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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

An interview with Miguel Meza

By Rob Karman

After six years in Italy, including the last three as a pro with Colpack, Mexican sprinter Miguel "Amazing" Meza has decided to return to the USA where he spent his teen years and learned to race after his family emigrated. Cyclingnews got the chance to talk with him over lunch a few days after team camp ended.

Cyclingnews: You're a Mexican citizen, but you grew up here in the States?

Miguel Meza wins stage three of Valley of the Sun
Photo: © Jonathan Devich
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Miguel Meza: That happened in 1990. My dad came here for work. In Mexico we used to own a restaurant. The economy was going really bad, so he decided to come to the United States. We had some other family here and they offered him a job. My mom stayed with the restaurant and kind of ran it by herself. I came here when I was 13 years old. By the age of 16 I started going with the Mexican National Team as a junior. My first trip was the Junior Pan Am games in Cuba. That was pretty much the beginning of my career. I grew up racing with a local team here in Southern California. Canyon Velo was the team that supported me a lot in my junior career.

CN: Did you race in Mexico before you moved here, or were introduced to cycling when you came to the States?

MM: Actually, I didn't really race there. I had a lot of passion for [cycling] but I was just a little kid. My older brother was part of the Mexican national team. He was the person who got me into it. I didn't have the chance to race in Mexico because I was 12 or 13 years old. My parents didn't have enough money to support him and myself. He was like the star of the family, part of the national team. Actually I started here, when I was 15. The year after that I became part of the Mexican national team as a junior. So I really had a lot of support from my family, from different people around my life.

CN: How did your brother get into cycling? Did your dad ride bicycles?

MM: Yeah, my dad in the past he loved cycling. He raced more locally around the city where we used to live. It was him and his brother that used to race a lot. He says his brother, who was better than him but they got along really good and they worked together in their cycling careers, died in a motorcycle accident. So my dad just retired from motorcycles and from bicycles. But he had a lot of pictures and my brother growing up saw them and got excited about that and tried it.

CN: Now you're racing on Schroeder with your younger brother, Rigo. Have you raced on the same team with him before? You've been over in Italy the last six years correct?

MM: This is the very first time that him and I have raced on the same team.

CN: Did you race together with your older brother?

MM: Not on the same team, no. Before I went to Europe I was racing for Canyon Velo as a junior and he was in another local club. I did one year as an espoir with Mrs. T's-Lexus, that was in 1996, and in 1997 I went to Italy and that is where I have spent the last six years. So I didn't really have the chance to race with my brothers on the same team or the same club. Not at all until this year with Rigo.

CN: Is that one of the attractions of coming to ride for Schroeder? Did you want to ride with your brother or did it just happen that way?

MM: Well, it's happening but at the same time our parents gave us the inclination to be really united between brothers, and I have one sister too. So we feel successful to be in a serious team managed by a person like Frank that has [put] a lot of passion into it. We feel successful not only by doing the races, but by being together with people that really take care of the sport. It happened at the same time that I decided to come back to the United States and continue my career here and have my brother racing with the same team because he really has a lot of talent too. It's happening because he deserves it and I think I deserve it too. So we're really proud about that, being two talented athletes. I think I have talent and my brother has a lot of talent and he is really young and we are just happy at the way life is coming.

CN: You mentioned that you decided to come back to the States. What were your main reasons behind that? When did you make that decision? Were you talking with Frank midway through last year?

Miguel Meza and Mike Tillman
Photo: © Rob Karman
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MM: Actually, it was part of my goals other than cycling. It was my sentimental part. I was intending to get married at the end of the year, in November. I was giving a preference to my sentimental side rather than my work or my goals in sport.

I wanted to continue racing in Italy, mainly in Italy, but there were many problems with doping. A lot of riders and other persons were involved with police and ending up in jail. A lot of sponsors were quitting because of the bad situations that were going on in cycling. So I kind of think about that as a serious thing because I was making a lot of sacrifices being away from home for a long time, behind away from my girlfriend who I wanted to get married to.

It was many sacrifices for me for the money that was running into cycling now, that the salaries were going really bad. A lot of riders were fighting for a spot without having a contract or anything. What they really wanted to do was just continue their cycling careers. They were not getting any money. So I saw that it was just like everybody getting their elbows to each other to find a spot.

So I was planning to come back here, it will be more fun for my career. I wanted to have something that would stimulate me to continue doing it because I have a lot of passion in it, but at the same time it is hard to live in the situation like the one that is going on in Italy, that everybody is just fighting for a spot. So I thought everything around and decided to come here.

The person that I was in contact with was John Wordin with Mercury. Last year he was asking me to come here and ride with Team Mercury. I was optimistic of coming back here to the US and having a good team, because whatever happened with Team Mercury they did a lot of really good results, whatever problems they had.

In Italy there are people who are racing for free and they are not having any fun. They are just killing themselves to get some results to continue their careers. Instead of that, if I go to the US, I will have a lot of fun. I will be with my family. I will get married. I will buy a house. Everything seemed more fun, better for my future. Not only my cycling part, I want to become an architect after doing my cycling career. I really want to do many other things other than cycling. So I said I might be wasting time in Italy when I can go to the US, get married, live with my wife, my daughter, have my parents close, buy my house, start building my own life the way I wanted to.

In the end it didn't work out with John Wordin because he had a lot of problems and [my brother] Rigo was in touch with Frank [Schroeder] and he kinda knew that I was here and I knew he was building a really good team so we talk for a little while and at the end we worked out the way we both liked it.

Endrio Leoni (Alessio) beats Miguel Meza (Colpack) in the final stage of the 2001 Tirreno-Adriatico
Photo: © Sirotti
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CN: What is your impression of the team so far? Had you met some of the guys on the team before this last week at the camp?

MM: Most of them I knew from races in the past.

CN: You raced some here in the States. You did Redlands with Team D.A.R.E. last year, right?

MM: Yeah, I did a couple races with D.A.R.E. or by myself. Whenever I had the chance to come to visit my family I would do local races. I knew some of the guys but I didn't know their personalities or anything like that. It happened mostly in the camp. I am really proud to have a team like this that everyone has so much passion for the sport and they all think positive. Sometimes you just find people that are negative or are against you, or that think about more themselves instead of helping the team and this is not happening here. Here you look at every face and everybody honours the jersey that they have on. I'm really proud of that.

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