Kristian House (Rapha-Condor-Sharp) earned the right to wear the British National Champion’s jersey last year by combining determination, tactical astuteness, and track-honed finishing speed to make the decisive breakaway, then win a three-up sprint from Peter Kennaugh and Daniel Lloyd on a challenging course in Wales. Widely known and respected for his willingness to work for others, House became a popular—if a little unexpected—wearer of what, thanks to Rapha's designers, has to be one of the most tasteful National Champion’s jerseys to appear in the peloton for a while.
Although House has raced in Texas for years—and his exploits as he developed his skills over the world on the road and track have been faithfully recounted on the TXBRA forum—it was still a little surprising to see the wearer of a current National Championship jersey rolling up and down Farm Road 1105 in Walburg, Texas before an early-season race. So I spoke to him about an interview—which we confirmed as he was placing his spare wheels in the neutral follow-vehicle the next weekend in Lago Vista, TX. From there he heads to Singapore and the rest of the 2010 season for Rapha-Condor-Sharp
What is the UK road champ doing racing in Texas in the early season?
Well, Austin is a brilliant place to train this time of year. You normally have great weather, and the roads around Austin are some of the best I've ridden. I grew up here, all my cycling stems from this place, and I try to come back whenever can. Back in November I decided that i wanted to come back after the first team training camp and my manager said it was no problem. The races just happened to be on while I was there, so I figured I'd re-live some of my Jr. racing by doing them. It was a real bonus having my Friends and Family watch me race as the British national champ.
I've really been impressed the way the standard in Texas has come on; I think when i was there as a Jr, racing was Pro, 1,2,3. Now they separate all three, and still have fields of 60 70 guys. That's really good. [R Mc note: Sunday's P12 podium at Lago Vista included House in 1st, New Zealand's Heath Blackgrove (Hotel San Jose)in 2nd; and Giro d'Italia veteran Pat McCarty (Richardson Bike Mart) in 3rd.]
What are the prospects for UK racing, or how has it developed since 2006?
The racing in the UK, much like Texas, is really on the way up. The past 5 years have seen more and more teams start, but they are not riding as individuals as they did in the past. The racing has gotten a lot more like it is in Europe. Teamwork and Tactics have really changed for the better. It's lessening the gap between how Pros race on the Continent and the way it is domestically.
Has winning the British championship changed your role within Rapha-Condor-Sharp?
Yes and No. We have such a strong team that we very rarely go to a race with just one leader. We are all pretty confident in each other's ability to win races so we all are pretty happy to ride for one another. Everyone gets their chance on the road through the year, and everyone knows that. What does change is the attention that I get for having the jersey, and that's both good and bad . . . I do more PR and Press than i used to, and you get 'marked' a bit more. . . but i think that just comes with the territory. And I wouldn't give it up. ha!
Have the Rapha-Condor-Sharp management tried to get you to grow a moustache like the one McCarty had during the Giro d'Italia a few years ago?
Fortunately No. I once shaved my stubble into a kinda handlebar goatee type thing . . . it looked horrible. I think it lasted 10 min and the one bit of photographic evidence has since been destroyed.
Photos by Heidi Armstrong
What are your favorite upcoming races on your schedule this year?
My favorite race . . . That's a tough one. We have quite a good program this year: Battenkill in NY, Tour of Japan, Tour of Normandy, Tour of Ireland, Tour of Britain. Domestically I think it would have to be the Lincoln: it's an amazing race, with a great cobbled climb through the town center. Tour of Japan is the international race that I think will be amazing . . . not least because I've never been there.
Is the trip to Singapore for that one-off criterium?
Yea, I'm heading to Singapore for the OCBC Cycle Singapore 2010 Professional Criterium (March 7). It's a one day, 100km crit in the center of Singapore. Quite a big race with riders from all over the world. I'm really looking forward to joining up with my three teammates that are doing it with me. [Ben Kersten (FlyV Australia) won, whilst House showed that early season training in Texas might be ok, taking a quite respectable 10th place.]
What's your travel routine: how long does it take you to pack your kit, clothes, and bike?
It's hard to get into a routine with traveling . . . each time is different. Sometimes you are at home for weeks and it's pretty chilled out when you know you're going away. Sometimes you fly home and leave again the next day. My mother works at the container store. . . where they organize people. . . so put it this way, my suitcase is pretty organized.
My bike often gets packed by the mechanics or goes into the van for traveling . . . its not often that i have to do it myself. Very lucky in that respect!
Cyclists--and not just pros, half the guys on my team carry their own coffee beans with them to races (and the other half brings home-made beer )--seem to have a fondness for carrying some sort of familiar food with them as they travel: any must have food or coffee items that you travel with . . . Or look forward to getting back to once a trip is done?
While I love my coffee, I'm not that . . . well I'm not sure what that word is there. I tend to keep it simple when I travel. I take what i need to race and train, and leave the rest behind. You'll never see me without my headphones. And very rarely with out my Laptop. Food wise i don't really travel with anything.
What's the most harrowing traveling though airport with bikes-and- equipment adventure?
I don't know if I would call it an adventure, but a few years back I flew back to Austin after doing Tour de Beauce to do the AMLI Downtown Crit. It was going to be the first time I'd raced in Austin in 6 years and I was really looking forward to it. I always check my bike when I land . . . just a quick look over. When I did it in Austin, I found the top tube had been smashed, and there was a big, big crack in it. I was really bummed with it . . . and my sponsor couldn't get me out a frame quick enough. I was starting to think that I'd have to ride someone else's bike, but I took it down to my old bike shop, Freewheeling, and Phil and Jay called up Nick Crumpton to have a look at it. A day later Nick was applying a patch to the bike that made it as good as new. Really was amazing watching that guy!
Do you look after your own mechanical stuff/when do the team mechanics take over?
I look after minor things, but the mechanic does most everything. He actually doesn't live far from me, so that's quite handy.
Rapha-Condor-Sharp looks to be building a distinctive brand niche beyond the UK--does management plan to promote the team to wider exposure via Pro Continental status or higher?
I don't think that's what they want to do with this team. That being said, if the opportunity came up with more sponsors like Sharp, then I don't think they would turn it down. Both Rapha and Condor, are getting a lot of attention all over the world and that plays into where we race. It's one of the reasons we are coming to the states and going to Japan and Australia. They brought on an Aussie rider last year with Darren Lapthorne, and this year they have got another two. We have a Namibian/South African also, so the team is quite international.
What are some of the key differences between amateur races and UCI level races?
There's quite a few things really. A lot of the time the Pro races can actually be easier than the Amateur races, because the Pro races are so much more controlled. The difference is that when when they decide to race, it's so much faster. For example the first hour of a pro race can be 55kph, then a break goes, the bunch slows down to 35-40, then in the last hour it goes to 60. Obviously there's the distance too: a lot of the Pro races wont be less than 180km, whereas Lago Vista, for example, was 115km.
Do you work with a coach, or are you self-coached and what is the most important component of your training?
I have a coach that has coached me for quite a few years now . . . almost the entire time I've been in Europe. He doesn't coach me on a daily basis, but I write my own programs and then I ask him what he thinks. He gives me different ideas and I implement them into my training. It's hard to pinpoint one thing as the 'most' important . . . and if I had to generalize, I'd have to say that I enjoyed it.
How did you learn how to 'read' a race?
By racing. Lots. By watching others race and beat me, and not wanting it to happen again! haha.