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Man vs Monster: Interview with Rob Britton

by Sarah Nathan

May 6, 2010 (Fayetville, Arkansas) – Victoria BC’s Rob Britton (Bissell) conquered the Gila Monster, this past Sunday racing his way on to the podium at the Tour of the Gila’s famous final fifth stage. Formerly with Trek Red Truck, Britton made the jump this year to the high profile, US-based, Team Bissell and we caught up with him in Fayetville, Arkansas as he prepares for the Joe Martin Stage race. He talks about his second place finish, the transition from Trek Red Truck to Bissell, and what it took to get there.

Great work at Gila on the famous final Gila Monster climb. Stage racing on courses with longer climbs seem to suit you – did you expect this result?
Rob Britton: Thanks! I definitely have some of my best days when the course goes up and is long, and the Gila Monster stage falls into that category for sure! I wasn’t expecting the result, but I certainly thought a good ride was possible. As the race went on, I felt better and better each day, and on Sunday I woke up feeling as though I hadn’t been racing at all that week.

What was Bissell’s/your plan going into the stage and how did things play out?
RB: The plan for most of the week was to mark early moves and if we had good numbers to ride them. On Sunday we had Jeremy [Vennell], Paul [Mach] and myself in a move of about 15. With Paul in 12th on GC only a couple of minutes down, this was good for us so we hit it hard from the start. Jeremy especially spent a huge amount of the day driving the break; that’s really why we stayed away.

United Healthcare (UHC) hit it at the bottom of the Monster after the turn around, immediately cutting the group in half, and unfortunately putting both Paul and Jeremy out of the front group. After that my job was really simple: follow any moves and save it for the finish. I had to chase back on after an attack by Burke Swindelhurst (TeamGive p/b BlackBottom), but by 20km to go it looked like the break would stick. With [eventual stage winner] Darren Lill (Fly V Australia) already away, we were down to a group of five, and I did my best to cool my jets for the finish, hoping that with a bit of luck it would all work out. And it did. I went inside 500m, but Max Jenkins (UHC) came over me with about 75m to go. Thankfully I was able to dig just a bit deeper and get to the line a bike length ahead of him.

How does this top result compare with others in your career?
RB: This is certainly the highlight of my career. I had a lot of really good results domestically and in the Pacific NW with Trek Red Truck, but to have a result like this with Bissell is awesome – it shows that I’m capable of racing at this level, and I should expect more of the same in the future.

How important was Tour of Gila for Bissell?
RB: Guys like Lance, Levi and Dave Z. bring a spotlight to the race, and it’s always good to show your team’s colors when everyone is watching! Like a lot of teams, we used this event as prep for the Amgen Tour of California, and I think most of us got what we were looking for – confidence for some, fitness for others.

Tell us about the transition from racing on a Canadian trade team to a US Continental Pro Team?
RB: Bigger. Everything is on a bigger scale. With Trek Red Truck, we raced primarily in and around BC. But it’s barely May, and I’ve been all over California, down to New Mexico, and now I’m in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I think I’ve only been home five weeks of the last 4.5 months, so travel is the biggest transition for me. Living out of a suitcase and hotel room cooking skills are prerequisites for this job.

I haven’t changed much from what I’ve done in past years on the bike, maybe I’m following the “less is more” motto a bit more. The racing isn’t THAT different, a little longer, a little faster, bigger fields but more or less the same thing: just try to beat the other guy to the line!

Are you on track with your fitness, and what goals did you set for yourself this season?
RB: I think things are going in the right direction. The plan was to come on with some good form for San Dimas and Redlands, but a case of food poisoning during San Dimas ended that. Right now I’ll be looking for the marginal gain as we get closer and closer to Tour of California, which is a big opportunity for me and a major goal for the team. After that it’s a long year with big late season races – Worlds, Commonwealth games, and two Pro Tour races in Canada.

Any words of advice for other riders looking to make the transition?
RB: Put in your time! It took me forever to make it to this level and this isn’t the top! In this sport if you have the work ethic and at least some natural ability, you are in charge of your destiny. No one else can do it for you so don’t expect them to. Find a team that can get you to the races and has other guys you can learn from, once you’re on the start line everyone has the same chance.

What’s next on your race calendar and will you be racing in Canada this season?
RB: Well, right now I’m down in Fayetteville, Arkansas for the Joe Martin Stage race, after that it’s back to the West coast for the Tour of California. After that I’ll head home to Victoria for a bit and probably take part in the Victoria cycling fest. I heard that Ryder [Hesjedal] would be back as well, and going after my Bear Mountain Hill Climb record, so I’d like to defend that – haha!

Thanks and all the best this season!
RB: Thank you! And thanks to everyone who’s helped me to get here.

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