Cyclingnews talks with Dylan Casey and Jamie Burrow
By Gabriella Ekstrom and Steve Masters*
Although the 22 man US Postal team boasts dual Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, dual Olympic Gold Medalist Viatchselav Ekimov, and Vuelta a España winner, Roberto Heras, the squad also has its share of domestiques and emerging talent. Dylan Casey (USA) and Jamie Burrow (GBr) are two such riders.
What makes them tick, and what's it like riding in Lance Armstrong's team? Cyclingnews.com's Gabriella Ekström interviewed Dylan Casey, while the Royal Airforce CC's Steve Masters caught up with Jamie Burrow after he broke his wrist in the Tour of Murcia.
CN: So, why cycling?
DC: My parents took me to a BBQ at one of their friends houses who happened to live on the course of the Cat's Hill Criterium in Los Gatos California. I was mesmerized and instantly knew I wanted to try bike racing. I got a bike when I went to college to use for transportation and eventually met this one guy who lived in my dorm. He was a bike racer an invited me out on some club rides. I was hooked immediately.
I eventually joined the college team and the local bike club. I raced through my years in College but it was just a hobby. Once I graduated from College I moved to Philadelphia to work for a consulting firm in communications. That was in 1995 and after about 4 months of 12 HR days I decided that all I really wanted to do was race my bike. So I moved in with my girlfriend, who was at Stanford University, and my Dad gave me $200 a month to get my cycling career on it's way. So I started racing as much as I could and here I am today at US Postal.
CN: Which was your first club?
DC: My first Club was Chico Velo.
CN: How do people react when you tell them what you do for a living?
DC: It depends on the person. Now that Lance and the team are a household word, it's much easier to explain.
CN: Do you think there is a certain race that pictures the whole idea and the whole "glory" of road racing?
DC: There are several genres of races. The Classics symbolize the rough, hard gruelling races. The Grand Tours illustrate what it takes to endure day after day of suffering. The short stage races provide a platform for unknown riders to make a name and for others to prepare for bigger, well known races. Each genre holds its own significance. The key is figure out how to make the best of each one.
CN: Is there a certain victory that could make up for all the time spent on the bike, away from family and friends?
DC: Any time I win or a teammate wins, it makes up for all the difficulty, hard work, suffering or time away from friends and family. However there are certain races that become special for each rider for different reasons. I get the most satisfaction from winning or doing well in a race that I have focused on or chosen to do well in. For example, in 1998 when I was racing in America, I decided that I needed one big win to land a good job or else I was going to quit. I chose the US National Time Trial Championships and gave all my attention and focus to it. I won it and that result helped get me on the team. I'll never forget the feeling of relief and satisfaction that I felt that day.
CN: Where will we see you in the following weeks, and what will be your focus during these races?
DC: After racing in the US, I'll head over to Belgium for 3 Days of De Panne, Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Aragon and finally 4 Days of Dunkerque For the classics I'll focus on working hard for Eki and George to win and I'll be looking for a good result in France towards the end of my Spring racing.
CN: (This one's for the folks at home). What's it like to race in Europe?
DC: Being an American living and racing in Europe makes for a huge challenge. In 1999 during my first year, it was all new. The lifestyle, racing, living...everything was different and unknown. Not to mention that my team was totally new to me but also every race I did was for the first time. I went from winning races to just trying to finish. I started each stage not knowing what to expect. It was a real learning experience.
Now that I've done two years in Europe, it's much easier. I've learned tons about the racing and how things work and also I've learned how to live in Europe and make the best of my situation. I've really started to feel at home in Spain and I even miss it sometimes when I'm gone....ok, just a little.
But it's still difficult being away from home so much and especially being away from my girlfriend Sara. She has a great job at Apple Computer in Silicon Valley where we live so she doesn't come to Europe with me.
The team is really great about giving us (the Americans) time to come home and regenerate. It's amazing what even a week at home will do for your energy and morale. What the Europeans forget is that when the race is over, we don't get to go home. We usually rush off to some hotel or our respective European homes...but it's still Europe. I imagine some of the Belgian guys leaving for a classic in the morning kissing their wives goodbye and saying they'll be home in time for dinner. What a luxury.
Name: Dylan Matthew Casey
Born: April 13, 1971 in Berkeley, California
Lives: Mountain View, CA in winter. Spain during the season
Education: Communications; University of California at Santa Barbara
Eats: Toast with almond butter, honey and a banana
Drinks: Peet's Coffee....the BEST
Reads: Blindness, Jose Samarango
Pro since: 1996
Teams: Higher Gear (1996), Plymouth (1997), US Postal (1999-2001)
1st, 2 stages 89'er Stage Race
1st, stage Tour of Ohio
1st overall, Tour de Toona
3rd, First Union G.P.
6th, First Union Invitational
3rd, Ronde van Nederland
1st, stage Redlands Classic
1st, stage Quatre Jours de Dunkerque
1st, stage Tour de Luxembourg
CN: Hello Jamie, you seem to be in good spirits after the crash that left you with a broken left arm. What are the biggest differences in the Pro ranks?
JB: The travelling. Where before I was doing single day races and then a stage race, after a few weeks now it is stage race, stage race and maybe an odd one day in there. The amateur racing is at such a high level in Italy that the racing isn't that much harder. The races are slightly longer but the nature of the ride is different. Whereas the amateurs will go out and race hard from the gun, the pro's can ride at 25 km/h for 3 to 4 hours and then a hour and half at 60 km/h. It's not a problem it's just a case of not being used to it.
CN: Did you adapt your training over the winter?
JB: No, this year (November) I started with a coach. It's the first time I've had a coach. It seems to be making a difference. I was hoping to have shown some results from the work this week.
CN: What are you targets now, your arm not withstanding?
JB: The plan with this new coach was from this week (Tour of Murcia) through until Liege Bastogne Liege was to go well enough to get in the top 10 although I think I could have got in the top 5 with the way I was feeling. I also wanted to really go for it during Catalan week and Pays Basque. The aim was to make a bit of a name over those 6 weeks. Fleche Wallonne was another of the races that had been targeted in that period, so now I've got to reschedule a little bit.
CN: Are Liege and Fleche be the only classics you will be wanting to ride?
JB: I'm not bothered about the classics to be honest, I see myself as more of a stage racer. As far as the classics are concerned, those are the two that suit me and interest me the most. To go to a big race you have to be motivated. I have a lot more motivation for stage races and that is why we had targeted the three stage races. As I said I was aiming for the top 10. Although as my coach said, I would get a lot more publicity and press from a top 15 finish in a spring classic than a top ten in any of those stage races. The classics get wider coverage on the likes of Eurosport and most of the cycling press cover them in depth. If I was to get top 15 in those then you can assume that all the guys above you are known and you stand out like a sore thumb.
CN: What was the highlight of last year?
JB: Probably the Route de Sud. I got 5th and 8th on two of the mountain stages. This race is just before the Tour and some of the Tour riders were there so it was a good test and showed a little of what I could achieve.
CN: You were a first year pro last year, were you a little overawed by it all when you got the contract?
JB: When I signed I was panicking, I've got to be ready I've got to be ready. I didn't have a proper break in the winter but not training properly either. I would just go out for a couple of hours everyday and call it training. It is a typical neo-pro reaction. In your head you convince yourself that you are not being lazy and riding all through November and December so you are ready for the next season. I would have been better having a month off and come back fresh, fresh head, fresh legs. When the season started I got to the races with no form and had to kill myself to hang in there. I don't think I had half the form I had in my last year as an amateur.
CN: Of course you left the unpaid ranks as the Number 1 didn't you?
JB: Yes, that year I got everything perfect and well structured. Then last year they said to me that there was no pressure to perform right away. So I didn't! I took that a little too far 'cause I feel I could have gone in and made a name for myself straight away.
CN: Did you have any other pro offers?
JB: Yes, several teams expressed an interest at the time. That was a very nice position to be in and very flattering. It is also quite rare for a neo pro to have a choice, normally you have to take the first thing that comes along and try to build up from then on. There was a lot of pressure for me to go to certain Italian teams but I feel I made the right choice in the end.
CN: Since turning pro have you lost weight? How does your weight compare?
JB: When I left England I still had the typical bad habits that young riders have, eating junk food and rubbish all the time. In Italy weight is the main thing every rider focuses on. So I started to be more disciplined and the weight came down and down. Once you have it down for a couple of seasons it is easy. During the winter I watch what I eat and measure everything out. Once the season starts the training and race load are so high it is impossible to gain weight.
CN: Does the whole team revolve around Lance?
JB: Yes, it does along with the tour. That is why I wanted to do well early on. If I have form after May then all that will have to go on riding for someone else during the pre-tour races. In the future, I want to be a team leader and I feel that I can be a good leader. Doing well early on in this season is important for me when it comes to negotiating my next contract. Good results put me in a better position to get what I require from a contract. If I had been more seriously injured I would have no real results to hold up when I came back to fitness. When Bartoli and Museeuw said they would be back, everybody believed them because everybody knows that they can do it. I would have to start over and do all the hard work again, I would have to struggle down at the bottom.
CN: What have you been doing to bring yourself up to form at this point?
JB: My coach had me do a month of K's from 15th November to 15th December followed by 2 months of more specific training. That then teed up well with my first race. Then, four days before the race I had to do a test ride up a hill where we looked at the power output and the time taken to get up. The hill is used by a lot of pro's such as Sorensen and Bartoli. I came out of the test feeling positive and shaped up quite well against the big names. I feel that all this structure is working well after all I have had success over the years doing things in a far less coordinated manner.
CN: How much of a part did the Dave Rayner Fund play in your development?
JB: Major, I was in France when I applied to the fund. They suggested going to Italy and got me a place at a small club. I liked the idea of doing the Italian thing so I jumped at the chance. Being placed with a small team helped me get in to the scene over there. I then moved on to a new team that promised a lot but failed to deliver. Fortunately I managed to move mid-season and as I mentioned before everything went well in '99.
CN: Thanks Jamie for the frank and informative look at life as a young pro racing in Europe. Best wishes for the future and let's hope the broken arm doesn't hold you back too much.
Born: January 23, 1977 in Epsom, Great Britain
Pro Since: 2000
Teams: US Postal (2000-2001)
17th, Route du Sud
97th, HEW Cyclassics
*Note: The Jamie Burrow interview is courtesy of Steve Masters, who wrote it for the Royal Airforce Cycling Club Newsletter and agreed to its publication on cyclingnews.
Other Talking Cycling Interviews