Is Ted King The Next Big American Cyclist?

Ted KingWhen Lance Armstrong asks you to do an interview, even when you’re about to ride 100 miles on a bike, you don’t say no. Which is why Ted King ’05 is sitting with the seven-time Tour de France champion in the back of Armstrong’s team bus this morning in Avellino, a southern Italian town about 40 miles due east of Naples.

It’s the third-to-last stage of May’s Giro d’Italia, one of the three Grand Tours on the professional cycling calendar. The other two are the Vuelta a Espana and the Tour de France. Like the major championships in golf or tennis grand slams, these three-week stage races are the year’s most important events.

Each day of the Giro, Armstrong has had a teammate or friend from another team join him in recording a video blog, where he has asked questions, critiqued the race organizers, and generally goofed around. It’s part of a new, more relaxed persona the Texan is cultivating in his first season back on the bike after a three-and-a-half-year retirement.

Today, he’s talking with King, who signed his first pro contract in the fall of 2005, his last semester at Middlebury. After three years riding on the U.S. pro circuit, the 26-year-old Brentwood, New Hampshire, native made the leap to Europe last fall, inking a two-season deal with Cervélo TestTeam, a Swiss-based squad that competes across the globe, from Paris to Qatar. This Giro is King’s first Grand Tour, a benchmark race for most budding cyclists. It’s during these long, grueling affairs that young riders find out if they will sink or swim at the sport’s highest level.

Just three days away from the finish in Rome, he’s staying afloat. The invite from Armstrong only cements that—it’s akin to sitting on Johnny Carson’s couch after a great stand-up set, except that Armstrong needs some work on his opening monologue.

“I was looking at the starting list and was like, who’s this American dude?” Armstrong says, opening the video segment. “And then I went up to him and joked, where’s New Hampshire? I’m from Texas, the center of it all—New Hampshire is like Greenland.”

But their five-minute chat isn’t all one-liners. “This has been a hard race and to come to this [one] and finish, especially when it’s been really undulating and really aggressive,” Armstrong tells King at one point, “a lot of people would have been home a long time ago.”

That’s high praise from the veteran. Welcome to Europe, kid.

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