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From racer to rider: retirement with Ted King

July 26, 2016

So what do pro-racers do in their retirement? Change riding disciplines? Keep on riding for the love of riding? Keep on entering races? Well, apparently all of the above.

We caught up with Ted King and talked about the memorable moments of his career, what we’d find in his kit pockets (then and now) and what he has been up to in his first year of retirement.

Q: What is the most memorable moment on the bike as a pro?
A: Ten years of pro-cycling is a long time to pick just one moment! I often look back on my cycling career and I see my favorite moments as all the firsts. My first world championships, my first time racing in Europe, my first Tour de France, my first Tour of Flanders. I did a lot of racing and had a lot of highs and lows, but those firsts are particularly memorable because they’re races, places, sights, and sounds that I’d only ever read about in magazines or seen on a computer screen. Suddenly I was living them in person and it was always accompanied by a massive wave of senses. First impressions are the same with people as they are with bike races; that initial meeting has so much impact in how the relationship unfolds. The second, third, fourth, tenth of these things, those are all impactful too, but the first is the most memorable.

Q: What is the best advice you ever got?
A: “Take pictures.” It wasn’t even advice given to me specifically, but rather something someone said in the Team 7-Eleven days; he wished he’d taken more pictures over his career. It’s truly astonishing to think of the places I’ve been lucky enough to travel — all over Europe, North America, Australia, Taiwan, the grasslands of Argentina, and Dubai — all thanks to two wheels. I tried to take this advice to heart and took pictures everywhere I went. I only got into cycling in college, and I feel that this gave me a broader appreciation for all of the places I travelled, as opposed to if I had been involved in the sport from a young age, it felt more special to me as I was not accustomed to these sorts of globetrotting trips. Capturing special moments and beautiful places with a camera gives you something to look at and you can relive the moment or the memory.

Q: You’ve done a lot of traveling to all of these beautiful countries, and even lived abroad, what is your favourite phrase that you have picked up along the way?
A: Most of which aren’t suitable for a public forum like this. However, my teammate and great friend from our Italian days on Liquigas, Timmy Duggan, and I loved the expression “alora. It’s a hinging phrase between thoughts that just means “umm” or “well…”, but we got a kick out of it and really put it to emphatic use.

Q: Which race was the one you enjoyed most? 
A: The Tour of Flanders is unlike anything else you’ll ever experience! The race is absolutely one of a kind with the cobbles, the ‘bergs’ (mountains), the narrow cow paths, the speed, the distance, it all makes for an awesome race. The passion and enormity of the crowd is incredible and the whole event just emanates this palpable energy from the sign-in all the way to the finish line.

Q: Where/what is your favorite training ride and why? 
A: I’ve been spoiled to live in a lot of places as a pro cyclist. I got into cycling when I was in college in Vermont, so the Green Mountains in the heart of that state offer spectacular rides and are incredibly nostalgic to me. The Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, are great too. Mind you, so is rolling through the Napa Valley in California. I also have many classic loops from my home in Girona that I love! Training in Italy is exceptional: The Dolomites or Chianti especially — both are truly one of a kind in their own unique ways. That all said, I think Vermont takes the cake as my favorite location for training rides.

Q: What would we have found in your kit pockets in your racing days? 
A: Nothing out of the ordinary. UnTapped (Ted King’s own brand of maple syrup based energy products) of course, and a race radio.

Q: Now that you’re retired, what would we find in your pockets?
A: Now that’s a much better question – although still nothing too interesting. $20 and a credit card, naturally a bunch of UnTapped, a business card, phone… And on occasion a bottle of beer picked up at the store in the final few miles home.

Bike + beautiful countryside + maple syrup = a pretty sweet life

Q: What advice would you give someone on the first day of their pro-racing career?
A: Wear sunscreen. It’s a no brainer – you see a lot of tired looking pros later on in their life who were strikingly bronzed in their heyday and are now leathered.

Q: What is the most exciting prospect about being a retiree? 
A: Definitely the liberties that we were not allowed before. Professional cycling is a great life, but it’s monastic. Being able to eat and drink liberally, being able to go out, go on vacation, relax, go to bed late or wake up early and not feel like you’re punishing your results is pretty wonderful. And walking. I love walking, but that pro expression “don’t stand when you can sit, don’t sit when you can lay down” meant that it wasn’t something I got to do often.

Another thing that is great is being able to ride without having to stare at the power-meter and constantly analyzing your stats instead of riding for the fun of the ride.

Q: If you could do any ride, with any two people, it would be….
A: I’d ride with my brother Robbie and my girlfriend, Laura. Robbie is three years older than me and got me into cycling a dozen-plus years ago in the way younger brothers gravitate towards their older brother’s sports. He’s now in medical school so he’s not provided a lot of free time and we don’t see each other terribly often. Laura and I met on a bike and we’ve been inseparable since then. We have taken pretty spectacular adventures on two (four?) wheels together.

I’m rarely happier than when I’m riding on some of the back roads of New England — no traffic, lush landscape, rolling hills and some longer climbs. So I’ll choose a ride through New England with Robbie and Laura.

Q: What is your riding philosophy?
A: A few things actually. Ride to eat, eat to ride. Be sure to enjoy the ride. Take in all the sights, the camaraderie on the way and the relationships you build from that. Work hard, but embrace why you’re there. Try to have a goal, whether it’s to climb your favorite climb faster or to just have a great conversation, or to clear your mind.  Always make sure there’s a reason you’re suiting up and riding

Riding for the love of riding

Q: If you hadn’t gotten into riding, what do you think your career would have looked like?
A: I studied economics in college and have a degree in that and mathematics. In all likelihood I would have ended up on Wall Street or in finance. That looks full-gas too, but I trust I had a lot more fun in this career.

Q: You mentioned wine, Napa Valley and maple syrup as things you love outside of cycling, what else are you passionate about? 
A: I love food and cooking. I love traveling and spending time with family and friends. The maple syrup connection is more tied to UnTapped and enjoying being a small business owner rather than purely a love of maple (although, that shouldn’t be discounted, I do love maple syrup too). I’m embracing growing a business, so that’s a big commitment of energy.

I also like reading and still love riding my bike. I like to think and time on a bike provides plenty of space for that. I’m a two wheeled philosopher.

Q: Ok, serious life defining question here: waffles or pancakes? 
A: Nostalgia says pancakes, but waffles are hard to beat.

Q: The world is your oyster, what’s next!? 
A: Growing a business, riding, traveling, and embracing it all is first up on the list. I have some tremendous sponsors who support my love for cycling, so there are lots of opportunities for this.

I often explain that bike racing is such a small sliver of bike riding. Racing caters to a small demographic, but riding appeals to the masses. For example, earlier this year I won Dirty Kanza, which is this 200 mile gravel race across Kansas. 2,000 people come out from around the world to either compete in it or complete it. Maybe 10% are really competitive for a top placing and the other 90% are there for their own fantastic reasons. These folks who come for the ride bring a passion with them that you don’t see in the ‘pure racing’ scenes. I really enjoy and appreciate being able to spread the message of ‘riding for the ride’ to the masses rather than pinning up a number and racing from point A to B. My entire career unfolded completely organically with a lot of hard work and saying yes when an opportunity came my way, even though I had no idea the direction it would spawn. I think about what I’ll do next all the time, but don’t dwell on it stressfully. I prefer to just enjoy the moment!

You can keep up with all of Ted’s adventures via his websiteInstagram account of follow him on STRAVA – he is currently doing an appellation ride in Napa (hitting all 13 appellations of wine in Napa Valley — 200km with some massive climbing). On the heels of that he’s headed to the Cannondale sales meeting in Utah.