Want to find Jeff Louder during a race? Look for him at the front working for his team or off the front , in a break. Fierce competitor, the man has a take no prisoner attitude and can be vocal when he doesn’t like what’s going on during a race. Off the bike, the 34-year Salt Lake City native is quite affable and willing to chat.
In 2012, in his 13th year as a pro, Louder joined the UnitedHealthcare team after four years with the BMC Racing Team. Somewhat of a full circle for Louder who raced with Healthnet, UHC’s precursor, in 2006 and 2007.
“I think the reason that any pro cyclist continues to be a pro cyclist is because their memories are short and it’s easier to remember the positive, that old cliché adage- pain is memory, glory is forever.”
Racing aggressively has netted Louder a few big wins in his career which have included stages and the overall at the Tour of Utah and at Redlands Bicycle Classic and stage win in the Tour of Qinghai Lake and a third place in US Pro National Championships. Though he’s raced at some of the biggest races in the world, such as the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France is missing from the list, something which Louder called a disappointment.
Through the highs and lows, all the travels, Louder is still passionate about his sport and as he said a few times during our chat, he is not done.
Was your schedule more USA than international this year or mostly half and half?
It kind of worked out to almost the same that it was with BMC, it hasn’t changed much just the races have changed. Instead of doing Tour de Suisse, I did Tour of Qinghai Lake. But I’m still all over the world which is good and bad, (it is) harder and harder to be away from the family but that’s also the life of a cyclist. If you want to be able to do the big races and race against the best racers, it’s good to travel and be on a team that makes it possible to get into the big events.
Is that you still wanted to do? Travel to get to the bigger races?
Yeah but it’s kind of catch-22 also. Ideally it would be great just to stay in America and do the big races but in order to be able to race in America, guaranteed in the big races, you almost have to race an international program. It’s too risky otherwise, you see a lot of example of teams this year that aren’t getting into the big races. In order to ensure that you can get into these big races, you have to commit a harder schedule or an international schedule. Ideally, I’d love to just do races like the Tour of Utah every other week but that’s not a reality. (laughs)
It’s important to go do the big races, I still have a lot of experience and I still have a lot of passion for racing so it doesn’t really appeal to me to take a big step back and just race more locally even though it would be easier on the family, I’d rather just hanging it up than do that personally.
Did you think about stopping at all? Did that cross your mind?
I’m taking it year by year at this point but I still love this sport, I love racing. The competition is not the hard part, it’s the training and going away that makes it hard, that makes the sport hard. I should say that the competition is what makes hard along the day but that’s the part that, to me, makes me want to keep on doing it, to be able to compete.
So you still like to suffer?
I guess so, yeah. (laughs)
Was it sort of full circle to come back to UnitedHealthcare with some of the same guys that you raced with years ago when it was Healthnet?
It’s funny. Back with Rory (Sutherland), back with Karl (Menzies), back with Mike Tamayo and some of the staff are the same. It’s a little but full circle but at the same, the team has grown so much, the Healthnet of 2007 is completely different than UnitedHealthcare, it’s a lot bigger program. I like UnitedHealthcare, I like it a lot. It’s been a fun year. I’ve seen this, every time on a new team, there’s always kind of growing pains, when you go to a new team, there’s been a bit of that just getting used to the different system and the different way that they do things but generally it’s been a really positive move for me.
Looking back at your three years racing mostly internationally, did you accomplish everything that you wanted to do?
I didn’t do everything that I wanted to do. I got so close to being able to race the Tour de France and didn’t quite make it which is a big disappointment for me. It’s something that I think I’ve written off at this point. (laughs) I was on the team that won the Tour last year but I didn’t get to go and even the year before where I had a better chance, I didn’t really have a good year. Those are just elements of my career when I look back. All and all, if you look back at the beginning and what I hoped to accomplish and what I have, I’m very happy that I’ve been able to do this for 13 years and hope to keep it doing it.
That’s a long time.
Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of good guys come and go and I’m still here, that’s something to be proud of. I think it’s just been consistency. I tried to stay modest and race for the team and not for myself as much as possible. As much as anything I think it’s the relationships that are the way that you project yourself to the outside cycling world as much as anything that keeps you still in the sport, that’s what I’ve seen. When you see certain people come and go, a lot of times it’s not about their ability as much as it is about the full deal. I think it’s also a lot of luck, (laughs) but I think I’ve made some good choices.
13 years, it’s not just luck.
I made some good choices, I did my best to not make enemies and put out a positive image about myself and hopefully that continues.
You did a lot of big races like the Giro, and you’re not done. Do you have any that stand out in your mind?
Yeah, I’m not done. I can think of negative things (laughs) but ….
Did the good days out-weight the bad days?
Certainly. I think the reason that any pro cyclist continues to be a pro cyclist is because their memories are short and it’s easier to remember the positive, that old cliché adage- pain is memory, glory is forever. You quickly forget how hard it was and you kind of remember even just a bad trip where nothing goes right for a month, you struggle, you look back on it and in a way those are sometimes the best memories because that’s where you bonded the most with your teammates, and where you maybe dug deeper and suffered. When it’s easy, it’s easy and that’s not what makes you better. It’s when it’s hard that makes you better. The why am I here moments, I think those make you a better person and hopefully a better cyclist as well.
Is that the Jeff Louder style of racing? You’re a workhorse, you work really hard for your team but you’ve also had a few big wins. What’s your method?
I think my method is just to look for opportunities and make the most out of every one that I get. I’ve done the math and I win a race about 99 tries. It’s not about winning races, it’s about trying to capitalize on any minor opportunities you get because they are few and far between. It’s a sport where if you have one victory a year you’re pretty successful, you have to take the small victories.
When was your last victory? Was it Utah?
Yeah I know, I think I’m past my 99. I think I’m due one or two to even it out. (laughs) I haven’t won anything since the crit in Utah, it’s been awhile.
You’re a nice guy off the bike and really fierce on the bike. Are these the two sides of Jeff?
It’s the way it works for me. Because part of my longevity is to try to be efficient, if you get worked up about everything all the time, it doesn’t…. I’ve always felt that you need to save the big effort and save the intensity for the race. Some of that is just consequence, I think that I’m more of a competitor.
If there’s something that I feel is really important than I fight for it but I try to be mellow about things that aren’t going to affect me or that shouldn’t affect me. (laughs) In a way, cycling is an outlet, is a way to get the intensity and the aggression out. I use it up and that’s what keeps me hopefully grounded and nice the rest of the time. (laughs) I don’t know.
How has your season been so far? And what are your thoughts going into Utah?
The season has been pretty good. I haven’t won anything and I think the team has struggled to have some luck at certain moments, we’ve gotten really close to some good things and not quite had it. I’m thinking of China where we did lead-outs almost every day and had it pretty well dialed but we just couldn’t quite get the victory. I’m talking of the team, we’re all in it together and collectively couldn’t quite get it together. Some of it was definitely luck because we were definitely all for one in that situation. Also, we did have some good wins so that’s been pretty good.
I think it hasn’t been a stellar year by any means but it feels like it’s been a growing year. It’s been a growing year for myself getting to know my new team and the new program. It happens a lot in cycling, getting everybody on the same page and having that luck at the same time, it’s a big ask and a lot of time it takes a few years, as things change you have to get that lined up. At the same time, we’ve done a lot of good races, the team, even this year, has evolved and gotten better, and growing that way, I think we still have something to prove.
I definitely have something to prove so hopefully Utah and Colorado are that platform to do it because they’re really important races, I think for most of us personally and for the sponsors. I’m really looking forwards to it, I feel pretty good, I specifically went to China to prepare for Utah which was a bit of a gamble. We’ll see how that gamble pays off or if it pays off but, this is the month that I think about all year, or the three weeks that I think about all year. Hopefully I can put something together.
Stay tuned for stage by stage insights from Louder each day during the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.