the Giro d’Italia and Jeff Louder is ready to slay himself along with his BMC teammates to help leader Cadel Evans on his and the team’s quest for the overall win.
“My eleventh year as a pro, it’s been a long time coming.” said the 32-year old American earlier this year about racing his first Grand Tour.
His aim is to be one of the last guys standing with Evans on the climbs. “That’s what I desire to do, that’s what I hope to do. Can I do that? I think if I prepare well, and if I can find the kind of form I seem to get later in the year, if I can get Tour of Utah form, I think I can definitely be a very big help, that’s my goal. I want to be a guy that can be there the last week that’s what I want. Whether or not I can remains to be seen, I’ve never raced beyond ten days,” chuckled Louder, “I have the desire.”
After 6 stages, Evans sits in 16th spot at 1:59 down from the Maglia Rosa. It’s been a tough opening this year with numerous crashes so far and Louder found the team time trial tough going. But as the expression goes – “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” – and Louder is known as one tough rider in the domestic peloton.
“I definitely work really really hard, I’m always motivated to be one hundred percent at every event, I respect the sport and if I start a race I want to do something there, I’m not one to back down. I just love racing, honestly I just love racing.”
After racing early on for three years with Belgium teams starting in 2000 with Tönissteiner – Colnago followed by Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, Louder moved on to American-registered teams such as Navigators Insurance and HealthNet p/w Maxxis with still some European racing on his schedule. But the Grand Tour never materialized.
“I semi-wrote it off, you always hope but I wasn’t certain. It’s why I started the sport to get to do the Tour, it’s always kept me going.” he commented. “I’m really really happy to be with this team BMC, the way the whole program is moving is really impressive.”
Louder has been part of the BMC program since 2008 as it has progressed from a Continental squad racing in the US to a Pro-Continental powerhouse with the current World Champion Evans and an eye on the biggest races.
Lots of changes this year. First change was to Louder’s winter preparation for his first Grand Tour and maybe his second on the same year as the BMC Racing Team will be racing in the Tour de France.
“I just tried to add a lot of hours, coming in pretty slow relative to last year’s training to get ready for Tour of California. Knowing that my focus is later the year I’ve been able to back off on the intensity and upped the duration and hopefully that will give me a bit more base and better recovery down the line. I think just adding hours, just riding the bike and getting more and more efficient over the winter is going to be the strength that I’ll need to get through the Grand Tour.”
Second, he along with his wife and daughter, packed up and moved to Girona, Spain. “I think the riding there will be conducive to getting a lot of good climbing in, really got to get light, not too many olives and not too much wine.” laughed Louder.
And third of course has been his race schedule which included Montepaschi Strade Bianche Eroica Toscana, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne won by Evans.
After years of racing as a domestique, Louder took on the leadership role at BMC garnering wins such as the overall at Tour of Utah in 2008, Redlands Bicycle Classic in 2009 and third-place finish at the US Pro National Championships in 2009 behind his future teammate George Hincapie.
“My pedigree has always been to be a worker. When I came to this team I got given great opportunities to be a leader and I took them and I relished it, it’s been great to get to win Redlands and Tour of Utah and all the other great results the team has helped me to achieve has definitely been an honor but I think in a lot of ways, that also thought me how to better domestique, in a way it’s was great training to get it from that end.” explained Louder. “Now I maybe know better what I can do for Cadel, how I can be a better domestique and honestly if I can be part of a team that can win a Grand Tour, obviously it’s not me, I think that would be one of my prouder achievements in my career.”
Even though he is 32, Louder feels that he has many years left in his legs. “When I started racing, 32 was retirement age, but now a lot of the better racers in the world are in their 30s so that’s been a good example to me, given me more hope.”
“2009 was my best year ever as far as consistency, a good span of results, getting the win at Redlands but also, even though I didn’t win again, I was going against, I got beat by [Oscar] Sevilla and [Francisco] Mancebo more than once, those guys have been top 5 in the Tour. I think I’m still progressing, it’s been a really long gradual progression for me but I think it’s still happening. I don’t feel that I’m in the end of career.”
Louder smiled and concluded, “I’ve been quoted to say that I’m in the evening of my career, but night time is when the party starts.”
Well then let’s get the party started.