Jesse Anthony Interview: Aiming for success in 2013 Battenkill and top US stage races
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Jesse Anthony Interview: Aiming for success in 2013 Battenkill and top US stage races

by Shane Stokes at 5:51 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Doping
Optum Pro Cycling rider argues the case for a cleaner future

Jesse AnthonyNow 27 years of age and approaching what should be his peak years as a rider, Jesse Anthony has said that he is determined to have a very big season. A 2011 stage winner in the Tour of Utah and overall victor in the Nature Valley Grand Prix plus the overall winner of the 2010 2.2-ranked Festningsrittet, he’s looking with ambition to the year ahead.

While his Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies squad has more planning to do in regard to what events it will ride in 2013, he’s named several races where he hopes to shine.

“I would love to take another crack at the Tour of the Battenkill next year,” he told VeloNation, casting his mind back to his runner-up slot behind Francisco Mancebo (Competitive Cyclist Racing Team) last April. “I have been close to winning that race twice, and I would really like to pull it off.

“Of course if our team gets invited to the Tour of California, the Tour of Utah and the US Pro Cycling Challenge, those races are top-priorities for the squad. So I will try to bring my A-game there and hunt for stage wins.”

He’s also got his eye on some overseas races, having performed strongly outside the US in the past. Back in 2007 he was one of the strongest riders in the Irish FBD Rás, now called the An Post Rás, and his fourth overall there was followed three years later by that Festningsrittet GC win in Norway. He was also the runner-up in the Tour of Korea that year.

Anthony’s team is planning on competing abroad again in the months ahead, and those events will also be a priority.

“Any chance I get to race in Europe is also important to the team and me,” he explained. However, aside from pinpointing specific events, he’s also aware that it’s important to be at a generally good level for much of the season. “What I've learned over the years is that you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself. So I try to be as best prepared as I can for every race I do.

“Every once in a while you will have a great day in a race you didn't expect to do well at. If you're always ready to make the most of a situation, then when an opportunity presents itself, you will be successful. That's my philosophy with race preparation…which isn't to say that I won't try to prepare specifically for certain events.”

Anthony has been with the Optum/Kelly Benefit Strategies setup for the past three years, moving there after two years with Team Type 1. He weighed up the various possibilities at the end of this season and ultimately decided to stay right where he was.

“I have enjoyed so many experiences with this team the last few years, and I'm excited to continue the journey in 2013,” he said. “Many of the staff and the riders are like family to me.

“We do not have our race program solidified yet for next year, so I haven't set specific races to target. My general goal is to win races and help the team win races. We have a well-rounded roster with several all-rounders and a few very good time trialers. This creates unique race tactics for our team because we rarely have a specific leader going into each event.

“We usually try to play the overall strength of our team to our advantage. However there are some races where we know who is most likely to get a result.”

Aside from helping those who are obviously in a good position to win, he also hopes to be a contender himself where possible.

Speaking out for a clean sport:

Anthony has been one of the most open riders in talking about the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service situation or, rather, the confusion and doubt thrown up by the findings of that investigation. On October 15th, five days after USADA released its evidence against Armstrong, he gave his thoughts about the issue via Twitter.

Jesse Anthony“Apparently drug tests in cycling don't work, so how do I trust my competitors? Benefit of the doubt? I want to, but feels naïve,” he wrote, speaking frankly about his emotions. “Maybe it doesn't matter, I just have to focus on my own career decisions. But there has to be something I can do to ensure fair sporting.

“I am not going to be bitter, angry or accusatory, that doesn't help. I just want to help create a fair, credible environment in cycling.”

His thoughts encapsulated the uncertainty facing many riders; doping is almost always a closed matter, something kept hidden, and so for those racing clean it’s impossible to know whom of their competitors are doing things the right way and whom are taking shortcuts and gaining an edge through banned products.

Anthony elaborated on the issue in an interview with VeloNation, saying that the USADA findings were something that had confirmed what he assumed to be the case for a long time.

“There's definitely an initial reaction that frustrates me to feel like I have lost opportunities or achievements due to other riders' cheating in this sport,” he admitted, “but I'm not going to waste time or lose sleep lamenting what I have or have not achieved in my career due to factors out of my control.

“I am in the prime of my career with many years of racing ahead of me, and I want to focus my energy on how to make the most of those years.”

Anthony’s optimism that the future would be better than the past is based largely on what USADA uncovered, and the tremors that sent through the sport. In Armstrong, the biggest name has been brought down, and the likelihood is that pollutants such as Johan Bruyneel and Michele Ferrari will be severely punished for the harm they have done to the sport for many years.

In addition to that, the ripples of the investigation are carrying over into other countries and other enquiries, making it likely that many other riders and officials will be pinpointed and penalised in the months ahead.

“I think in general the riders who have raced their entire careers without doping - whether we've made it to the top ranks or not - are relieved that the truth about many of these riders is now out in the open,” Anthony continued. “What we've speculated and guessed about for years is now overtly factual. It allows us the opportunity to lead this sport in the right direction no matter what our status is among the fans. We want to trust the riders with whom we compete, and we want the fans to have the ability to believe in us without feeling naive because they've been deceived before.”

Anthony recognised that the sins of some cast a bad reflection upon many due to guilt by association. He points out that fans have been let down by some of the biggest names, and the natural tendency in times of such disappointment is to question everyone and everything. While he accepts that innocent individuals may be tarred with the same brush in the short term, he sees he and other riders as having an opportunity to be part of the healing process. “Ultimately, we cannot allow what other people think of us to influence our motivation, but we do want to change this perception because we care about our integrity and we want to inspire people, not disappoint them.”

What can be done?

Jesse AnthonyAccepting that the USADA investigation showed that the testing system has faults, he admits that while things have evolved, he still doesn’t know how much faith he can put in knowing that those examinations will catch the riders who are cheating.

However he believes that the detection of those using banned substances will logically improve if the anti-doping bodies have a greater budget to work with. In fact, he argues that this issue of money could be a double-edged weapon; punish the perpetrators and, simultaneously, enable the enforcers.

“I think one thing that the UCI and WADA could do to encourage riders not to dope is to fine the riders who test positive and use that money to develop more sophisticated tests and administer more tests,” he explained. “I think it would be a strong deterrent for riders to be heavily fined if they test positive. To have that money go straight into the anti-doping effort seems like it would be productive to eliminating cheating.

“Right now the repercussion of cheating is not forbidding enough. The lure is still out there to cheat in order to further one's career, and the prevention of allowing that choice is not strong. I think those things need to change immediately in order to begin to create a fully clean environment in professional cycling.”

However he also believes in the carrot as well as the stick. Removing temptation is as much about education as it is about enforcement.

“I think we need to take the bulk of the responsibility to establish a system in which cheating is not tolerated or beneficial,” he said, explaining his point. “I think we need to create the most incentive to race without doping. Punishment for doping is a necessity, but I think in addition to that we need to encourage racing clean in ways other than just the fear of punishment.

“Right now, that fear is not very great, because the punishment is not very great. I'm not sure how we can create this positive effect…but I do believe it's possible, and that it’s worth our effort.”


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