Rory Sutherland Interview: Back racing at the top level with Team Saxo Tinkoff
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Monday, December 17, 2012

Rory Sutherland Interview: Back racing at the top level with Team Saxo Tinkoff

by Ed Hood at 5:31 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
Australian rider ready for season at WorldTour level

Rory SutherlandWhen 30 year-old Australian Rory Sutherland first pins a number to his Saxo-Tinkoff strip it won’t be the first time he’s raced in Division One.

It was in 2005 when the man from Canberra rode the Giro for the soon to be late lamented Rabobank team.

Sutherland had ridden for two years for their Continental squad, picking up some nice palmares along the way – including second place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2003 and stage wins in the Giro d’Abruzzo and Tour de Liege, as well as a win in the Australian U23 race championships in 2004.

It was a tough Grand Tour baptism for him, but he recovered well to take third on GC in the Tour of Denmark in August.

But in September of that year he tested positive for Clomiphene during that year’s Deutschland Tour. When the B-sample confirmed the positive in October, Sutherland was cast adrift by Rabobank.

Clomiphene is not considered a performance enhancer but it is on WADA’s banned substance list.

Sutherland said; ‘I did not knowingly ingest’ the miniscule amount which was detected in his system and later an independent investigation concluded that it did not find “any indication that Sutherland was directly or indirectly implicated in expressing interest in or in using substances classified as doping agents.”

However, the test result meant there are no 2006 results in his palmares; but in 2007 he picked up the thread with US team Health Net.

This team would become OUCH in 2009 and then United Healthcare for 2010 through to the present – and where Sutherland would remain for all six seasons.

Those six seasons have seen nothing but success; on his debut he won the prestigious Joe Martin stage race and the season long NRC title as most consistent roadman in the US.

In 2008 he again won the Joe Martin and NRC title as well as the Nature Valley stage race. One year later the Joe Martin and Nature Valley again went his way as he piled up strong US palmares.

It was the Cascade Classic and Nature Valley in 2010; and in 2011 the results went to a higher level as the team was accepted for bigger races.

He was sixth on GC in the Coppi-Bartali stage race in Italy, seventh in the Tour of California and tenth in the USA Procycling Challenge in Colorado.

In 2012 his progress continued with wins in the tough early season Gila stage race in the US, the notoriously hard Tour de Beauce in Canada plus stages in the Tours of Utah – and most significantly - Colorado.

This plethora of points took him to stop spot in the UCI Americas Tour – and was one of the reasons a points-hungry Bjarne Riis snapped Sutherland up for Saxo-Tinkoff.

VeloNation spoke to the fast climbing Australian soon after the good news was announced that Saxo-Tinkoff would be in the WorldTour for 2013.

VeloNation: Do you have an agent who was looking for a deal, or did Saxo Tinkoff make an approach, Rory?

Rory Sutherland:
I have two agents, in fact. I work with Martijn and Eelco Berkhout with SEGcycling.

I find it is important to concentrate on racing and training while letting someone else handle the business side of the equation.

VN: Six seasons with UHC - it must be a wrench to leave?

RS: Yes, it is incredibly tough; I had a great six years with the organization, but it was time for me to move on. Change is never easy, especially when you have been with a team for such a long period of time.

However, I am very excited about the coming year and look forward to the new challenges that will arise.

VN: Did the fact that Saxo Tinkoff has Aussie riders and staff have an influence?

RS: To be perfectly honest – no, not really. The team has a history of employing riders from various countries and the team directors bring out the best in each rider on the team.

VN: Are you going to move the family to Europe - where and when?

Rory SutherlandRS: My family and I moved from Boulder, Colorado to Girona, Spain in early November and we will remain here for the winter.

Our son is enrolled in school here and my wife is expecting our second child in early March, so it was important for us to be settled as early as possible.

It is incredibly important for me to be comfortable in my surroundings, so we came over pretty early in order to find a home and get our family settled.

It can be a difficult transition when you have a family and it is best to deal with those things before racing begins.

VN: Was there any one ride which got you the contract?

RS: While I am very proud of what our team accomplished in 2012, I was most pleased to have a consistent year of racing and success.

VN: What will you miss about US racing?

RS: I will miss all of the familiar faces and the fun aspect of cycling. The USA is a fantastic place to race your bike and I had the opportunity to see many amazing parts of the country that I would not have seen otherwise.

VN: Do you have an idea of your programme for 2013?

RS: Though schedules can change, I believe I will be starting off with Paris Nice, followed by the Ardennes classics, Romandie and then we will see how things are going as we head towards the Giro.

VN: Tell us about coming to Europe, a decade ago - you were getting Euro podiums quickly.

RS: As an 18-year-old it was tough. I’m not saying that its any easier now, but it was different. Being young, inexperienced and new is often a tough combination. It took me a year or two to finally find my feet.

VN: The U23 Ronde 2003, you were second - that must have stirred a lot of interest from big teams?

RS: No, not really! Though I was pleased with my result, the RVV for U23's is completely different than the 'big boys' race.

VN: 2004 was a good year - including an Olympia Tour stage win.

RS: I enjoyed 2004 so much. We had a fantastic year with the U23 Rabobank team and we won a lot of races by coming together and really racing as a team.

VN: You rode the Giro in 2005, tell us about that.

RS: It was like being thrown in the deep end of the pool! I did not have a very good program through the spring, and then all of a sudden I was doing the Giro.

We were not given any specific goals and we did not have a true GC leader, so it was an interesting experience, to say the least.

I am really looking forward to riding it this year, as I think being older and having a few more years experience should help me have a better race.

VN: This season has been excellent - do you think you're approaching your peak?

RS: That is a difficult question because it is so hard to define what a peak is these days. You see a 22-year-old winning a Tour stage one day, and a 34-year-old wins the next day.

I do think spending six years racing in the USA has kept me very mentally fresh; and it has taught me things I would not have had the chance to learn had I been in Europe.

VN: Was the UCI Americas Tour a goal - or did it just 'come about?’

RS: It just kind of came about, though I became more aware of it in the latter part of the season. As a team, we always tried to win bike races.

If you win bike races these things, like the NRC title or the America's Tour, tend to follow.

VN: You posted some strong Euro races performances this year, second in a Coppi-Bartali stage, for example - that must be encouraging?

RS: There were ups and downs in the spring of 2012, but our team was able to get a few good results along the way

I am looking forward to my racing program in 2013 because I think I will gain more depth and be able to be competitive at a higher level.

VN: What's your training philosophy - watts/SRM's/Power Taps or 'old school' - do you have a coach?

RS: I have a coach and he is the boss! We base everything on heart rate, lactate and monitoring my overall mental and physical health.

He is Colorado-based and has a PHD in Exercise Physiology, so he knows much more than I do and we work really well together.

VN: 2013 will be a good season, if . . .

RS: If I remain happy and healthy on the bike. The happiness of my family is also important, especially while we are living in Europe.

This will be a great season for Team Saxo-Tinkoff and I look forward to being a part of it.

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