Brad Huff Interview: American racing Six Days in Europe
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Brad Huff Interview: American racing Six Days in Europe

by Ed Hood at 3:09 PM EST   comments
Categories: Interviews, Track
 
Jelly Belly sprinter preparing for 2012 season by racing the boards

Brad HuffThe 2012 Bremen Six day wasn’t the first time that Brad Huff has raced against former double Olympic champion, Robert Bartko. The 32 year-old American explains; ‘Back when I was in Europe with TIAA-CREF in 2006 - it was either in the Tour of Brittany or Normandie – I crashed into a drainage ditch and emerged covered in mud.

I got back into the peloton and Bartko was riding alongside me, laughing as he scooped handfuls of mud out of my helmet!’

Whilst the WorldTour may boast a full complement of US riders, in the twilight world of the six days they’re much thinner on the ground.

Marty Nothstein rode the six days a decade ago, winning in Moscow in 2002 with Ryan Oelkers and made the podium in Stuttgart in 2004.

Colby Pearce and Daniel Holloway have ridden European six days in the last few years but they’re the exception.

Jelly Belly’s Huff is trying to buck the trend and with the help of ex-six day rider Jack Simes he’s been awarded contracts for the Bremen and Berlin six day races.

Despite his ‘roadman sprinter’ tag, Huff’s roots are on the track. He was US madison champion in 2004 and the following year added the US individual pursuit championship to his palmares, not to mention a bronze medal in the Pan Am Championships in the same discipline.

He won the US amateur criterium championship during that 2005 season, taking out the professional version of the same race the following year in the colours of TIAA CREFF.

That year he also ventured across the Atlantic with Jonathan Vaughters’ fledgling squad and won a stage in the tough Tour of Normandy, holding the leader’s jersey for several stages.

On the track the US madison and team pursuit championships went his way.

For 2007 CREF became Slipstream and Huff had a strong year on the track, taking a gold medal in the US team pursuit and two in the Pan Am championships, namely in the omnium and madison with Colby Pearce.

He also stood on the podium at the World Championships, taking bronze in the omnium.

Whilst he was a member of the winning quartet in the team pursuit, his direction had changed for 2008. He was with Jelly Belly and concentrating on the road, taking double stage wins in the UCI Tour of Hainan.

Still with the candy company - where he has just renewed for 2012 - the programme was largely domestic for 2009 with five wins.

In 2010 he had another strong year domestically but also took another stage in Hainan.

Last season saw another good year domestically and also strong finishes in the Tour of Taihu in China, but no stage wins. It’s however a feat he did achieve the Canadian Tour of the Delta - and a near miss silver medal in the US Elite Criterium Championships.

VeloNation spoke to Huff recently in Bremen, after which he travelled to Berlin for the Six there.

VeloNation: Is six day racing how you thought it would be, Brad?

Bradley Huff: Way harder! I knew it would be hard and whilst I’m lucky that I have experience at World Cups and World Championships, this is a new level.

It’s not just the racing either, there’s a big logistical commitment in terms of clothing, wheels, bikes, travel, accommodation . . .

The thing is that in the US there are very few people with experience of this type of racing who you can ask for advice – Colby Pearce and Daniel Holloway are the only ones in recent times.

VN: How did you get the contracts?

BH: Jack Simes - whose son Jackie is riding here too - got me the contracts. Jack rode the six days back in the 60’s and 70’s and has a lot of contacts in Europe.

I was actually supposed to ride with Jackie but they split us and put us with German riders, I ride with Ralf Matzka and Jackie rides with Theo Reinhardt.

I was third choice, first was Bobby Lea but he’s riding the World Cup in Beijing and second was Mike Friedman but he’s not long back on the bike.

VN: How did you prepare for your six day campaign?

Brad HuffBH: When I got the call I was 15 days into a 21 day break and on a cinnamon roll and beer diet! I started with roller intervals then got out on the bike – we’ve been lucky with the weather, so far.

There wasn’t really a chance to do track work, our nearest track is St. Louis but it’s very bumpy.

VN: How have you been accepted?

BH: Your acceptance depends upon your ability to assimilate into this world.

My partner is fast and a nice guy, I’ve messed up royally a time or two but Ralf doesn’t get upset, we just talk about it and learn from it.

VN: What’s the toughest aspect?

BH: The chases…no one could get thrown in here without experience and know what to do.

I’ve ridden Pan Ams, World Cups and the Worlds but still messed up here.

In the chases I have my eyes wide open – you learn to understand the hierarchy and in certain circumstances you just keep out of the way.

Watching the big guys is the best way to learn.

VN: You had a strong track season in 2007 with Slipstream, why no renewal?

BH: I was and I wasn’t expecting that, I had a good year on the track but then the team shifted direction, recruiting big road guys and going European – I was hired with a track focus and was out when things changed.

VN: This will be year number five with Jelly Belly…

BH: I enjoy it; their DS, Danny Van Haute was looking for a sprinter and that was the start of it.

VN: I noticed that you’ve ridden the Three Days of West Flanders…

BH: That was ’07 and I’d just come off a large block of track work, I didn’t have road legs – it was pretty miserable!

We also did some French Cups on that campaign; I was quick but had no stamina.

VN: You won a stage in Normandy and lead the race in 2006…didn’t that stimulate continental interest?

BH: I had a first and a second on stages and held the green jersey until the last stage; I’d been in the break on the second last day and was just wasted on the final stage – if I had finished I would have taken green but I had nothing left.

I didn’t look at it in terms of getting interest from European teams – more that it solidified my move forward with JV.

I also enjoyed some good stage placings in Langkawi that year.

VN: But you had a spell in Girona?

BH: JV set up housing for us over there and we spend a few weeks there when we were racing on the continent. But those were rough times; fly in, race, fly out – it blunted my appetite for the full Euro thing.

I didn’t have road fitness, coming off blocks of track work – but I think if I had better direction then I could have made more of it.

VN: Tell us about the Tour of Taihu Lake…

BH: It’s not like Qinghai Lake - which is at altitude - it’s the flattest race I’ve ever ridden; I got a second and two fourths on stages.

I’ve raced a lot in China – Qinghai, Taihu and Hainan.

Hainan is the island holiday resort off the coast of China where rich Asian folks holiday.

The organisation is good but it’s a kind of ‘hurry up and wait’ culture, where you’re hurried along to one place and then have to wait for an age for the next thing to happen.

It’s very aggressive racing but different to the US or Europe.

VN: Tell us about your encounter with the yaks…

BH: That was in Qinghai, the stage profile was simple - 50 kilometres up then 50 kilometres down.

I went off early and rode most of the stage on my own, I was grinding up the climb and suddenly there were all these yaks on the road.

I thought to myself; ‘what the hell am I gonna do here?’ but I picked a path through them and went on my way.

The time cut that day was 46:06 and I came home at 45:46!

VN: Did your Pan Am Championship wins get you much attention in the US?

BH: Zero! Track cycling is the red headed step child of US cycling, maybe third in the Pan Ams in ‘05 helped me get established but that double championship win wasn’t really acknowledged.

Brad HuffVN: You’ve won numerous US and Pan Am championships and a Worlds medal, why did you let go of the track?

BH: As a track specialist in the USA you can’t make money, it’s as simple as that.

VN: And you ride MTB, too?

BH: I started as a mountain biker, a friend of mine, Ben Rosenthal got me into the road, but off road is something I’ll go back to when my road career is over – look at Steve Tilford.

VN: Can you tell us about your training?

BH: I train on power, I have a Powertap, I don’t really have a coach but I take advice from folks – particularly Allen Lim.

VN: You’ve had a few crashes in your time; that one on You Tube in The Tour of Missouri is wild.

BH: Yeah, I bounced off Dominique Rollin and into the fence in that one – I had a lot of bad luck my first two years but I’m a lot less aggressive and more calculated these days.

It takes you a while to figure out who’s who and which wheels to take in the finishes.

VN: What’s still ‘to do’ for Brad Huff?

BH: I’d like to win the US Pro Crit Champs, again; I was a whisker away last year and that was after the race was restarted because of a storm which blew in - I was in the break which was clear when the race was stopped.

I take each year as it comes but I’d like to do well in UCI races in the US and Asia, gaining recognition for myself and the team.

I’m hoping that the condition I get from the sixes catapults me into the season – you can’t replicate this kind of effort in training…

 

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