If you’ve seen Daniel Holloway hamming it up at a 6-days, playing air guitar at the front of the rider parade, or playing to the crowd at Philly, some might think that he didn’t cycling that seriously. Well, that might have the case – maybe – but the rider, nicknamed The Hollywood, admits that he is now taking his training and racing very seriously.
And it paid off this year. The 23-year old was the first American rider to cross the finish line at the Glencoe Grand Prix to capture the US Pro National Criterium title. He followed that up with the overall victory at the Gateway Cup and a win at his last road race of his neo-pro year at the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup in Boston.
His path included both racing on the track and road with a focus on the Olympic Games of 2012. With the removal of endurance track events, Holloway is now focusing on the road. After one year with the BISSELL Pro Cycling Team, he will be joining Kelly Benefit Strategies in 2011 with a desire of racing in Europe.
Wondering where he got the nickname? As he explained back in May 2009, it all happened at the USA Cycling National Development Camp in 2005. “I showed up in Salt Lake City with a snazzy pair of white shoes on, nice jeans and looking good. I had a puma patent leather like day bag, and so Jim Miller, who is now Director of Athletics at USA Cycling, was there and I was the only guy he didn’t know on the team and so when I walked in, he was ‘nice purse’ and I was ‘it’s a man bag’, and he goes ‘you must be Daniel Holloway’, and ‘I am’ and he’s ‘it’s Hollywood’.”
Here’s our conversation where we discussed winning US Pro Crit, being seen as a goofball and well growing up.
What did it feel like to be called up wearing the Stars & Stripes?
It’s kind of surreal, you know it’s going to happen but at the same time the name gets called. It’s a cool feeling, it’s something that truly makes you smile and I really appreciate that. I put a lot of hard work getting the jersey, same thing with my team, we all worked really hard to be able to have that honor for a year, to be able to say Daniel Holloway is the Pro Crit Champion.
Talk to me about that and going for the jersey. Do you race any differently at US Pro Crit?
At the beginning no, you have to race the race to go out to win it. But things change halfway through, it comes down to the first American. In the breakaway, there were five foreigners or something like that you just had to watch the American guys. And the way that break worked out, [David] Veilleux had his sprinter [Alex] Candelario in there and you had Fly V with no Americans. It wasn’t like I was going to win the race outright if I had followed Veilleux and [Bernie] Sulzberger at that point, Veilleux wasn’t going to work anymore, he showed that he was the strongest guy in the race so he wasn’t going to work with me even if I was doing pull for pull with him. You have to realize it that if guys have teammates that are Americans they’re not going to work with you. It was easier to just sit back and follow the American guys because you knew that the foreigners were not going to work with you.
When did all that start coming through your mind? There was not a whole lot of time to think on that course.
At same point you couldn’t take it in but once the break was established and it was going away, and once it was 10 laps to go and you see okay this is going to stay away that’s when you can start to really think about the finish and how to accomplish winning the race by being the first American. With around 15, 10 laps to go, I started thinking about it more about who to follow and how to prepare myself and how to help Shane [Kline] help me get to the finish line the best way possible. With around 10 laps to go I started putting more thought into how to finish the race off.
And how much pressure is that at that point for you?
It’s a lot, especially that day I didn’t have what I would call super-legs for me to feel kind of unbeatable, I was hurting. I was actually a little bit nervous from 10 laps to 5 laps when I was really thinking about the finish. I can do this with my legs, I had Kyle Wamsley and Frank Pipp in the field that were just sitting in all day long, riding really well. Kyle showed that he could have easily won the jersey, out of the field he was the first American to catch the group. It was quite a bit of pressure that I put on myself. Shane had been working all day really hard and I had two guys in the field that could have easily won the jersey, sitting there trusting me to do the work so there was pressure for sure.
And then you got it. When did you know you had it?
From a bike length out. With somebody like [Ken] Hanson you really have to race, he’s definitely known to pip a couple of guys right at the finish. I knew I had to race all the way to the finish that day especially as I didn’t feel fast in the sprint. Once I was at the line I knew I had it.
What’s that feeling like?
It’s just a really sharp emotion of joy. After the line, after the corner I pulled to the side of the road and sat in some grass for a couple of minutes, ‘oh my God, I really just won Pro Crit, I can’t believe it’. I had my head in my hands and just tried to wrap it up quickly that I had just won Pro Crit, it’s a really big deal.
You won the Elite in 07 and now this one. Do you think winning this one this year proves anything especially after the other one?
Yeah, in 07, I got some offers to get opportunities to do different things and I chose the path to go to Europe a little bit. Then I did win some races in Europe last year but all the smaller races don’t get recognized in the States and some directors might not see that. I never really won a ton in the US on a big level and I think some people didn’t see me as a full-on winner of races and I think this shows I can win races. I was never really out of the picture, just in the corner but I think this brings me back to the center a little bit. I just have to follow on that and keep winning more races, I can’t just win the crit and never win races again. Everybody would say oh it was a fluke, I have to keep the pressure on and all that stuff.
You had an interesting path. You’ve done track, a lot of track and racing in Europe. Do you think that was the wrong thing to do or are you happy you followed that route?
I’m definitely happy that I followed that route. The thing is, there was a big picture, originally the goal was make the Olympic team for 2012 and then all the endurance stuff got scraped, that’s why I was doing a ton of track to get experience and try to build that level up and Jim Miller and USA Cycling was giving me that opportunity. Then as far as going racing on the road in Europe, that’s what I want to do. Jim Miller and a couple of people I was talking about the plans and where I want to be in 5 years and it was sacrifice some money and maybe some wins in the US and get my face kicked in and learn how to really race at a high level. Doing that for a year and a half paid dividends because I started getting results and winning races last year in Europe. For me, it paid off, when the racing gets tough I can do really well.
What is it that you learned in Europe?
Everything from preparation, how to handle yourself before races, what to eat, how to lose a pound here, a pound there. You’re really more in tune with yourself when the racing is hard and after every day you come out completely depleted and you have to learn how to take care of yourself after the race for the next stage or the next race to recover so you can rest at your best the next go around. It’s a steep learning curve and you have to want to learn how to do it. The races are longer and they are harder for longer and they are faster so you have to learn to adapt and how to race those races so you can save energy to sprint or to go over those climbs.
Sometimes you come across as a goofball, we’ve all seen the 6-days. How serious are you about racing?
I think definitely my past of being the fat kid and talking as if I really don’t take it seriously, I don’t train and stuff has haunted me when I talked to the bigger teams. It is a small world and people saying ‘you’re lazy and you don’t eat right’. In one year, I’ve made a big change, last year was a turn around for me where I took it really serious and I definitely upped my training and watched my diet a little more. But my past, because I tried to get on an European team last year and ‘oh we see that you’re good but it’s a risk because we don’t know how serious you’re going to take it’. It’s haunted me a little bit but you have to have fun, you have to enjoy it and when the time is right you have to show that you’re serious and that you’re professional and show the people that make decisions that you’re a professional guy at the end of the day.
Going back to what you said earlier of people saying that you didn’t take it seriously, could it be that it was too easy for you when you were younger?
Yeah, definitely as a junior, things were pretty easy for me because I had the talent to sprint so I didn’t have to really my diet and I didn’t have to train all that hard. It was just a 6-hour weeks, just go out after school with a buddy, do 3 or 4 hour sprints and come home. I didn’t have to ride all that much and have success, and I’m kind if paying for that now in a sense, I had to work on my work ethics that I have to have to race at a high level, it’s not all about talent, you have to work hard too. Definitely at the beginning it came pretty easy and a lot of people saw that and I kind of liked that mental aspect of messing with people and going ‘oh yeah I didn’t ride all week’ and I’d come out and win races. I’d sit there and I was able to race after eating Taco Bell and people were saying ‘how can you eat that’, and I’d say ‘oh I don’t care, I’m going to eat it and I’ll still win’. It’s been a hard transition to working on that stuff but I’ve done it and I’m happy with what I’ve seen.
Let’s talk about this year. This was your first year as a pro, how satisfied are you with your year?
I guess up to this point in the big picture I’m satisfied now that I have the jersey. Everything since the beginning of the year has paid off, I can relax about my year because I got the jersey. But before Glencoe, I thought that my season, for myself, was lackluster. I expected more out of myself and maybe expected things to come a little bit easier than they were.
The team had a hard time getting started without two of its road leaders in Kyle Wamsley and Frank Pipp, those two guys were out with injury right into the heart of the season with California and Philly. The team in the spring had a hard time hitting its stride which is kind of frustrating being the only sprinter out on the road and not having a lot of sprint support guys. We have a lot of guys that morale-wise bring everybody up but as far as the perfect leadout, we didn’t have a ton of guys to execute like we planned for at training camp in February. As far as getting results, it was frustrating, we had a hard time in putting races together. It took us a long time as a team to figure out how we all operated together, it was a little frustrating but I think everybody believed in everybody else. But ever since Fitchburg and Grand Rapids, something clicked all of sudden and you can see in the results that we started working well together, the results have come. We started to figure out how to put all the pieces together.
You said that you’ve been taking it a lot more seriously but at the same it was frustrating and you also didn’t do that much road racing this past year. What did you learn about yourself throughout all this?
Everything started in 09, my last year with Garmin. A lot of pressure was put on me there, ‘okay you’re now the top guy but we’ve hired another guy, younger’. They hired Raymond Kreder and that made me sort of wishy-washy like they didn’t believe in me but on the other side, I had to show them that they could believe in me so I had to step up my game and take it serious. It was my last year as a U23 and if I wanted to move up to the next level, I had to really bring the heat and show them that I’m ready for the next level. So it started in 09, taking myself seriously, race preparation, diet, training and stuff. I started working a little closer with, not coaches, but a couple of advisors, here’s what I think I need to do what do you guys think? And we’d come up with a plan.
This winter, I started working with Jim Miller as my coach and he’s like I’m ready when you’re ready and when you’re ready to commit 100 percent I’ll write your programs. So I told him I was ready and he wrote up my winter program, I followed it as close as I could. I think even though I didn’t have huge success in California, that was a turning point for me that I could ride at that level and not come out of every day completely effed, that I had recovered well and that I was ready to race the next day. Before I crashed I was getting better every day which was pleasing. Then going into a race like Philly – something like 250K the longest race in the US, a hard race – I walked away from that race disappointed because I had phenomenal legs but just no results to show it unfortunately. But walking away from a race like Philly fresh and not fatigued gave me in confidence in Jim that he could prepare me for any race and gave me confidence that I could do it personally.
This year, I didn’t race too much [on the road] because I was doing the 6-days and the World Cups and World Championship, a lot of my preparation was on the track so I sacrificed my early season quite a bit and the team was okay with that with me doing the track stuff. But I didn’t perform super on the track to make it all that worthwhile and it took me a little bit to hit my stride on the road bike.
What about next year?
I definitely want to go to Europe and race to see if I sink or swim. It’s about the time to see if I go to Europe and see if I can make it. If I can make it then it’s phenomenal and if not then I know at an earlier age to come back and focus on how to win a lot of bike races in the US rather than just trying to get to Europe and sacrificing the race wins in the US to get to Europe.
When do you want to be in 3 years?
In 3 years, I’d like to be on a ProTour team, make an effect on races and having my name come up in race reports.
Which race would you love to do, either because you’re well suited for or just because you’d plainly like to do them?
I’m not really afraid of the big races in Europe, whether it’s the big Classics or the Grand Tours. You can’t go in with a closed mind, oh I’m going to pigeon-hole myself into a rider that can only do Flanders or Roubaix. Who knows, I might succeed at something like Liege or something like that, I just never know until I change my training because I still have weight to lose and fitness to gain. I’m a pretty fast guy at the end of a race but I still don’t know exactly where that all fits in.
How are you going to figure it out?
Going out and doing it. Doing all the hard races in the US. I do pretty well in the longer races, like Philly and the longer days at Joe Martin where it’s hard and it’s long. I think at the end of those bike races, I felt I was getting better and better as the kilometers went on, so who knows I may be some sort of Classics rider in the sense of the distance.
Any more 6-days?
I haven’t taken any sort of long break in the past 2 and half years. The longest break I’ve taken was probably 10 days and that was this year after Nature Valley. So, the coach says I need a complete break to mentally decompress, let the body heal one hundred percent. Take the winter really slow and do one hundred percent road build with no track interruptions. I’m going to do 6-days later in the winter because I’ll have some fitness then and they can only help with the speedwork and the intensity and then I can go back to the long road miles and it won’t really affect anything.