Jesse Anthony Interview: Nature Valley winner building up for Tour of Utah
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Monday, July 4, 2011

Jesse Anthony Interview: Nature Valley winner building up for Tour of Utah

by Ed Hood at 5:09 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth rider continuing to improve

Jesse AnthonyJesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) recently netted the best domestic win of his career – and for his team, this season so far – in the six stage Nature Valley Grand Prix.

Anthony initially came to prominence as a cyclo-cross rider, taking his first US title, at junior level in 2003; three US U23 ‘cross titles followed with a pro contract for – Sierra Nevada being signed for season 2006.

As well as a ‘cross man, Anthony has pursued a road career with numerous domestic podium placing; but his progression was derailed by illness and injury through seasons 2008 and 2009.

Last season saw him produce solid performances in the international arena with a stage win in the Tour of Luzon in Philippines and second overall in the Tour of Korea – capped by an excellent win in the Norwegian ‘Festningsrittet’ stage race, where he overcame the likes of Skil’s 2011 German sprint sensation, Marcel Kittel and Swedish elite road champion, Michael Stevenson (Sparebanken Vest-Ridley).

This year has seen the 26 year-old take a top ten on GC in the Tour of Malaysia, second in ‘America’s Paris-Roubaix’ – the Tour of the Battenkill and perform strongly in the Tour of Brittany.

VeloNation recently caught up with Anthony as he began a well-deserved rest period after his Nature Valley triumph and before he begins his build up for the Tours of Utah and Colorado.

VeloNation: Congratulations on Nature Valley, Jesse – is it a better win than the Festningsrittet?

Jesse Anthony: That’s a tough question; you can’t compare, they’re totally different races – Norway was certainly the best win of my career but Nature Valley is my best domestic win and another milestone for me.

VN: Nature Valley is an unusual stage race – a time trial, three criteriums and two road stages…

JA: Those crits are short and intense and hard to control. United Healthcare had a strong grip on them so we just bided our time and waited for the road stages.

VN: Rory Sutherland (United Healthcare) has won the GC three times. When he won the opening time trial were people thinking; ‘here we go again?’

JA: A lot of people were thinking that, but not us. We knew that the Menomonie road race over 161 kilometres would be important for deciding the GC, and most of the team came out of the time trial within 30 to 45 seconds of the winner.

VN: United Healthcare has been strong this season.

JA: Yes, but they haven’t done any of the NRC calendar stage races this year. They’ve concentrated on the crits and showed very strongly in them at Nature valley.

But they weren’t the only strong team there, with the likes of Jamis Sutter Home, Exergy, Bissell, and Jelly Belly. They’re all good teams – it wasn’t a two horse race.

VN: You made your move on stage five…

JA: That was the Menomonie stage and that was always our plan; we didn’t have a strong crit team, but we knew there were no bonuses in the crits and the team we brought was built around guys for this stage – hard men and climbers.

I made the break and finished second on the stage to Bernard van Ulden (Jelly Belly) but we put five minutes into most of the favourites.

Jesse AnthonyVN: And you consolidated that with second in the last hilly crit…

JA: The team rode exceptionally well on the final stage, there were eight guys riding tempo from the start and they took me into the climb every lap, keeping an eye on all of the opposition and protecting the yellow jersey.

The last few laps we were just watching the GC rivals, it was up to them to attack.

Sutherland went away solo for the win but he was well down on GC so that suited us – there was no need to be greedy!

VN: Did you ride ‘cross, last winter?

JA: I raced a full US ‘cross season on the back of a full road season, but I don’t think that I rode up to expectation…I was tired.

For years I’ve ridden a dual programme, road and ‘cross; but I think it limits how far you can take either one - I do OK in both but not to my full potential in either.

For 2012 I’m going to focus on the road 100%. That’s paying off already because I’m not stressing about a ‘cross contract, a schedule and equipment.

And next year, I won’t feel the effects of a ‘cross season in my legs.

VN: You were second to Brett Tivers (Louis Garneau & New Zealand) in the Battenkill…could you have won?

JA: I wish I had won!

I had really good legs that day, but I attacked too early and came up short by two kilometres – you live and learn!

VN: And you rode solidly in the Tour de Bretagne…

JA: I was going well in Brittany but I lost time on stage six…in the finale I tried to bridge to the break but went into the red, didn’t come back out and ended losing three minutes.

But that apart, it was a pretty good week – I love that constantly-aggressive racing over hard roads.

VN: Has the influx of European riders like Robert Forster boosted the standard in the US, this year?

JA: Yes, and the UCI races in the States have been attracting good fields, too. You only have to look at the rosters for the Tour of California or Philadelphia to see that.

And we have Utah and Colorado coming up, which are going to attract quality fields. It lets us ride against more accomplished opposition, but at the same time we don’t kick back and think; ‘we’ll never beat Peter Sagan.’

VN: What now?

JA: The whole team is having a three/four week break from racing, then we’re back in July for the Cascades stage race in Oregon as the start to our second phase of the season.

I rode that last year and it’s one of my favourite races; then we have Utah and Colorado.

VN: Are you happy with 2010 and 2011 have gone for you?

JA: They’ve been totally different years for me but, yes – last year I was my ‘comeback’ year from illness and injury.

People were asking questions about me and I had to answer with my legs!

As well as my results, I think I found my place in the team; became a real part of it. This year is different because I have responsibilities and expectations upon me and I have to hunt for results a bit more.

Kelly isn’t a team of superstars…it’s a unit of capable guys in a good environment. If it’s not my day then I’m happy to ride 100% for my team mates.

VN: Finally, who are your Tour tips?

JA: Contador; but it would be fun to see someone new come up to challenge. Schleck hasn’t showed this year – maybe he’s hiding?


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