PEZ: First off, tell us a little about yourself…who are you, how’d you get into biking?
I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. I am the last of six children. I saved my milk money during my second year of college to buy a road bike. I competed in marathons and long distance triathlons before that, but shifted my focus entirely to racing on the road in 2007.
Soladay kicked off a torrid Spring run with a win at the Speedweek event in Roswell, Georgia, then followed it the next day with the win in Beaufort, South Carolina.
PEZ: You’ve had a breakout season in 2009 – is anything different this year compared to last?
My offseason training and focus changed. I put in more hours on the bike. I concentrated on improving my climbing and time trialing skills. I also committed to a simple diet: eating healthier and cleaner foods. No more boxes of cookies, bags of chips, or tubs of ice cream for dinner. My body just feels healthier and more efficient this season. Losing a few pounds doesn’t hurt!
PEZ: You seem to thrive in most conditions – is there any type of race that you really look forward to?
The more selective the course the better, you don’t learn much in a race if you don’t pay for your efforts.
Soladay on the top step of the podium in Beaufort with teammate, Mark Hekman.
PEZ: You won at Roswell and then made it back to back in Beaufort the next day…what was that like?
It was like a door had been opened. I had not won a race since 2007. My coach BJ Basham and I knew that it was important to go out this season and get a W as soon as possible. The difference now is that I know I can win instead of trying to convince myself that I can do so.
An elated Soladay begins to savor the win.
PEZ: Nature Valley was a fantastic race for you – tell me about it.
I went to Nature Valley on my own dime. I then flatted in the time trial with really good legs. All I could think was: here we go again, another big stage race with bad luck. I showed up to stage 2 that night super motivated.
Tom responded to his TT let down with a long solo exploit in the crit, which nearly netted him another huge win.
I attacked a few laps in and stayed away until I got caught on the line by Sebastian Haedo (Colavita). I went from bummed out to a podium finish, the most aggressive rider jersey, and the points jersey – in half a day. My team led me out for all 4 intermediate sprints over the next two stages, which I took en route to securing the points competition.
Sharing the final podium at Nature Valley with the likes of Rory Sutherland, Chad Gerlach, and Floyd Landis.
PEZ: What is the environment like within the team on Mountain Khakis?
The team exists to give every rider a shot at success. Younger and less experienced riders are paired with veteran captains. The goal is to develop a new wave of professional cyclists and act as a feeder team to the rest of the professional peloton.
Tom wearing the Points Jersey at Nature Valley.
PEZ: Do you feel at home with Mountain Khakis?
The team has given me the base in which to build my career, getting me to the biggest events in hopes of securing a contract with a larger team. I am grateful for the opportunity that they have given me.
In the field, climbing Lemon Hill at Philly.
PEZ: What was it like being in contention at Philly until the very end? What is Philly like?
Heartbreaking. I was setting up for the sprint and cramped one mile from the line. The team had done an amazing job protecting me all day long, and all I wanted to do was pay them back. Philly is the biggest race of the year, it’s exciting just watching, let alone climbing the Manayunk Wall ten times. The crowds are unrivaled, as is the distance for an American race: my computer read 160 miles.
Tom was active at the front on the Manayunk Wall, even going toe to toe with the Columbia juggernaut.
PEZ: Goals for the rest of the year?
I do my best to be prepared as much as possible for every race I enter. You never know when you will find yourself in the position to win. I have a bone to pick at Downer’s Grove (USPRO Criterium Championships Course), so I hope to have at least a few of our guys up there in the last lap.
The Mountain Khakis leadout is a wonderful thing. Their chances at this summer’s USPRO Crit Championships have to be considered high.
PEZ: Do you train with a powermeter? Tell me a little about your training…
I train/race on the Quarq Cinqo Saturn powermeter paired with a Garmin 705 computer. Looking back at 2008, I realized that I rested too much last season, often finding my legs blocked for races. A light spin on my off days has really kept my legs moving. Core work paired with long endurance days and mixed with tempo has helped me fill the gap that racing every weekend leaves.
PEZ: Favorite race?
I raced Battenkill Roubaix for the first time this year, making the selection over each climb. I had never raced for more than 120 miles. I flatted twice. I had two two teammates get me back on the first time, and then had another give up his wheel 100 miles in the second time. It was EPIC.
Tom rolling by the Air Force Monument at the US Air Force Classic.
PEZ: Least favorite race?
Lining up at the back of any rainy criterium.
PEZ: Favorite part of being a bike racer?
Teamwork. Every rider doing their part in route to a common goal. It is a special thing when the guys sacrifice their own result for the good of the team.
PEZ: Least favorite?
Driving in the team van for days at a time is not good for the legs.
Keep an eye out for Soladay in the results – he’ll be there.
PEZ: If you could race any race, what would it be?
The Tour of Flanders.
PEZ: You’re a Bike Pure rider…what led you to Bike Pure?
We all want to see this sport continue to grow and thrive. Bike Pure embodies this in their fight for Clean Sport. I have signed their honour code and wear my Bike Pure wristband to show my support of stiffer penalties for those who choose to cheat.
Thanks for your time and best of luck the rest of the season, Tom!
Keep up with Tom and the rest of the team at the Mountain Khakis website.
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Find out more about Tom’s coach, BJ Basham, HERE.