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An interview with Ivan Stevic, August 6, 2005
Fruit of two nations
The name Ivan Stevic is one most North American cycling fans wouldn't have heard very often - their team, Aerospace Engineering-VMG is probably even more enigmatic in that it's the fruit of two nations' ability to work together to produce talented riders capable of winning races. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski sat down with Stevic to find out a little more about the Serbian rider and the little-known Serbian/American team.
The Aerospace Engineering-VMG cycling team is a unique program; based in both Florida and Serbia, it consists of a UCI Continental team as well as a developmental amateur squad. In 2003, the amateur team scored a big with 18-year-old Keith Norris winning the US elite criterium nationals. This year marks the first time the team is entering professional races in the US, and it wasted little time in scoring wins. Team leader Ivan Stevic won three of the four stages of the Vuelta de Bisbee and the challenging Laguna Seca circuit race of the Sea Otter Classic, finishing fourth overall.
Cyclingnews: First, tell us a little about yourself and how you began racing.
Ivan Stevic: I was born in Serbia...in Belgrade. I raced there as a junior and my first year as an elite. I did two world championships as a junior for my country. After that I went to Italy to race - I did five years there. I had two teams; Team Futura 2000 where I did one year. After that I went to central Italy and did four years there. I won about twenty races in those five years.
Last year I had the jersey of the best foreign rider in the baby Giro for five days. I won six races, and after that I took this opportunity to come here and race in the US - first because I have never been to the US, this is my first time here and my first races here. I have to say I like it here - I like racing here.
CN: What are your impressions of racing over here in the US?
IS: Cycling here is very different from racing in Europe. In the Wachovia Series, the racing's more similar to the European style, but there's still something different right inside, and I like that.
CN: Your team has a unique set-up, with a UCI Continental team in Europe and an amateur team here in the U.S. Tell us more about the teams.
IS: In Serbia, we have six young guys around 19-20 years old, good young guys. I think in the future we will hear some good things from them. I am the oldest one on the team from Europe.
Here in the US the team is from Florida and there are another ten guys. We came here in the first days of April and the first race I did was Redlands. We came here, me and an Italian guy, Clemente Cavaliere, to see how we can help the team, and we like it here. I won five races, Clemente won the Tour of Bisbee and one stage - we are gaining good experience here so we enjoy it.
CN: How did the transition go when you arrived here from Europe?
IS: I came the day before Redlands so I didn't feel so good with the time zone change. After that race I felt better, and in Sea Otter I felt good. The last stage there, I made some mistakes...I had the opportunity to win the race but then I made those mistakes - I didn't have that much experience. Here you are racing a different style of racing and I had to fit in. The first thing I didn't know is who the best riders were, so you can't understand and use the right tactics if you don't know the riders, so you risk a lot. Like letting the break go too far. But in the end it was a good result!
We have good riders on the team like Eric Murphy. He was helping me a lot in the early races like Bisbee and Gila. Now he is in good condition and I think he can do well in races.
CN: What type of rider do you classify yourself as?
IS: I like short climbs and small sprints. Lancaster was a good race for me, but in the end I didn't have the legs to sprint like Rodriguez and Dominguez - the legs weren't that fresh.
CN: With the success you and your team have had this year do you plan on racing here next year?
IS: I like racing here, I would like to stay next year to race. We will see with which team I will race. We are trying to make a big team here, so it is a little too early to know what I'm going to do next year but I do know I like the races here.
CN: How do you like living and racing in the States? Any favourite food yet?
IS: It's a beautiful experience because everything is new for me, everything is 'for the first time.' Like seeing Philadelphia; at first I had only seen it on TV, and now I can say it's a beautiful town. I lived for five years in Italy, so Italian food for me is number one! But here, in big cities, you can find good Italian restaurants. In the smaller cities you have the chain restaurants, but it's better than nothing!