Ed Note: AJM has been around the NorCal scene a long time. He’s often taken a back seat to his twin brother Ben who has been prominent on the domestic cycling scene the last several years. After college Andy took a day job while Ben focused on making a career as a pro cyclist. It wasn’t long before Andy decided to refocus his efforts and started climbing the ranks to the upper echelon of domestic cycling circuit. Andy spent the last few years working hard as a support player on the Bissell squad, one of the top teams in the US. After Bissell downsized, and kept Ben but not him, Andy joined the Kenda/5 Hour Energy Pro Cycling team which hired a large NorCal contingent that included Paul Mach, Nate English, and Roman Kilun. Andy kept his focus, trained hard this last winter and his efforts were rewarded with a smart/tough man win at the San Dimas Stage Race. We caught up with Andy this week right on the heals of his first big GC win.
Kenda/5 Hour Energy Pro Cycling pretty much controlled San Dimas from start to finish. Did it feel like it was in control?
Kenda/5 Hour Energy came into the race super strong, so we always had the thought that we could take it. Our team camp in Tucson was only a couple weeks ago, and everyone could see that Phil Gaimon was crazy strong. Going into the uphill TT this past Friday, there were some quiet comments between teammates about Phil smashing the hill, so it definitely wasn’t out of the blue for us, and not surprising in the least.
In the circuit race, my job was to cover any dangerous breakaways so that we’d have a chance if it didn’t come back. I was the insurance clause in the team tactic. I saw the move going and went super hard to jump across, and so I had an easy and extremely cold ride for the rest of the day (because I wasn’t pulling in the break, I never had a chance to get warm or keep warm, and I was shivering the ENTIRE time).
That makes for a long day – how did the rest of the race play out?
The team was handed a couple blows of bad luck that really affected the race: just after my breakaway went, two of my teammates were taken out in a crash, so suddenly we were down to three men to work to pull the break back. Then, they were bringing the gap down to about a minute, which was perfect, and Phil flatted. The field lost a lot of momentum and the gap doubled to two minutes! So it was a much worse situation pretty quickly.
In the breakaway, I was aware that I wasn’t the best-placed rider on GC, and I was jumping on the intermediate sprints to gain some bonus seconds and keep others from gaining on Phil. I still thought it was going to all come back together, even until half a lap to go, so I was working to protect Phil’s yellow jersey. We had a plan and were racing it to the letter, though we had Plan B included in our calculations. With those couple of monkey wrenches thrown into the works (extra gap, reduced horsepower), plan B was activated and I had to go try to place as well as I could. Luckily, it was enough to take the lead in the race.
Once I was in the yellow jersey, I was very confident that the team would be able to defend in the crit. I knew how strong my guys were, and I was never worried. Sure enough, they OWNED the crit. We had a plan, we stuck to it. Total control.
There was lots of chatter about the conditions at the circuit race – any dark moments?
I’ve done some races in terrible conditions, but this San Dimas circuit race ranks up there for me, definitely in the top three worst days I’ve had on the bike. I was dressed for the forecast, which was 60 degrees and rain, but it was actually 42 degrees, pouring rain and hailing, and blowing at 30mph! It got pretty ugly. But it was terrible for everyone, so we all just coped with it and did our jobs.
Does this feel like retribution after the Tour of California snub?
I don’t think of it as retribution. I don’t have anything against the ToC organizers. Personally, I don’t have anything to prove, and I don’t need their race invitation to feel validated. I will continue to train, prep, and race EXACTLY the same no matter what race I’m attending. To me, that’s being a professional cyclist: finding motivation to race just as fast no matter what race you’re at, no matter what the conditions are, no matter who else is there. I’ll perform with the same quality and push myself just as hard, because it is my job to perform like that.
“Personally, I don’t have anything to prove, and I don’t need their race invitation to feel validated. I will continue to train, prep, and race EXACTLY the same no matter what race I’m attending. To me, that’s being a professional cyclist: finding motivation to race just as fast no matter what race you’re at, no matter what the conditions are, no matter who else is there.” ~ AJM
As a team, we were all confused, since we of course thought that we should be in the race. But everyone else (including Medalist Sports) doesn’t have the inside knowledge that we do about our team. So how would they know? They didn’t attend our team camp… We KNOW that we are strong enough to deserve a start at the biggest race in the United States, but it’s not as obvious to everyone else. So we will just keep racing how we know we can, and then everyone will be in on our little secret.
You seem to take energy from adversity – crashes, team changes, race invitations, etc. What’s next – fight club before races:)
I don’t think my success after my crash in 2007 or my current success is due to the adversity. To reach this level has, for me, taken years of constant, steady, hard work. Its not in reaction to anything. I’ve been building to this point now for a long time, over years and years of racing and over 5 months of hard training this past winter. If I could go much much faster just by being upset about something – like losing my job or not getting into a race – then I would incorporate barroom brawls into my training program! But I would be at this high level no matter which team I’m racing for, and no matter which race I’m doing in May, so those are not the reason for my success now.
This is a big exciting win for you, and your Jacques-Maniac Fans, what else are you going to target this year?
Yes indeed, this is the first GC win for me, and even the first stage race jersey I’ve ever won! So it is big, and it has not really sunk in yet. But I have also enjoyed lots of race wins, at last count I think it’s over 50, so it’s not entirely new to me either… I think the newest experience for me is having my whole team behind me saying, “we believe in you,” and riding for me. I’ve never had that before and it’s a special bond between teammates. I hope I get the chance to pay them back and show them how much it meant to me.
“I think the newest experience for me is having my whole team behind me saying, “we believe in you,” and riding for me. I’ve never had that before and it’s a special bond between teammates. ” ~ AJM
For the rest of the year, my goals have not changed: I was brought on at Kenda/5 Hour Energy to be a GC leader and my focus will be stage races. All the big domestic stage races on the NRC calendar are what I’m shooting for. There are some that have courses that suit me well, so I’ll be specifically gunning for Redlands Bicycle Classic, Joe Martin Stage Race, Nature Valley Grand Prix, and Tour of Elk Grove.
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