Ed: How did you acquire your love of cycling, and did you ever race?
Pez: I was into motocross as a teenager, but had to give it up when I was 15 after I broke my arms 3 times in 10 months. A few years later someone invented mountain bikes, and I saw it as a chance to get back in the dirt, but at far less cost, time, and personal risk – so I bought a Nishiki Bushwhacker – $500 and pretty near top of the line in 1983. I really enjoyed riding it, and discovered how hard pedaling a bike could be. But I got into some epic rides, discovered I could climb, and started racing.
1977ish… with my pride & joy Suzuki. Wish I could say the same about my hair…
In 1986 I was riding my bike around Europe – post-university ‘sowing the wild oats’ – and I’d just become aware of the road scene and the Tour de France. I found my way to Paris for the finale, and the race was so relaxed back then – I remember walking across the course at Place de la Concorde to just wander around the infield at the bottom of the Champs d’Elysees and watching LeMond et all race by. Today you’d never get in there…
I raced mtbs for a few years – back before all the different disciplines were invented – Cross-country was king! I actually won a national championship in the Sportmans category in 1997. Did some local road racing, but a couple of semi-big crashes wrecked my bike and my desire.
High-tops & running shorts – ! Archival pic of my first memorable mtb epic (c.1983). I recall a massive hangover, and we climbed to the ski station atop Grouse Mtn. For some reason we chose to push our bikes up unrideable hiking trails instead of taking the fire road.
I started riding road bikes again when I started PEZ, and got some really cool bikes to test. Now I ride between 6-10 hours a week (less right now) with a group of racers, usually build up my fitness in the Spring for my annual Giro assault and the epic climbs I love doing there…
Riding the locally famous Cheakamus Challenge, 65km from Squamish to Whistler, c.1995.
Ed: What did you do for a living pre-PEZ?
Pez: Here’s the list of significant jobs after university:
1. Bike courier (best summer job I ever had!)
2. Car leasing agent
3. Radio ad sales
4. Advertising agency (account guy),
5. Bike industry – marketing guy for Rocky Mountain Bicycles, and then for Vittoria Tires in Italy,
6. Internet marketing guy for sportbooks & casinos,
Every one of those jobs prepped me for what I’m doing now, and I credit those years of ‘training’ as my prep for making PezCycling a success.
Ed: When, why and how www.PezCyclingNews?
Pez: This is a story unto itself – the long version is here. The short version: I was out of work for 6 months and couldn’t get a job – couldn’t even get decent interviews – this after 10 years of some pretty good career growth. I felt like the only person on the planet who knew my true worth, and was struggling with not being able to work… and I thought I was doing some damn fine interviews – I mean who takes a Powerpoint into the interview and makes whole presentation about themselves? That’s what I did for a job with a major interactive gaming company here… what’d I get? Buttkiss. Nada. Zippo.
I was getting close to rock bottom – at least I hope it was rock bottom – and I had to do something – so I figured if I wasn’t getting paid, I should at least do something I liked. And I had been reading my cycling news online, but was constantly disappointed by the poor job everyone was doing conveying the passion and emotion that cycling is all about. Cycling is close to the most fun I can have, yet reading about it was so boring… Instead of complaining about it, I decided to do it myself, and see if anyone else agreed with me…
My favorite part of this gig is being out there- at races, events, and riding. This day at the 2006 Giro was epic as we rode over the Gavia and the Mortirolo – and made even better by Alessandro snapping this pic…
Ed: What was very first piece?
Pez: Whoa – now you’re testing me! I’ll do a quick search and see…
(I leave to search the Pez archives…)
Aha! – here it is “Italian Drivers Threaten Cyclists”
This was actually a piece I wrote while living in Italy and working for Vittoria Tires. When I posted it on PEZ, there was basically no content and no one writing anything, so I just put it up there for a laugh…. at least I thought it was funny… I’m not sure what the other three readers thought.
Ed: What do you love about cycling?
Pez: The freedom, the adventure, the speed, the power, that you have to work at it to get better, a really fast paceline, and that I’m a decent climber.
Ed: Best Pez moment?
Pez: Believe me, there have been a lot! I am love the access we get to cycling events, riders and teams, the fact that we’ve earned a place in the world of cycling and as part of so many readers ‘daily dose’, talking to readers and meeting people who actually read the site.
I could go on, but none of it would have happened if I hadn’t leapt off that cliff back in 2001- and it was right around this time of year – when I decided to start my own cycling website. So let’s say it was understanding all the reasons why the idea was gonna explode in the hangar, and somehow finding the courage to spin the propeller and aim for the runway… I learned that self belief is 90% of the battle, and now I know the meaning and rewards of choosing to do something you truly love.
Ed: What depresses you about cycling?
Pez: Not having enough time to do it – and watching Le Tour on TV wishing I was there!
There’ve been a lot of hilites over the past 7 years – like riding with Lance and George at the 2005 Tour of Courage.
Ed: Worst Pez moment?
Pez: Looking at where it started and where we are now, there hasn’t really been one. To see how far I’ve come, and work with and read the words of the guys who’ve chosen to be part of PEZ, is such a huge feeling of accomplishment and pride, that even when a client tells me “no advertising next year”, I feel like nothing could be as bad as before it all started, so I pretty much cherish every day I get up to do this job. Sure there are days and tasks that seem like ‘work’, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Ed: Your stance on riders who have been “positif?”
Pez: General disgust. Personally I prefer to focus our stories and attention on clean riders, and support the guys who are trying to clean up the sport. But if we’re sincere about being a news source, and reporting the news, then we’re obligated to give some press to the cheats as well.
The cheats are not ruining cycling, they’re ruining themselves. Cycling will survive long after those guys are gone, and if as a fan, you hang up your bike because of the actions of a few idiots, then you’re missing the whole point of cycling in the first place.
Ed: Is the economic down turn hurting?
Pez: The first expense to get cut from any company’s budget is marketing, so I expect advertising revenues will be down for a few months. But they will come back. Cycling’s a small industry, so even the guys who are not renewing contracts right now will return. I mean, when half the people in an office look at your website everyday, eventually someone asks why we’re not advertising there. I can’t see how the recession will hurt readership, the internet today is everywhere and basically free, so why would people stop reading if it brings a little levity or distraction in tough times?
I took this at the start of Milan-SanRemo in 1998, I was amazed by how small Marco Pantani really was.
Ed: If there could be just one more interview, it would be with?
Pez: Marco Pantani. I saw him blast off at the ’94 Giro, and the way he won two days in the mountains, including a stage over the Stelvio and the Mortirolo – beating Indurain, Berzin, and Chiappucci… it was spectacular. I’d never even heard of him, but could tell he was special. His demise is one of the great tragedies of our sport. I’d ask him about that day and what it was like to ride away from the world’s best.
Ed: Why do you prefer the Giro to the Tour?
Pez: “Do you mean sexually, or financially…?” Okay, that’s just an old Mick Jagger quote that I’ve been dying to use for about 17 years… I’ve heard that if you drink enough negronis, you will actually become Italian, so I figure I’m at least a third of the way there… But summer would not be summer sans Le Tour. I love that annual three week journey in July, just watching each day unfold, and even more now that we cover the race and present our own view of the proceedings. Being a dad & husband does limit my travel days, and I’m fortunate to travel for “work” at my discretion, but I have to choose what travel makes the most sense. Our workload for the Tour is so busy that I’m actually more useful at the desk, editing, posting content, planning days and strategies with our guys in the field – like you! But I just love Italy and the Giro so much, that I kinda ‘need’ to go there each year.
Of course none of this would have happened without the support of the exquisite Mrs. Pez. (Photographed at Harry’s Bar in Rome, negroni in hand.)
Ed: Daily Distraction: Who’s idea? Who’s title?
Pez: “Mea culpa…” But if I didn’t do it someone else would have and then I’d always be thinking “damn I shoulda done that…”. We’ve been posting the beautiful women of cycling for 5-6 years now, which I think makes DDs the largest collection of it’s kind. Sure I get the odd voice of dissent, but we’re not trying to please all the people all the time. But if you don’t like looking at beautiful women, you’re the one with the problem… And anyway, every year I meet more and more ladies who actually want their pics on the site – it’s almost like some wacky right of cycling status to make it onto DDs… I think it’s all big laugh…
Who am I kidding? Even in a cold February drizzle this is still the best gig I’ve had…
Ed: Pez, what will it be like in one year, five years? (Given the way technology is moving)
Pez: Well – I can’t give away my plans for world domination just yet…. (Muwahahahahah!) But when you find something that works, you stick with it… a good pair of bibs shorts, the right training regimen, a good woman – these are in random order by the way – . I feel like we’ve got a pretty good handle on presenting a passionate, fun, entertaining and also informative perspective on pro cycling, so I can’t see that core essence changing. It’s not rocket science and we’re not doing anything really important like saving lives, but there’s a place for entertainment and it does add value to people’ lives even if it’s just a chuckle or smile for 2 minutes a day – I think that is worthwhile.
And if you’ve made it this far – thanks for reading – and I hope you stick with us for another great year of what’s cool in pro cycling.
– Richard Pestes –
Note: Special thanks to Ed Hood for putting some brain power behind these questions…!