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From a fledgling road racing career in the US, to his recent coronation as the 2009 UK National Road Race Champion, Rapha Condor rider Kristian House speaks exclusively to Rapha.
What was your route into road cycling?
I spent a while living in Austin, in Texas. I used to bike to football (the English kind) as buses were a pain in the arse and I eventually got into racing mountain bikes. I rode for a little grungey, BMX-type bike shop and through that met some friends who introduced me to road racing.
How promising was your early career on the road?
In the first Circuit race I entered, in Austin, I sat on the front the whole time thinking I was winning. At the end, the peloton just swallowed me up and I finished about 20th.
Presumably, living in Austin, you had some affinity with Lance Armstrong?
Well, Armstrong was world champ in 1993 and I wasn’t racing then. When I was about 18 and began winning more races, however, I used to join Lance, Kevin Livingston and other pros on training rides around Austin.
And then you moved to Belgium?
I was given the opportunity to change my nationality and ride for the US but I never felt American, even when I was living in Austin. I was keen to race in Europe and met a guy called John Berkley, who offered to get me on a team in Belgium. When I graduated from High School I gave John a call and he helped me move over there. I raced in Belgium for four years, living just five miles from the Kemmelberg. That added to the nostalgia of riding there, although living on a farm, as I did at the time, had its dull moments.
Fast forward to 2009 and Rapha Condor; how have you found riding with the team?
Being involved with such a great group of people who are so passionate about everything to do with the sport is fantastic. I’ve got to know everyone at both Rapha and Condor really well, the club, the fans, the staff and my team mates. There’s a real family atmosphere and it’s something that extends beyond the UK. There are people as far afield as Melbourne who are into Rapha and share the same ideas, both about the sport and the road riding lifestyle.
Presumably having John Herety as your team manager makes a big difference?
Definitely. To have such an enthusiastic and genuine guy supporting and encouraging us has been superb.
And so to your victory in the National Road Race Championship on 28th June. Were you feeling confident on the morning of the race?
I’d been feeling good all week but had been training for Crits. I was doubtful of my ability in this kind of race, so I didn’t go into the race thinking I was riding for a podium spot.
I understand the tactics had been for you to ride for Chris Newton and Tom Southam?
Tom had been going well and Chris was naturally up for it, so in the race meeting I didn’t put my hand up for the win. John Herety had told me I was also going well but I didn’t feel sufficiently confident I could put in a winning ride.
So what were your tactics?
John told us to get in the early move to make sure a Rapha Condor man would be in the final reckoning. I was in the lead group over the Tumble climb when David Millar and Bradley Wiggins went. I bided my time and stayed with three Cervelo riders and Mark Cavendish. Then, over the radio, John said that Tom wasn’t feeling great and that I should go for it. With about six or seven laps to go, I thought to myself: ‘This is it.’ I was going for a finish line win. I ended up in the lead group with Chris Froome, who was on fire, along with Peter Kennaugh and Daniel Lloyd. We were all looking at each other as if to say: ‘What do we do?’
John told me the chasing group were only a minute behind, so we needed to ride. Kennaugh attacked and I went with him, even though I was cramping up. Lloyd was dropped and with about 1km to go, Froome attacked. Kennaugh and myself followed and when we caught him, he died. I swung off Kennaugh and went for it and all my Crit and cornering practice paid off.
What did it feel like, crossing the finish line as National Champion?
I couldn’t believe it, I was almost in tears. John Herety was tearful and Tom and Gary Beckett came straight up to me – it was all very emotional. It felt great to have other members of the team genuinely happy. I had wanted it for so long.
How does it compare to other wins in your career?
It eclipses everything else. I mean, you can win the RAS or the Girvan but only by winning the national title do you get to wear this jersey all year. It’s the blue riband event, it’s fantastic. I might even paint my old Ford Fiesta in white, blue and red. That said, I think I’ll keep my vintage Morris Minor in its original colour.
After the race Mark Cavendish told a journalist you’d ‘sat on’ for the duration of the race. How did you feel about that?
Things get said after a road race. I’ve done the same and I know Cav wears his heart on his sleeve. William Fotheringham [the Guardian’s cycling correspondent], who took the quote from Cavendish, was riding in our team car so he knew how I had won. You ride your own race. I won and I’m happy.
- @brettrothmeyer nice cap drawing by the way!
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- @dean0downing @raphacondor Thank you Dean, it’s been an incredible journey.
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