Tyler Hamilton Interview - Part 1
DO: First of all, everyone here at RoadCycling.com would certainly like to congratulate you on your US Pro win.
TY: Thank you very much. It was a nice victory for me and also for the team and my teammates' respect.
DO: You have had a little time for it to sink in or set in now so looking back at it, what does this mean to you on a personal level and what does it mean to you in your professional cycling career?
TY: It still really hasn't sunk in 100 percent. I have been pretty busy this week. I'm leaving in an hour and a half to go to London for the Tour of Great Britain. I've tried not to really slack off too much this week and stay focused and this is our last race of the season and so I want to give it a try. The Tour of Great Britain is an important race for the team. Michael Ball (Team Rock Racing owner, ed.) does a lot of business there in London so, again, I've tried to stay pretty focused. It will probably hit me probably on Sunday when I do my first road race in the national champion group.
DO: When you get back on the bike wearing the stars and stripes?
TY: I'm sure it will sink in a little bit then.
DO: That's going to be awesome. You look good in the photo.
TY: Thank you, thank you, thanks a lot.
DO: Obviously, you are with Rock Racing now and, by the way, the scull on the design is awesome. That's a cool thing. I don't know if you notice those things or not.
TY: I love it, I love it, I love it. You know it's the look. It's a special team and it has a special feel to it – totally different than any team that I've been with before. I'm having a ton of fun.
DO: Well, that's great. I think fun is the priority in anything you do.
TY: Exactly, exactly. Whatever you're doing in life with whatever job you're doing, it's the chief reason; go out and enjoy it or what are you doing it for?
DO: Tell us a little bit about the transition from Team Tinkoff to Rock Racing and kind of how that came about.
TY: Well, I don't have a whole lot of good things to say about the owner of the Tinkoff team. You know, I had great teammates on that team. There was young talent on that team. I really only raced with the team through the Tour of Georgia last year. Then, we came in for a contract dispute and he had his opinion and I had mine. We've been in Court ever since. Once we're in Court, he still won't honor my contract. I will see him again in Court. That's unfortunate and, again, I'm not taking anything away from my teammates last year. They got a really great staff there. It was an unfortunate year for me with the way everything came about. I have worked so hard to come back. I say it's been about two and a half years without racing. Was trying to come back and then I only got in about two months of racing. It didn't come until the US National Championship last year. I didn't race at all. I think I came to the conclusion it was time to hang it up with me being tired of the sport. I was becoming more tired of the way I was being treated, especially by Mr. Tinkoff.
TH: I don't know, I had fought so hard and then to have that last year was just a disaster. So, I quietly retired and nothing against you but I didn't really feel like I owed it to the media to make a big deal about retiring. In my opinion, the media hadn't been so nice to me, so fair to me over the last few years so I quietly retired. My friends, my family knew but ... Three months later, I got a phone call from, no disrespect to you, but ...
DO: Certainly, none taken, Tyler. I certainly understand and I was going to say that on a personal and professional level, let me tell you I'm happy that you're unretired and back.
TH: I appreciate that; I really appreciate that.
DO: You know, I'm one those old guys who gets fat in the winter and…
TH: Me too, me too. That's true, ask all my friends.
DO: My idol growing up was Greg Lemond.
TH: Greg's done a lot for the sport and, it's unfortunate that the last few years I don't think he's been recognized much for that. Without Greg Lemond, I don't know where U.S. cycling would be today.
DO: I want to back up a little bit and ask again about the U.S. Pro Championships. Obviously, Tyler, you've got a strong background in time trialing, so how did the decision to not do the time trial at the championships come into play?
TH: Well, you know, I just felt a little bit guilty about that because that's been my forte over the years. To be honest, I hadn't done a whole lot of time trials this year and the ones that I had done were really, really short. Basically, prologues and I honestly think the longest time trial that I had done was seven miles the whole season - and it wasn't even an uphill time trial. I did a longer one in Columbia but it was like a mountain so I had not had a whole lot of practice. To be honest and because I really didn't have a whole lot of races that were in the half hour plus, 30 to 40 minutes, 50 minutes in range. I didn't feel like I was really prepared for it. Sure, I think I could have had a respectful ride but I knew it was the day before the road race and I knew I had done both last year. I had done respectfully in both but, in my opinion, it is better to win one than be even second in both. Hopefully, some day, we will have a day or two break in between so you also get a bit of a stronger start to begin with. With that being said, nobody was going to beat Dave Zabriskie regardless.
DO: There was some talk that maybe you were going to work for another teammate in the race. Was that a preconceived strategy and then it just so happened you were?
TH: Fred Rodriguez, if you compare the both of us, I am typically a better stage racer, he's typically a better one day racer. Just the results over both of our careers show that pretty distinctively. Freddy's won, I believe, three U.S. Pro Championships and he was strong this year in Philadelphia. He's been our go to guy. He's got a great sprint on him. He can get to the line with the front runners. He's good for money in the bank as anybody.
DO: It was an obviously extremely exciting finish.
TH: That being said, Freddy had a mechanical problem going up the last time up the hill so that took him out of contention, so. He regrouped a little bit on the descent there coming into Greenville before the circuits and a group of 25 riders with only one (from) Rock Racing. I felt like I had to be aggressive. With that being said, I didn't feel like I could be somewhat conservative and made my move. It takes a little luck, that's for sure. I don't think I was the strongest guy in the race, that's for sure.
DO: Did you know at the line that you had won?
TH: When I finished?
TH: It was – man it was close. I knew I was coming up on him and I knew that's when I did my best bike throw possible. It wasn't – it probably could have been a little bit better but, you know, after riding a 115 miles in the heat and the humidity of South Carolina, I gave it my best shot. You know, I had been slipstreaming and Garmin-Chipotle had the numbers and I just kind of forced a pull on the last lap there. I knew the chance of my beating him – I really probably had a better chance to win the race because of that. I think I topped him pretty well and I had taken a look at the finish line at the start there, kind of studied it a little bit. You never know and sure enough, it paid off. But, yes man, it was close. I think if it was any closer, it would have been a tie. Even like, a centimeter less. I can't imagine if it would have been any closer, not saying it was a tie.
DO: Well, I guess I would equate it to the Michael Phelps victory when he won by a fingernail. I swear to God I looked at the photo finish from Phoenix Timing and, I don't think you could get any piece of paper between the line and the front of Blake's wheel.
TH: I think a centimeter is being generous. For sure, I take my hat off to Blake Caldwell and his teammates. They did a great ride. I don't think they could have ridden really a more perfect race. You know, having three guys out on a five man group in the end. They were attacking myself and Jeff Louder, like crazy. Again, a little luck, a little, I guess just the perfect timing of just able to come by. You will hear a lot more about Blake Caldwell in the future, that's for sure. He has huge talent. He's got a pretty cool story too. He's been fighting a lot of injuries over the last few years. He didn't have a team until late 2007, like really late. He was the last guy picked up by Garmin-Chipotle.
Stay tuned to RoadCycling.com for part 2 of our interview with US Champion Tyler Hamilton of Team Rock Racing. We talk to Tyler about his difficult years of suspension, his year with Team Tinkoff, the move to Rock Racing, the current state of US cycling – and he tells us about the qualities of a new bike brand he fancies.