Ben King

Ben King

Johan Bruyneel on the 2011 Fan Choice Awards:

This is the third year where we gave fans the opportunity to vote for the most outstanding riders and performances from the season. When the idea was initially presented to me a few years ago, I was a bit unsure if that was something we should do. Our whole focus is about the team; something that singles out one rider would seem to go against our philosophy. I was convinced by some of our staff that this is something fun for the fans to participate in and that teams in other sports also give their fans the same or similar opportunities. So while I agree it's fun for many and nice for the riders who have been nominated and won, I want to re-emphasize that the success of our team does not lie on the shoulders of one rider. In fact, it goes beyond the riders - it extends to directors, mechanics, soigneurs, the entire support staff, our dedicated sponsors and of course, the loyal fans who have followed from USPS to Discovery Channel to Astana to RadioShack. I hope that many will come along with us on our new and exciting journey in 2012. Thank you - Johan


Johan Bruyneel on the 2011 Best Young Rider:

This year we had a great mix of "veterans" and "youth" on the team. From my perspective, it's always interesting to see how the younger guys grow and mature as professionals throughout the season. And I have to give a lot of credit to those more experienced riders for helping the younger guys along. There's no better way to learn and improve than seeing it first-hand from other riders. It's easy for me to speak and talk about it with them. It's another thing for them to see it from their teammates.

I will admit that when I saw the final results, I was a bit surprised to see the large gap between Ben King and the other U25 riders. This is by no means an insult on Ben King. He is most deserving. I just thought we had a very competitive and successful group of U25ers and that this would be reflected in the voting. But it's the Fan Choice Awards because it's who the fans believe is most deserving. I'd like to congratulate Ben, a rider who actually won the inaugural Tour of Beijing Best Young Rider classification and has been instrumental for us in numerous victories. He is a great teammate, a work horse and someone who I feel will get more opportunities for leadership roles in the future.  I've enjoyed watching him develop as a rider and I'm glad that he will be with us on Team RadioShack-Nissan-Trek. Congratulations Ben.

Interview with Ben King (winner of the signed jersey posted after the interview)

by Staff

Q: Your last race was the Tour of Beijing. How have you been spending the off-season? And what are your plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

BK: It's been good to have a mental break from racing. It's been a great year for me, but also a lot of traveling. So I'm enjoying being home in Virginia. Spending time with my family, hanging out with friends and enjoying my mom's home cooked meals.

I usually go for a training ride in the morning and then I'll spend my afternoons hiking or hunting. On Friday I watched my sister run in a marathon so it was nice to cheer her on.

I'll stay here for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We'll have some family to entertain. It should be nice.

Q: You were voted as the Best Young Rider by the fans. A very nice honor. What would you say was the highlight of your season?

BK: Well for me, just racing at this level, racing for this team is such a highlight. I feel very fortunate to have surrounded myself with such successful people and a great organization. The management and sponsors have been very supportive and allowed me to develop. There's a lot of people from the current team as well as past teams that I am very grateful for.

If we're going to talk about races, I'd say the USA races were very special for me. I raced in all of them and we were able to win all four, which we are calling the "Grand Slam of American Cycling." Because we're an American team, it was important that we won those races. And of course it's always special to race in your home country.

Q: And you also won the Best Young Rider classification at the Tour of Beijing. What was it like to race in a country that is developing in terms of cycling?

BK: It was definitely unique. It's one of the things I love about cycling - we get to explore and interact with different cultures. Maybe we're not a typical tourist, but we definitely get to see different parts of the world. We're focused on the bike, but not blind to the beauty that surrounds us. So it was great to go to China, but I'm glad it was at the end of the season. The air quality and time differences would have been a lot to handle during the middle of the season.

Q: This was your first year on a ProTour squad. What are some of the major differences from the U23 team?

BK: Well both organizations are very professional, but on the ProTour everything is just on another level. More riders, more staff, more travel, the speeds are faster. It's the top of the top, the best of the best. On the U23 squad, I'd go to the races and feel more like a veteran. This year I definitely felt like a freshman. But it was good because there were a lot of guys to look after the younger riders.

Q: In Johan's statement about the Best Young Rider he talks about the veterans helping the younger guys. Who have been some of the instrumental older guys and what have you learned from them?

BK: Well I think that's somewhat of an unfair question since so many riders helped me this year. Everyone was really helpful and people would praise me if I did something right, but they also told me when I did something wrong or if I could do something better or differently. And it weren't only the Americans. Guys like Zubeldia and Popovych were great. I also had a chance to room with Kloden at Criterium International, Chris Horner at the Tour of California and Levi at the Tour of Utah. You learn a lot from just rooming with them. Not only talking about the race, but just how they conduct themselves off the bike. What they eat, what time they go to bed. You can learn just as much off-the-bike than on it. And especially in this first year, I tried to be a sponge.

Q: Do you have any personal goals for the 2012 season?

BK: I want to build on this past season. Have another successful season where I can help my teammates. There are some amazing riders on the 2012 team and I know I'll continue to learn and improve. My short term goals of becoming a better rider will hopefully prepare me for my long term goals - representing the USA at the Olympics and riding in the Tour de France. For next year, I'd like to get a Grand Tour under my belt. Either the Giro or the Vuelta.

Q: As an American, cycling is not the easiest sport to get into. There are not as many access points as baseball or football. How'd you get into the sport?

BK: Well I come from a cycling family. Before I was born my dad was a Cat 1 racer. I'd go to the races and watch him. My uncle is a Cat 1 and my brother is now on the Hot Tubes Junior Development Team. So it must be in the family genes. It's a passion of ours and we all raced together in a Halloween MTB race. Team King. It was a lot of fun.

Q: You are one of a few cyclists who have attended a college (Virginia Tech) while racing. How difficult was it to train and race while balancing academics?

BK: As you know, it's not a sport where you can just train 30 minutes or 1 hour a day. The training was manageable, but I always wanted to do more. Of course I didn't stay out very late with friends. But it was really the travel that was the toughest. When I was with Kelly Benefits I was traveling from Virginia to California for races. It's not like in Belgium where you can race a local kermesse. So it came to a point where I had to make a decision and I decided to pursue a passion of mine - cycling. I can always go back and complete my education, but I wasn't going to be able to go back and be a pro cyclist.

Q: Since the fans have voted you as the Best Young Rider, what message would you like to say to them?

BK: Thank You. Thank you for all the support. I enjoy interacting with the fans. Whether it be at Mellow Johnny's or reading tweets or at the race. I hate that sometimes I may come off as rude at the race because I may have to sign in or get to the start line. But I hear all the cheers and the encouragement. It's great so thank you.

Getting to Know More about Ben

Gift you most want at the holidays: Spending time with my family. I don't get to be with them as often as I would like.

Next time you go to RadioShack, you plan or want to buy: I'd like an iPod Touch that can let you do FaceTime. Would be great to have in Europe in the hotel rooms.

Favorite vacation spot: Right here. North Garden, Virginia.

- One sister who is a freshman at VaTech
- Another sister who is studying nursing at UVA
- And one brother in high school who races on the Hot Tubes Team. He attends the Miller School of Albemarle which has a cycling team. It's very rare and I'd love to see more schools like that.

Favorite Course at Virginia Tech: Creative Process, which is another way of saying creative writing

If you weren't a cyclist …: Well, I'd just be getting out of college. Maybe I'd do some marketing within the cycling industry. I enjoy writing so possibly a journalist.

Top five Twitter Recommendations to follow:
@CSLewisDaily even though he's dead
@UberReed who was our soigneur on U23 team

Is this your Facebook profile picture? Then you're a winner! You're a fan of Johan's Facebook page, you voted in the 2011 Fan Choice Awards and you have been randomly chosen to win a signed jersey. Congratulations!

2011 Fan Choice Award Winners

Most Valuable Rider & American Rider - Levi Leipheimer
Most Valuable Domestique - Yaroslav Popovych
Most Impressive Performance - Chris Horner at the Amgen Tour of California
Best Tweeter - Levi Leipheimer

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