PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : Young Gun Chase Pinkham Talks Tour Of Utah

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Young Gun Chase Pinkham Talks Tour Of Utah
We caught up with 19 year-old Trek-Livestrong U23 pro Chase Pinkham before the upcoming 5-day Tour of Utah in Salt Lake, billed as “America’s Toughest Stage Race”. The race begins with a Prologue on August 17 and ends with a humbling fifth stage packed with 100 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing. Here’s what he had to say about his year so far, and his thoughts on the race.

Contributed by Nate King

PEZ: How’s your season been so far with Trek-Livestrong?
Chase: This year has been a tremendous step up, to say the least. The Tour of Utah last year was my first ever NRC race. I came into Battenkill this year, that was my first race of the season, I only found out I was doing it a week and a half before coming off an injury. It was my first ever one-day NRC race, that was big for me. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish, but then I came into the Tour of the Gila, my second NRC stage race. I was in okay shape, but it didn’t go super-well, I think I was 55th overall…for me it was more of a learning experience, figure out how to move around in the pack, how to be up front, all that.

PEZ: Tell us about how you ended up at Trek-Livestrong for 2010.
Chase: Last year I did the Tour of Utah, and did pretty well. I beat all but one of their guys in the GC, Bjorn Selander who’s now on RadioShack. My coach is Max Testa, and he knows Axel Merckx from the Motorola days. He approached Axel and started talking to him about me, that was sort of how I got my connection there. I did some physiological testing and had some decent results, so they brought me on for 2010.

PEZ: How did you get your start cycling?
Chase: Throughout my childhood I was always what you could call a “mediocre everything”. I never really tried all that hard, I was always passable. I could run a decent mile, I was a decent swimmer, but I was never really all that good. I have a good friend, Jon McMinn, who’s now a collegiate cross-country runner, who would beat me at everything. Cross-country skiing, running, everything. I was always kind of competing with him, whether he knew it or not. Anyway, I did the White Rim trail in Moab with my family when I was a freshman in high school. I found out, holy shit, I can ride a hundred miles in three days! For me back then, that was a huge deal, and I thought, “Well if I can do that, I don’t need my parents to drive me around anymore”. So I started commuting, and I was faster than my friends on my bike pretty naturally. I was like, I finally beat Jon at something, I’m not giving this thing up! My aunt and uncle got me involved with the local crit series. I tried that, and in my first couple of races I did okay, fifth, sixth places. I just got into racing from there and I had a blast.

PEZ: Did your aunt have a big effect on you? She was a former pro cyclist, correct?
Chase: Yeah, she was a female pro, rode the Women’s Tour de France, raced in the Pan-American Games, it was the late 80s, early 90s. She and my uncle were both racers, and helped me get into it a lot.

PEZ: Have you been living and training in Salt Lake for the season?
Chase: For the winter I went down to Austin and trained there, but for the most part I’ve been training here. Salt Lake is world-class training, I’d say the only place that compares that I’ve been is Lucca, Italy. I got to spend three and a half weeks there with the national team, but I’d say Salt Lake is at least on par with Lucca.

PEZ: Word on the street is that you’ve been training a lot with some local pros like Jeff Louder (BMC) and Burke Swindlehurst (teamGive). How’s that been?
Chase: It’s been great, last year I trained a lot with Jeff, but this year he’s been in Europe so he hasn’t been around a ton. I’ve been riding this year with Burke and Tyler Wren, I’ve learned a ton from them, they’re both really experienced. Burke’s been riding and racing longer than I’ve been alive. You can ask him anything and he’ll answer it, he’s a great mentor. Tyler is a little bit younger than Burke, but he’s got a lot of experience. He’s really good at getting into breakaways and a great conversationalist on the road.

PEZ: What are your thoughts on the more difficult Tour of Utah this year, with a crit with 100 feet of climbing a lap and the tough Stage 2 finish on Mt. Nebo?
Chase: I rode Nebo yesterday, I think that’s going to be a rad stage. It’s hard, I think a lot of people are not expecting it to be as hard as it is. You roll up and it has a bunch of false summits, it’s like a staircase climb, but only on paper, it goes from a 12% grade to 9% – that’s the easy part. I think it’s going to be incredible, it’s one of the most beautiful climbs I’ve ever done, it looks like the Alps. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous about the criterium in Park City, that’s going to be a sufferfest. It’s going to suck, but it’ll be good. We have some guys on our team who can do really well there, Ben King and Alex Dowsett. I mean, I think having a hard race is fantastic, how many other races in the US do you have with this level of climbing? Tour of the Gila has some climbing, but nothing as relentless as the Tour of Utah.

PEZ: Speaking of relentless climbing, what do you think of the final “Queen” stage to Snowbird with 11,000 feet of climbing over three summits and 100 miles?
Chase: It’s one of those days where if you’re not ready for the altitude, the time you’re going to spend in the saddle going uphill, and the heat, you’re screwed. Especially after four, five days of racing beforehand.

PEZ: What teams are you guys going to be looking out for, and which riders do you think are going to be GC contenders?
Chase: From what I’ve been hearing, Darren Lill is absolutely on fire. I think Jeff Louder is going to be tough to ever count out. As far as the other U-23 riders, Alex Howes won’t be here, but Rob Squire from Garmin is an extremely talented rider, especially uphill, I think he’ll do really well. Andrew Talansky for CalGiant and Carter Jones who’s riding for the KFAN Composite Team are both going to be riders we’ll be looking out for. Obviously Burke and Levi Leipheimer are both going to be up there for a lot of stages, too.

PEZ: A lot of people have been talking up Levi’s appearance here, and others downplaying it because of his lack of a team. Do you think he’ll be a contender for the GC win?
Chase: To be honest, I think that this is a hard enough race that he could potentially win the GC on his own. Other than the big breakaway on the last stage last year, I don’t think there was a successful solo breakaway. But, he’s a better rider than anyone here, so I think he’s got a very good chance of winning.

PEZ: What are your goals for the race this year?
Chase: Obviously, I’d like to improve on my place from last year, I think I placed 44th. I want to help out the team as much as I can, and show them that I’ve been learning and developing as a rider, especially with my lack of experience. I think that some of the stages I have a decent shot at a result at are the Prologue time-trial, Stage 1, and the Stage 3 TT at Miller Motorsports Park. Those are my three personally “targeted” stages, if you can call them that, but if the team asks me to work for someone else, that’s what I’m going to do, I’ll do exactly what they ask me to.

PEZ: Where do you see yourself next year?
Chase: We’ll see. I’d really like to stay with Trek, I haven’t signed a contract yet. I talked to Axel this week, it’s been kind of a rough year, but hopefully it being a developmental team I’ll be on for next year and show them that I can develop and get better. It’s incredible to see how much the guys from last year have improved. Jesse Sergent went from a top-25 time-trialist to winning NRC time trial, it’s amazing what guys our age can do as far as development from year to year, month to month even. Next year I’ll be doing some stuff with the national team, but other than that I’ll just be taking things as they come and go with it.

PEZ: You said you were feeling strong for the Prologue. Do you see yourself as developing as a specialist yet at all?
Chase: At the moment I’d say I don’t really know what I am. I’m a fair climber, a fair time-trialist. I have awhile to develop before I’m really competetive at an NRC level or higher, I think it’s going to be a couple years before I know. I’d say my passion is probably climbing, but I still have quite a bit of baby fat on me to lose.

PEZ: Could you tell us a little about why you like climbing?
Chase: Starting out I was always a little afraid of bunch sprints and the pack mentality, that’s gotten a lot better now. There’s just something so pure about climbing a mountain, though, it’s one man against another. You can’t hide on these climbs, you can be crafty, but you can’t hide. You have to be crafty and extremely strong to do well. I guess that’s why climbing interests me the most – it’s a beautiful part of cycling.

PEZ: Favorite band of the moment?
Chase: God, I don’t know…what have I been into lately? Vampire Weekend.

PEZ: Anything else you’d like to add?
Chase: One little thing that might be of interest is with the cancer research for Livestrong. I’m partnering with the University of Utah in a melanoma study during the race. Last year Dave Zabriskie and Jeff Louder had little red dosimeters on their helmets, I’m going to be helping out with that. We’re collecting data for the amount of UV exposure we get and vitamin D levels we have during the race, and the University is going to be studying that. It’s a great opportunity to have a team sponsored by a cancer foundation helping out with a study on cancer.


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