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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, November 20, 2020

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2020 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. - Aristotle

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EF Pro Cycling and eyeware & helmet maker POC partner through 2024

The team sent me this release:

EF Pro Cycling and POC today announce a four-year extension to their partnership, meaning the team has the highest levels of head and eye protection available as it races across the world.

The team and POC have partnered for the last six seasons, working together to provide the riders with the most advanced safety materials possible. Since its inception, POC has been awarded more than 60 international safety, design, and innovation awards.

EF Pro Cycling

EF Pro Cycling before the start of the 2020 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

“We are excited about the future and our ongoing partnership with the EF Pro Cycling Team. We have worked closely together since we entered the WorldTour in 2014 and EF’s Swedish heritage and inclusive approach merge perfectly with our safety mission and values,” said Jonas Sjogren, CEO of POC. “As this season has shown, the team is packed full of cycling talent. But, it is also a group that influences beyond podiums, and together we can shine a light on new ideas with a willingness to break from the norm, bringing cycling closer to everyone.”

As Sjogren noted, POC and the EF Pro Cycling organization have been together since POC entered professional cycling in 2014, resulting in years of product development at the highest level of professional cycling.

“POC’s innovation and support of the team has been critical to our organization. We’re proud to call POC a partner, as they offer performance and quality, understand our needs perfectly and can support our future objectives,” said Jonathan Vaughters, the team’s CEO. “In addition, their mission, coupled with our overall approach to rider safety, is a true reflection on our goals. The emphasis POC puts on performance and safety is important to all of us on the team.”

Oscar Huss, Head of Product Development, POC continued: “We know from experience with the team and our aerodynamic experts, WATTS Lab, and safety experts, POC Lab, that our helmets and eyewear provide riders with the very best in safety and performance. And as the team operates in a unique, high-performance environment we are able to constantly refine our equipment, ensuring that our products and the riders excel at the very highest level. Naturally the experience and feedback we gain is an important tool, allowing us to continually improve, innovate and refine our award-winning products and support our mission.”

Ben King returns to Rally Cycling after 10 years in the WorldTour

Rally Cycling sent me this announcement:

Two phone calls, just about twelve years apart, and two life-altering moments for Ben King, Rally Cycling’s final signing for 2021. And just as the roster is now complete, so too is a pretty incredible full circle.

“I still remember after winning junior nationals in 2007 and then getting the phone call from Jonas Carney in my dorm room at college.”

Carney was calling to offer King a ride on Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast, the first iteration of the team that became Rally Cycling.

“I had to decide if bike riding was the direction I wanted to take my life in. It really did change my path, that opportunity from Jonas.”

BenKing

Ben King wins 2018 Vuelta a España stage 9. Sirotti photo

Carney himself remembers the first time around.

“When we first brought Ben to our program, he was just a kid. We hired him straight out of the junior ranks. It’s just incredible to think after so much time has passed he’s coming back to our team as a seasoned WorldTour professional. It’s really exciting to have Ben rejoin our team after such a long time.”

Instead of the typical college experience, King began what he called a “crazy whirlwind lifestyle.”

“I was at Virginia Tech, but I was gone every weekend, driving home Thursday night, skipping Friday classes to fly out to a race, and then getting back late on Monday in time for my evening lecture.

“I’d get back to campus and it felt hard to relate to my peers; they were all spending their weekends doing completely different stuff.”

Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast provided the springboard to something bigger. Trek-Livestrong came calling and a couple of seasons later, the WorldTour beckoned.

“That time at college taught me a lot about work ethic and about the drive it takes to succeed. After my first year, I moved onto the Trek-Livestrong team while finishing up my second year at university, but from there I knew I needed to choose.

“If I wanted to make it into the WorldTour I couldn’t have both. I needed to commit to a full European program and I couldn’t do that as a full-time student.”

King became US national road champion in 2010 after soloing for over 100 km to claim the title, adding a senior stars and stripes jersey to go with the one from his junior years. He placed eighth in the young rider classification at his debut Tour de France, with the white jersey won by Thibaut Pinot.

Across 10 years in the top echelon of the sport, King won stages of the Amgen Tour of California, the Criterium International, and of course, his barnstorming run at the 2018 Vuelta a España which garnered not one but two stage victories.

“Obviously the Vuelta is special to me and on paper, those are my best results, but I’d really like to return to the Giro. I’ve lived in Italy for the last 11 years but only raced it once. And then of course there’s the Tour, which is just on a whole other level in terms of everything surrounding the race. I hope I can help the team get there.”

As a rider, King has come a long way over the last decade, and he says it’s a trajectory that matches that of the program known now as Rally Cycling.

“In 2008 [Kelly Benefit Strategies] were doing mostly criteriums in the US. Nowadays Rally Cycling has a full European calendar and is at some of the top-level races. Back then I was also still discovering what kind of rider I was, and how far I could go in the sport.”

While stage racing has always been his specialty, King says his love for the one-days has grown in recent years.

“I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the really gritty, fight-for-position races. I’ve done almost all of them including Paris-Roubaix which is just really special.”

Sometimes the races you want to love, turn out not to love you back.

“I guess your results and your performance, and how they all align, can affect how much you enjoy a race. I think if it was possible just to enjoy a race, a lot more races would be fun. If, at the end of a race, you don’t get the result you wanted that can color your impressions.”

And of course, in a year turned upside down, life has been particularly challenging for King, who welcomed his first child into the world just a month ago.

“It was such a tough year with all the lockdowns and being away from my wife. What with the baby coming, I was under an enormous amount of stress. When racing resumed there were so many unknowns up in the air, not knowing if I’d be able to get back to the US for the birth. And also with [NTT Pro Cycling] searching for a title sponsor, not knowing what I’d do for work.

“That all took a toll on my ability to focus and enjoy the process of training and racing, and that extra stress just made me so tired and run down and ready for an off-season even though we didn’t do a long stretch of racing.”

It was at about this point that the second phone call came on a day even more life-altering than the first.

“Jonas actually called me in the hospital a couple of hours after my son was born to offer me the spot on the team – that made for quite a crazy weekend.”

King said yes and – while the kind of sleep required for optimal post-ride recovery is a fondly-remembered thing of the past as he adjusts to life with a newborn – he is brimming with optimism about the future.

“I’m so excited to be coming back. I’ve kept in touch with Jonas pretty much every year over the last decade, he and Charles Aaron have always been people I respect and enjoy catching up with.

“As the team has grown, it’s always been attractive to me; the North American atmosphere will be really fun to be a part of, and John Kelly’s involvement is important as well. He’s been a family friend since before I was racing bikes. I can remember being on hunting trips with him and he would talk about wanting to have a team in the Tour de France and that looks achievable now in the future.”

He was also keen to stress the importance of the Rally Cycling ethos.

“The culture I remember and still appreciate from the outside is the team’s commitment to a common goal, the gritty breakaway racing style, and strong ethics, plus their firm stance against doping.”

King’s optimism about the new start has translated into a fresh drive to train hard.

“I kinda surprised myself with how motivated I am. I’ve been cranking back up the training. We’re working on ways to get some sleep around the newborn’s schedule, but I’m excited about team camp coming up and the races to follow.

“I love the vision of the team, the direction it has been headed for the decade I’ve been away. It’s exciting to be a part of that, hopefully, to be an influence on the further growth of the team. With Joey Rosskopf also coming, and the results the team achieved with Gavin Mannion and Keegan Swirbul at the end of the season, I’m excited to be going into that environment.”

King’s best career results have come mostly from escapes, something he’s eager to change.

“I’m working on my explosivity in the gym a lot. It’d be good to learn how to get a result that didn’t come from a breakaway. I think if I could be more patient and save some energy to get some results from the field that would be cool.”

And he looks forward to helping share his abilities with his new teammates.

“The team has some great sprinters, some really punchy riders, and I think the strengths I’m working on now will be really beneficial for the team – either for myself or as support for one of the other punchy guys in the team.”

For King, the prospect of ending his cycling career came uncomfortably soon.

“When it was getting late in the year and I still didn’t have a contract, I felt unsettled about potentially ending my career. I contemplated it, but it didn’t feel right. Analytically speaking, that desire to fulfill my potential is still what drives me. I’ve shown I’m a pretty decent bike rider at my best, but I still haven’t reached what I’m ultimately capable of.”

12 years on, while almost every aspect of his life away from the bike has changed, some things still haven’t.

“My goals are still the same, to reach my full potential. I spent 10 years in the WorldTour on three different teams and that was a great experience, but still one of the most fun years of my career was racing with Kelly Benefits in 2008.”

Dutch duo of Moniek Tenniglo and Janneke Ensing to remain at Mitchelton-SCOTT

The team sent me this:

Mitchelton-SCOTT will retain a Dutch flavour as the women’s team announces the renewal of both Moniek Tenniglo and Janneke Ensing.

The duo joined the team in 2019 and 2020 respectively and have both signed for the 2021 season.

Moniek Tenniglo:
Date of Birth: 2 May 1988 (32)
Nationality: Netherlands
Joined Mitchelton-SCOTT: 2019
New Contract: 2021

A selfless worker, Tenniglo thrives in her role of domestique and despite the disrupted 2020 season assisted the team to success in every race she started, including wins at her five one-day race appearances and a stage win and overall lead at the Giro Rosa until leader Annemiek van Vleuten crashed out.

“2020 is an uncertain year in an world where nothing is obvious. It isn't easy for anyone but as a team we kept in close contact during the season and supported each other. We strived together to stay healthy & fit and to keep a good spirit on-and-off the bike.

“I feel privileged to be an member of the Mitchelton-SCOTT family and I am looking forward to better times, for everybody.

“With Annemiek leaving the team, the team will lose a really strong rider but we will not lose our strong team spirit. We have a lot of potential in our team and I am really looking forward to seeing my teammates stepping up.”

Janneke Ensing:
Date of Birth: 21 September 1986 (34)
Nationality: Netherlands
Joined Mitchelton-SCOTT: 2020
New Contract: 2021

Ensing joined Mitchelton-SCOTT this season with a wealth of experience in the professional peloton. Her debut season with the Australian outfit was heavily hindered by the COVID-19 shutdown and a collarbone injury in her second race after the restart, but a return to racing late in the season will lead her into a strong preparation for 2021.

“I feel very happy in this team. In my first year the contact with the riders and staff is so familiar, even during COVID-19 and my injury. It’s really great to be part of Mitchelton-SCOTT, they ride as a team and they gave me great confidence during the season.

“The last two years were unlucky for me. I hope that I can show what I’m capable of next year and I hope we can take even more podium places with different riders in the team next year.”

Sport Director Martin Vestby on Tenniglo and Ensing:
“Moniek and Janneke both had some troubles this year with injury, but they are strong support riders for the team. They have experience in the races that are important for us and knowledge about how to race them so play an incredibly important role in our success.”

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