Interview with Team Director
Wonderful Pistachios 2011 Interview (November 2010)
Josh, first off thanks for talking with Bicycle.net today.
Q: So, you now have “Wonderful Pistachios” as your primary sponsor. I am sure that it is not only exciting, but will help you grow this 2nd year Pro team. What kind of changes can we expect?
A: You will see a higher level of professionalism from us. This year we were still in transition from being an elite amateur team. In 2011 everything will be more polished, more fine tuned. Having a strong corporation like Wonderful Pistachios behind us will help us take the program to that next level.
Q: Last year you were not only the Director but a rider on the team. How will this year be different for you?
A: 2010 was always going to be my last race season. I hung up my bike after that brutal Park City “criterium” at the Tour of Utah. I have been racing for over 20 years so it was time to rest my legs. My focus now is purely on the management of the team. It’s a nice transition for me because while I am not racing, I am still very much involved in the sport. It would have been difficult to just quit cold turkey.
Q: Last year was your first year as a NRC Pro Team and there was a huge learning curve. How will having last years experience help the team reach the 2011 goals?
A: Applying for the UCI license was a real struggle in our first year but this time around that process was a lot easier. I also learned some basic business lessons. My educational background is in the arts so there are some fundamentals that I am learning along the way. Ultimately a team needs to be managed like any other business endeavor. If you make your investors happy they continue to support you but that means much more than hiring good riders and winning races. The budget has to be carefully controlled and exploited for maximum impact. Equipment has to be inventoried and carefully tracked.
The best value to the sponsor comes when a great branding strategy is in place. I went to NYU film school so my artistic side is really stimulated when it comes to finding new and unique ways to market the team but it’s the day to day business of running the company that is the key to ongoing success.
Q: And what are the goals for the 2011 season?
A: Our objective is to have a great presence at the big spectator events. There seems to be a old school train of thinking that successful teams are defined by their presence in the hardest races. We’re going beyond that model and will be focusing on the events where we can have the greatest impact and the most opportunities to spread the word about pistachio health. These are the downtown criteriums and circuit races like Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, Nevada City and Philadelphia. I have built a team that will be very effective in races like these. We want to have a lot of up face time with the spectators and we want to give away lots of pistachios!
Q: When you look at riders for the team, how do you make decisions on who, and what kind of rider is the best choice?
A: There are several components to picking a rider. Perhaps the most important is a strong referral from a trusted team director or coach, especially if I don’t know the rider personally. After that I look for riders who have strong NRC and UCI experience and who have raced on other pro squads. Finally, I try to pick riders who complement each others talents and will help us achieve success at the important races on our schedule.
Q: What does your roster look like for 2011? Who is staying from last year, and who is a new addition?
A: I’m really excited about our line-up for 2011. Returning racers include Tim Farnham, Eric Bennett and Alexi Martinez. Our team captain, Sterling Magnell, is new and will bring a wealth of experience and strong leadership to the program. Neil Coleman is another experienced rider who will make an important addition to the team. In terms of younger riders, we’ve picked up Victor Riquelme, Menso de Jong and Taylor Bertrand-Barrett and we will be adding 4 more in the coming weeks.
Q: Josh, you have worked really hard to get the team to this point. Starting out as a amateur team just a few years ago to a NRC Pro Team. Can you tell us how it feels when you look back to today? How proud are you of this team and what it can accomplish in 2011?
A: I am not ashamed to say that I feel a great level of personal satisfaction from the progress we have made so far. This team really is my (other) baby. I have a hand in everything including designing the clothing, building the team website, hiring the riders and signing all our cash and product sponsors. But it is also important to me that my riders are proud to wear the jersey and represent the team. Every year we take a step forward. With the addition of Wonderful Pistachios as a title sponsor I truly believe that there is no limit to how far we can go.
Having said that, if I had known from the outset the amount of work it would take to get to this point I may never have taken that first step. Several years ago when I first set out to build the elite amateur team, my car broke down on the way to a meeting with Howard Krepack of GEKLaw.com, one of the leading bicycle advocacy lawyers in California. I ended up running two miles in a suit and dress shoes through Beverly Hills and down Rodeo drive to make it to that meeting. I signed him up that day and he has been with us ever since. That was an important moment in this program’s creation and I might not be here now had I not made it to that meeting.
Q: It takes a lot of hard work and dollars to support a team at your level. Can you talk about the challenges, as well as the support you will have next season? (Sponsors, personal, etc…)
A: The impact that the bad economy has had on the US racing scene has been significant. Getting money this year has been extremely difficult and many teams have had to shut their doors. Frankly I’m just happy that we are still in the game. Unfortunately, there are many talented riders out there without teams and many of the riders who have found teams are not getting paid what they deserve if at all. Fortunately for us, our sponsors have been happy with the return we have given them so in addition to Wonderful Pistachios stepping up their contribution, many of our supporting cash sponsors are back such as Twinlab and PowerBar.
Q: When you look at all the doping scandals that has hit professional cycling what can you do to try to avoid scandal?
A: The only thing I can do is look closely at character. I would never hire a rider that I didn’t know without a very strong referral from someone who I trust. The way this team is constructed tends to bring us riders who have a true passion for the sport and are not motivated by the things that might cause a rider to resort to doping. I am 100% confident that this is a completely clean program.
Q: Will you still use Hypnosis in the 2011 season? How does it help a rider perform better?
A: Mental training is an essential part of race preparation. All of us are limited in some way by our perception of what we think we are capable of. Through my coaching company, Liquid Fitness, I have worked with world class cyclists as well as athletes in other disciplines including tennis, football and mixed martial arts fighting. The techniques I teach which include hypnosis, visualization, affirmations and breathing exercises ensure that our riders are always in a peak mental performance state.
Q: Josh, you had the chance to race at your childhood dream in Philly. What was that like? And will you miss being on the bike?
A: You would think that after 22 years of build up there would be a huge possibility for a major let down, but no. It was everything I ever dreamed it would be. Those first few laps around Benjamin Franklin Parkway were the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike. I kept telling myself, you’re here, you’re really here! The race was great and although it was 95 degrees with 60% humidity I don’t remember ever feeling hot or tired, even after 125 miles and five and a half hours of racing. Every time we went up the Manayunk Wall or over Lemon Hill, I was completely re-invigorated by the energy from the massive crowd. I will remember it for the rest of my life and I am eternally gratefully to my family for supporting my dream for so many years. I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to pursue my dreams for so many years and but now it is time for me to focus on taking care of my family. I have no regrets.
Q: Looking forward – where would you like to see the team go?
A: I’m almost afraid to let my imagination run wild in terms of how far I think we could go but with a company like Wonderful Pistachios behind us I believe we can take the team to the highest level. Wonderful Pistachios has a presence in just about every part of the world so it makes sense that we would take the team to an international level. However, we want to proceed slowly and carefully to make sure we stay on the right path.
Q: Talk to us about how “Wonderful Pistachios” and cycling make a great partnership?
A: As a coach I’ve been touting the benefits of a high fiber, low glycemic diet for a long time, not just for racers but for anybody who wants to lose weight while improving energy and decreasing recovery time. Wonderful Pistachios understands that cyclists are among the hardest working athletes in the world, and that good nutrition is an important part of an active lifestyle. Pistachios are a great healthy snack choice for athletes: all-natural, rich in vitamins and nutrients, pistachios are the perfect post-workout complement to a rigorous workout regimen. Specifically pistachios are a good source of protein, fiber and key antioxidants and the shelling process helps with portion control which is an important factor in weight loss. Plus they taste really great!
Q: What is your tentative schedule for 2011?
A: Highlights include Redlands, Dana Point, Sea Otter, Philadelphia, Nevada City, US Crit Nationals and Manhattan Beach Grand Prix.
Q: What is it that drives you to want to run a professional cycling team with all the problems and struggles Pro Cycling has been under the last few years?
A: Probably the same thing that drove me to sit on my bike six hours at a time, 25 hours a week for the last 20 years. It’s something that I’m reasonably good at and I enjoy doing it. What more could you ask for from a career?
Q: How do you navigate the politics of Professional Cycling as a team owner?
A: It’s actually very interesting. There is a lot of secrecy even amongst the domestic programs. At Interbike I saw another team manager pitching a sponsor and I found myself peaking around the corner to get a glimpse at their sponsorship proposal. I still feel like a bit of an outsider although this year I have made an effort to network with other people who have been where I am now. I think in a perfect world there would be more communication and support between the teams.
Q: If there was one thing that you could change about cycling what would it be?
A: At the moment, I’m very frustrated with the way cycling has been handling the doping issue. It’s killing the sport. By the time we oust all the dopers, every single corporate dollar is going to be gone. Other sports have figured out how to handle this problem in a way that is not as damaging.
Q: Your hero?
A: My cycling hero? I’m going to go ahead and say Lance. Nobody can say that his comeback was not inspirational or that he didn’t do amazing things for this sport. As a teenager I sat on the art museum steps in Philadelphia and watched him win the Triple Crown. One of my first memories of professional cycling was watching Greg Lemond win the Tour by 8 seconds in that dramatic final time trial. When Lance was diagnosed with cancer I remember thinking that America just lost their shot at winning another Tour.
While Lance was on his way to his second tour victory, I was working in the mailroom of a talent agency that was in the same building as the Beverly Hills Nike Town. I came into work one morning and there was a massive yellow GO LANCE banner hung across the entire front of the building. It really blew me away. We take it for granted now but I had been in the sport for more than 10 years at the time and had never imagined it would ever get that kind of main stream recognition. Without Lance, you and I would probably not be here talking today.
I also appreciate what he has done for the cancer community. My grandfather just lost a very short battle with pancreatic cancer. This was my first real experience with the disease. Pancreatic cancer is 99% fatal and extremely aggressive. We will be working with the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research this year to raise awareness for the cause.