Over his long and successful career, Burke Swindlehurst has distinguished himself not only as an excellent cyclist, but as one of the most approachable cyclists on the American domestic scene. Known as a straight shooter and all-around class act throughout the sport, Swindlehurst took some time off the bike to talk cycling with EuroPeloton. Now an established veteran of American cycling, Swindlehurst talks in part one of this two part interview about being left off the Amgen Tour of California team, his 2009 racing goals, and who he feels will have break through years on the American domestic scene this season.
EP: Burke, thanks very much for taking some time to talk tonight. Soooo, first and foremost, we missed you at the Amgen Tour of California! What happened?
BS: Agh, well, mostly it was a case of really rotten luck! Basically I went to Argentina for the Tour de San Luis, and I got a stomach virus the day before the race. I barely got to the start line, but luckly did manage to ride the whole race. Starting empty caught up to me though, and it caught up to me when we headed to training camp right after the race ended. I got a pretty brutal cold and missed most of the training camp. Then, I got some terrible news from my wife about our dog. She's been sick awhile with cancer, and she was getting worse by the day, so I booked a flight back home to try to see her before she passed . . . and unfortunately I didn't make it back in time. All of those things culminated in not such a good show for my director in putting me on the AToC team. I was pretty devastated by the decision, I felt and I still feel that I was ready to do the race, I had recovered my health and mental energy and was ready to do it, but sometimes that's just how things go in this sport. Looking forward though, I'll try to put some of that anger into the pedals at other races this year.
EP: What is your racing calendar looking like and what races do you hope to be the most successful in for this season?
BS: Well, my next races with the team will be San Dimas and Redlands. On my own, I'll be doing a bit of mountain bike racing when my schedule allows for it. There's a small team here in Utah called MonaVie/Cannondale that I'll be riding for, and I'm really excited for it! I banged me knee last week training though, so I'll probably take a few days off to get it under control so I'll be ready for Redlands and San Dimas. As for my other season goals, I'll be looking for those races that are at altitude with big climbs. I always target the Tour of the Gila. I enjoy it and I think it's a fantastic race. I always have fun there. I also like the racing in Oregon, the Mt. Hood Classic and Cascade Classic. Ironically they're not on the NRC calendar, but because they are such good races I'll bet that a lot of good teams will go to them. I think the whole NRC status may take a back seat in 2009, as teams look for quality racing, so we'll see. And of course the Tour of Utah for sure. It pretty much goes without saying that I'll be targeting Utah. It's getting to the point that it's so locked into my schedule that I don't event think about it. It's a big objective for me each season.
EP: Who among your teammates will surprise the domestic peloton this year with their talent?
The guy I have the biggest expectations for this year on our team would be Jeremy Vennell. He's a Kiwi and he was on our team last year, so after making the transition from Euro riding to American racing last year, I think he'll do big things this year. In Europe, the racing is better suited to a diesel kind of rider, whereas in the States you have to have much more top-end punch. For instance, the prologue at Redlands, a ten minute effort, sets up the entire GC race from that point. US racing is now more about intensity and less about attrition. I've seen some real flashes of brilliance in Jeremy last year, so I expect he'll be the guy at the end of the season that everyone talks about as the revelation of the team.
EP:Are there other riders on other teams that you feel are ready to breakthrough?
BS: You know I think Bradley White could have a big year for OUCH. He raced very aggressively last year, and I noticed him at a few different races. He's a big talent, very strong. I also think Neil Shirley is due for some big results. I raced with him in 2005 on the Sea Silver team, and I got to see his potential then. And not only is he a good bike racer, he's a great guy too. I hope his changing to Kelly Benefits has a positive effect that will help him come into his own this year."