I did well at Gila. I won a jersey and was on the podium at Ronde de l’Isard. I went with the USA National team to the Giro della Valle d’Aosta in Italy and won the big stage and got second overall, which was huge. But everything took off with the Baldy stage during the Tour of California. I remember making the left turn onto Mt. Baldy road and seeing that sign and knowing that was it. I felt pretty comfortable. I saw Levi and Gesink next to me and thought, “Okay, I’m positioned well.” Then I looked back thinking I’d just come up to the front for whatever reason but really there were maybe 10 guys there. I distinctly remember moving up next to this little train of Rabobank guys wondering if I’m supposed to drop off the back or something. Like, what now? What am I doing here? That morning Axel told me to go for it, it was my day. He probably would have been happy with 15th. I knew I shouldnt attack because if I did I would have blown up. But in retrospect, why didn’t I attack? I think if I’d known what I had in me at the bottom of Baldy, when everyone’s just looking around, I would have gone. No one would have followed me, figuring I’d get caught soon enough. I got fourth.
“That next day, in the peloton, all the guys from English-speaking teams, guys like Chris Horner and Hincapie, came up to me saying things like, ‘Hey that was crazy,’ and asking me questions. What were my plans for next year, what am I doing next, that sort of thing.”
That sparked some interest. But after I won the Baby Giro, my phone really started going nuts. At that point I had maybe 15 different offers, mostly from Pro Tour and some Pro Continental teams. At first I was like, “Oh I dunno how I feel about agents,” but I was spending four hours a day on the phone. I can’t do that. So I got an agent. All of these different teams have different things to offer. My very first contact with Sky was with Bobby Julich. It was cool. First, because he’s American which made it more comfortable for me. And then he told me, “Look, I live in Nice, I work with five or six guys, three are in Monaco, and if you come to the team I’ll probably be working with you. I think it’ll be a good match; you’re from the US and I know how to make you better at the TT. I’m getting better at TT but it’s not my thing right now.
The smaller teams, some Pro Continental and smaller Pro Tour teams, were selling me like, “We think you have the potential in a few years to win some one week races like CA, Dauphine. We think you can win California.” And that sounds great, to step into a role where I’m a team leader. The thing is, on the bigger Pro Tour teams where you won’t have the opportunity to play that role for awhile, you may get opportunities at some of the smaller races in Europe and you will be riding with and learning from the top GC guys in the world. That’s hard to turn down.
At first I didn’t want to talk about it with a lot of the guys on the team. The whole point of the team is for all of us to move on, but the reality is that not all of us will go up. Not everyone can be a Pro Tour rider. But in reality, everyone was interested. I’ve been traveling with these guys and racing with these guys, and they’re just excited. I can talk about it with them, it’s cool.
I guess I’m the one buying yogurt now, you know?”