What can be said about Adam Myerson, road and cross racer, race promoter series organizer, coach, that hasn’t already said? Never shy to express himself, Myerson shares many of his thoughts and emotions through twitter which sometimes generates criticism.
After his road team, Team Mountain Khakis p/b Smartstop, had a successful season, Myerson jumped right into the cross season where he wore multiple hats. But the SmartStop / Mock Orange Bikes p/b Ridley rider admits that it got the best of him and his racing suffered that is until last weekend at Chicago Cyclocross Cup New Year’s Resolution. Both days, in cold and tough conditions, Myerson showed that he was back on form with top 10 finishes. Just in time for the USA Cyclocross National Championships where he will race the Masters 40+ race on Saturday morning and the Elite Men on Sunday afternoon.
We sat down with Myerson earlier this week over coffee to see what he learned from this season, his goals for Nationals, his thoughts on the state of cross and more as part of our One-On-One series.
Tell me about your season. I know that’s broad. Your form seems to be coming back up and you said that you’re finally seeing the form that you wanted to see all season. Is that correct?
Yeah. I am seeing it now and I was capable of riding like this all season, I just hadn’t done the training. There are always nasty people that want to leave comments on the internet, I found someone who had a tumblr – I don’t know how I stumbled across it, it came up in a search – this person’s comment was about me being a piece of shit and that I just needed to accept that I wasn’t good anymore. And it just made me laugh, you just don’t wake up one morning and you’re not good anymore. You either do the training or you don’t. There’s no like fuel rod that expires, you just do the training or you don’t.
When I had a great (cross) season last year, I broke my wrist in the middle of the year, I had a month without racing, I did two months of base training going into cross season and I came into the season really fit and was able to hold that form for a long time and do a little build back up for the end of year where I had really good form for the last two, three weeks of the season and won a second race. Then I faded, the bottom dropped out and I had a bad ride at Nats, I didn’t finish on a great note but I had the best season of my career. I knew that would be hard to beat this year, and so topping last year’s season was never a goal. I was just happy that I had it.
But this year, I let my road season go longer, a month longer, I got a little sick last spring and I was a little behind in the spring so I let it ride longer. I didn’t take a break, I didn’t have Philly to build up for so I didn’t take a mid-season break like I normally do. I only did one month of prep this year for cross season and started it fit but not at the best level I could have, and then things were just twice as busy as last year. I had the Shimano series and the Verge series instead of just the Shimano series, I put a lot of work into the Nor’Easter this year with a new change in venue which added a lot of work for us, and it was two extra hours away from home to get up, so everytime I had to do a site visit, it was a four-hour drive to get to Burlington instead of a two-hour drive to get to Loon like last year. And personal life stuff adds up. I wasn’t getting on my bike as early in the day, I was sitting at my desk for longer, I wasn’t recovering as quickly so my results were…. I was getting top 10 instead of top 5. Still fine results, it was still okay.
Some would say that it’s a choice you made.
Yeah, no one is in charge of it but me right?
I attempted to do it all but I did a mediocre job of it, so sometimes you think okay I can pull all this off and you find out you’re not. So what turned is: I got to the end of the New England season, Shimano ended, Verge ended, I had Cycle-Smart under my belt, Nor’Easter was done, I get caught up on work, my personal life settled down and I finally had energy and time to train. So I went to North Carolina – this is something new about Nationals being three weeks later, I actually had time to do a training camp during the cross season which is something I’d never done before. So I had the race in Tennessee and then our team was putting on a race the next weekend, so I went to North Carolina for two weeks, did four races and rode 20 hours a week.
I was down there to train for Nationals to try to raise my fitness level for Nationals at a time when the races were a little less important. I could train through them, I could show up tired for them, it would be okay, somewhere where the weather was warmer, it would have been hard to do that at home but I did training on the road. I raced cross on the weekend, and I did four, five hour rides every day Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And now, you see the difference.
This past weekend you were obviously strong. What does it mean coming into Nationals for you? And what have you learned this season?
It’s funny, to answer your second question first. I’m already not going to do the Nor’Easter and I’ve already stepped back from the Shimano series and handed that off to Paul Boudreau.
What is a question of not delegating this year?
Anytime sometime is new, it’s going to be twice as much work. We were building the infrastructure of the Shimano series and sure it was my creation but I had a lot of help from the other three organizers, and we tried to run it as a group of four equal partners, but invariably some people are going to do more work than others. And the other organizers, Paul Boudreau and Richard Fries especially, picked up a lot of slack but the Shimano series really took off and was bigger and more successful than we had anticipated and we ended up putting a lot more work into it than we anticipated because we realized we had something special. So, the CSI will be part of the Shimano series again next year but I’m going to entrust those guys to run it and I’m going to focus on just running Verge, that should help. And I’m only going to run my Northampton weekend, I’m only going to run my own races, I’m not going to contract to run other races because I just know I can’t.
Especially that the road team is back up to Continental, it’s going to be a full road season for you.
I said that things got lighter in terms of organization but as soon as it did… I’ve been working on road stuff this whole time. We’ve been dealing with sponsorship and equipment, the roster and I’m setting up a training camp right now, no it doesn’t ever stop. I always think of it as a big equalizer, some of the levels get slid up and some, down, it’s just when everything is turned up to ten is when you blow things.
I’m not here to win the Elite race so it’s different, you set your goals differently. I would be disappointed if I wasn’t in the top 20 with the form that I have right now, previously I would have been happy with top 30, the way I was riding before but right now I have top 20 form. Top 15, I’d be pleased, top 10 is not impossible, I’d be ecstatic if I got top 10. I’m not setting placing goals, right now when the race is hard and I need to push the pedals, I can, it feels awesome. I felt it in the race this weekend, those mud sections, sometimes people were having to get off and run them, and that’s a little bit technique and a little bit power. It’s getting to the point where I was attacking through those sections and the minute I was getting on firm ground on the other side of the mud, I wasn’t just like ‘oh thank God, I’ve reached the shore’, I was like ‘here’s my opportunity to re-accelerate’. I was able to keep that effort going even when I regained traction, I haven’t been able to do that all year, it’s like I have an extra gear.
I have a hard time sometimes in bigger races because the groups don’t settled down as quickly, there’s always someone going forwards and someone going back and I race better when I can draft and use some tactics and target groups. I’ve got to be careful in the elite race, not to to too deep trying to stay with the group or get baited by someone who’s clearly going too hard to make a group that they’re not going to stay with, etc. But I think that I’m going strong enough that I can ride my own race and will see where it gets me.
Aren’t you also racing masters?
I’m going to do the 40+ on Saturday but I’m not even thinking about that race.
Once you start, you know you’re going to want to win.
I’m one hundred percent going to try to win that race. It’s just weird because it’s not my focus but on the other hand, I don’t win a lot of races and it’s very rare that I’m the strongest guy in the race and I’m trying to get used to the idea that I’ll be one of the three strongest guys in the race and that’s legitimate thing. Pete Webber, Brandon Dwight. I’m not guaranteed to win that race by any stretch of the imagination, I think I shouldn’t be worst than third, I think both those guys are very capable of beating me. With the form I have right now, I feel a little bit more confident but we’ll see what happens, I could crash on the first turn so…
Let’s talk in cross in general. This year, I noticed that the crowds are smaller at many of the races that I’ve returned to, so has it plateaued? Is it the economy? Is it that the promoter is not promoting to get people there to have a reason to show up?
So in fairness, I’ve been really focused on Shimano and Verge this year and we’ve seen the opposite. Our level of production went up, our expos got better, we actually brought in a lot more food vendors so we created a bigger party atmosphere. Even if you weren’t at those races, if you look at the photos from the Shimano series races, you can see it. There’s still some small Verge races, especially if the weather is bad, the women’s winner crosses the finish line and if the photographer is on the wrong side of the fence… Sometimes you get a situation where all the spectators are on one side and the photographer is standing in the crowd taking the picture and it looks like no one is there. We can pull the opposite trick and have the photographer on the opposite side and it looks like the crowds are huge.
I don’t like that trick. I don’t mean to dis-respect the promoters, it’s a hard job. I looked at some races and ‘wow there’s nobody here’. The same race, the same time frame, nice weather and there’s nobody here.
So, again I didn’t leave New England that much but if you’re seeing some kind of plateau in spectators, I think we’ve got to push through… like in some of these regions where cross is growing, let’s say Ohio, Kentucky, there’s a lot of enthusiasm of the new, excitement of the new and so I could see in those growing places, it’s not new anymore so it’s stabilizing and there are a lot more races, a lot more opportunities to see the top riders. So many the masters are going home after their races.
The overall maybe of the pie did get bigger and what you’re seeing is a different distribution, but I do want to say, it’s always going to appear that I’m biased towards New England
But you are.
Sure. What you’re observing, we made a conscious effort to address this year and I think we did that successfully. We wanted to raise our game this year, we knew what we wanted to do and so, we targeted that. Unless you target it, you’re not going to get the growth.
So what do you think is the state of cross in the US? Is it healthy?
I think so. It’s really easy for critics to go oh this organizer is not going that right, or that organizer… the armchair quaterbacking that goes on. They expect every race organizer to be all things to all cross racers or for all of us to share the same vision for the sport. And the thing that’s been on my mind a lot lately is, you’re only going to promote the sport in the area that’s most interesting to you. It’s the same thing with women’s racing, if you don’t care about women’s racing then maybe you’re not going to put on a women’s race or manage a team but if it’s interesting to you, then yes that’s where your energy is going to go. The federations have a responsibility to develop the weaker areas of the sport but a private organizer or team manager absolutely does not.
So we have to differentiate as to whose job it is, where. So when you think about the state of cross, it couldn’t be any better, it’s the best it’s been and we’re not done. I think the other thing that people wave is ‘oh my God, we’re going to turn into NORBA’. Well no, because the cross organizers haven’t started gouging the participants on entry fees, there’s a limit to how many riders you can put on a course on a given day, and how many starts you can have on any given day for sure, but the spectator-friendly nature of the races, the sense of community that we have, I think that cross is uniquely positioned to have both a pro class and an amateur class that supports itself and supports each other and co-exist in a positive cycle rather than a vicious circle that takes from itself.
A good example of what I think is the negative and I have no problem being opened about this is what the hell is Sea Otter doing putting on a cyclocross race in April? You could say that they were around for the fall of NORBA and in my opinion what you’re seeing there are people who have never been involved in cross, who have never given a shit about cross, who are now seeing it as a cash cow, as an opportunity to generate entry fees. People are going to go do the race because they like cross, they want to have some fun but that’s just exploitative. It shouldn’t be allowed in my opinion to put on a cross race outside of the cross season. How are they contributing to cross in any way? No, that’s just someone cashing in.
The other thing is the big gap between the top riders and the up and comers, it’s been the same one at the top for quite a few years. The U23 all seem to be heading towards road. Do you think that the next crop will stick with cross?
I don’t know actually. When you say it’s the same faces, it is. I think what you’re getting there is because money is coming in but it’s not deep yet, I don’t mean this in a negative way but the rich are getting richer, there’s only a couple of teams, there’s only a couple of guys so the salary differential is pretty exponential. And you see that happening on the road too but a 10-place difference in the result could be the difference between getting a salary and having a trailer, you know what I mean? The difference between getting the support for someone like Justin Lindine versus what one of the top 5 Tim, Jeremy, Jamey, etc, is pretty vast. When you see what someone like Justin who is consistently there but isn’t beating those guys yet, when you see what Justin has to do to get to the races, the amount of support he doesn’t have in comparison that exponential difference, I’d like to see that gap change.
And that’s why we might lose some of these under23. Luke Keough is a good example. Luke Keough is probably the guy that could have given Zach a run for his money, or let’s say the way we’re losing Summerhill and it’s clear that Summerhill wants to race cross. But you can’t expect a guy to turn down a contract like that? Why is he going to donate $100,000 to cyclocross? That’s essentially what he’d be doing. I want to race cross so I’m going to turn down … I don’t know what Worlds is going to do so that’s what I’m waiting to see.
What does Worlds mean for you?
I couldn’t be happier and I feel very proud and I feel that so many people have contributed to get cross to the point where this is possible, so I feel like I poured some of the concrete into that foundation. I’m happy to see that this is happening. What it means for me personally? I’m not going to Worlds, it doesn’t mean anything. What’s confusing me is how the American riders – and Luke is going to do this as well. Luke finished this cross season early because he’s got a big opportunity for the road next year but he’s viewing next year’s cross Worlds as also part of his target. So for me, why is the US Worlds the one you want to focus on? Is it because there’s less travel? What is it about the fact that Worlds is in the US that’s making the American riders take it more seriously.
They will have their family and friends see them race. The course might be better suited for them because it will be an American-type course.
For me, it feels the opposite. The best I ever did is that I was the first alternate in ’97, I was number 6 guy once, that’s the closest I ever came. There were so many years where they only sent three people and I could have gone so whatever. But for me, it would have meant so much more to make the team and go to Worlds.
I think is that many think that this is the chance to get a result.
They’re all looking for a result, I agree.
Any parting words of wisdom? Are you happy?
I’m really happy right now. Things are going really well and I think the one thing I really want to emphasize, is the point I made earlier is that there are a lot of us in the scene who are working hard for cross in our way and things have gotten competitive amongst the organizers and everybody has their vision for cross. But I think, the thing I really all of us to remember and focus on, is that we’re all contributing. The work that everyone is doing matters. Even if someone is doing work that’s different from the work that I’m doing, it’s still important and valuable work.