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An interview with Scott Sunderland, November 10, 2004
A new career with Team CSC
After announcing his retirement in his diary last week, Scott Sunderland lifted the tip of the veil concerning his immediate future. Today, Bjarne Riis, manager of the Danish professional cycling team CSC confirmed that Scott will join the team as a directeur sportif in 2005. Cyclingnews spoke to Scott, who is spending the winter in Europe, as well as Bjarne Riis and one of CSC's other directors, Kim Andersen about the move.
Cyclingnews: So Scott, how does it feel to be a retired pro? What have these last few days been like?
Scott Sunderland: Believe it or not, it's been a very full week for me and my family. My son SaŽn had a week of school holidays and I took him snowboarding every day. Over the weekend, after announcing my retirement, I have been trying to keep the news about my move to CSC quiet; not an easy thing! The Danish press picked up on it and although Bjarne would have liked to keep it as a surprise till today, Tuesday, when he announced the full line up for 2005, the news leaked out. It's funny how it's virtually impossible to keep things like that quiet.
Being retired? It actually hasn't hit home yet I think. The mails keep coming in and I'm trying to keep up answering them all, so I've been flat out. Some comments are very touching. A few mails made me think: man, you can't stop yet! But I am rationalising those emotions as soon as I feel them and it's ok, I can deal with it.
CN: When did you make the conscious decision to call it quits? Was it a hard call?
SS: It had been on my mind for a while. I can't really pinpoint the moment but it has definitely been in the back of my head for some time. Let's say it was something which I actively discussed with Sabine and my friend Paul De Geyter from sem-nv.com (Sports and Entertainment Management) since I spoke to Bjarne Riis during the Tour de France.
Paul thought it would be an excellent decision to stay in cycling and "scanned" the field for me. There was still interest in me as a rider; even though my age wouldn't suggest that. I didn't make the final choice until a month ago.
CN: Why CSC?
SS: The wish to make a career change just kept growing stronger. And then getting that offer from Bjarne Riis from CSC, the second biggest team in the world...how could anyone say no? If there was one team I was really interested in during my career as a cyclist, it was his team.
I want to keep in touch with pro cycling. I realise I can give a lot to the riders, having those years of experience to share with them, but also there is a lot for me to learn from being in a director's job. After all I have been a cyclist for the greater part of my life: 30 years I've been on that bike!
There are a couple of projects I've been involved with, but they don't ask much of my time. Now, not only do I get the possibility to acquire management skills, but even from a psychological point of view, the transition from being an athlete to "normal life" is made easier.
I like Bjarne's philosophy too. Being in the peloton, you notice the differences to most other teams clearly. As a fan, you can get some idea already when you just have a look at their website (www.team-csc.com). It's professionally run, looks clean and informative, and most of all, up to date. That reflects how Riis thinks.
When you get closer to the team itself, you really notice how Riis' strategy and approach work; it appeals to me. It's refreshing to hear how he analyses and envisages every important issue.
In addition, I have always had an amicable relationship with the team's first director, Kim Andersen. I knew that working with him would be enjoyable as he is extremely professional. Also, I know almost everybody involved with CSC, riders and personnel. I felt almost immediately familiar with the team.
All in all, I'm incredibly excited about my new job.
At the CSC press conference held on Tuesday morning, team manager Bjarne Riis said he was happy about having Scott on board. "It'll be really exciting to have Scott with us, and I think he'll be a good reinforcement of our team, he said. "Kim [Andersen] and I had been talking about Scott working with the team. I first suggested he would ride the first three months - mainly because he's so familiar with the Belgian classics; and then move into the new job of team director. But Scott didn't feel good about that and I respect that.
"The great thing is that Scott is still new at this job; he has an open positive attitude and is willing to learn about how we work at CSC. He has a rich experience as a rider, speaks all the relevant languages and furthermore he's always been well liked as a person. He really fits in with the philosophy of CSC. We'll get the chance to point him in the right direction and lay the foundation for him to become a brilliant sports director."