Team SmartStop’s New Creed
Team SmartStop’s victory last week at the 108-mile Winston-Salem Cycling Classic UCI 1.2 road race was cycling’s version of some great home cooking. A late-race move by Travis McCabe gave the North Carolina-based team the victory, and to spice up that result, teammate Zach Bell took the sprint for third.
The results continue a string of early season success for Team SmartStop Pro Cycling, a UCI Continental Team, as it makes the transition from a criterium-focused team to one focused on bigger road and stage races. We caught up with Team SmartStop director Michael Creed, a veteran rider with 26 national titles and a long profession career. Creed made his debut as a director for the team at the Tour of Alberta last year.
What was the team’s strategy going into the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic?
I make really simple but serious instructions on how the race should play out. Give them best and worst case scenarios and talk about what to do if those happen. I wish I had figured out some magic tactic. But really, it's bare bones simple. You just need a team capable of doing it.
Team SmartStop has made a nice transition from a criterium-focused team to taking victories and playing a lead role in road and stage races. As a new DS, how did you try to transform this team?
It was a strong right turn for the culture of the team, which is uncomfortable for me in a lot of ways. It’s not my baby. I didn’t grow it. I may not have the emotional ties that others do. But I know what works in bike racing. And they trusted me to create that within their team.
I did my first national championship when I was 12 so, by now, I feel like I have a good eye for talent on the bike. I had a short list of whom I wanted. I got most of them. And we got lucky with some last minute deals, too, like Jure Kocjan and Josh Berry.
How did your experience as a rider shape you as a team director, especially in terms of how you motivate or push riders?
I know what works. Accountability works. Not sleepwalking in races and going through the motions. People fighting for start spots and have exact work orders, down to the placing, works. Not treating riders like porcelain mice works. And proving to riders that you’re on their side works.
What are the biggest advantages you’ve noticed about the SRAM RED 22 and Force 22 groups used by the team?
The wide levers provide a great point of contact. That allows the arms and upper body to relax. Can you guys make saddles and shoes now?
What are the team's key objects for the rest of the season?
Get entry into Medalist races (which include the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, USA Pro Challenge and Tour of Alberta) and showcase my riders on the highest level. I want these riders to grow and get better opportunities. That's my responsibility and I take it seriously.
Photo by Jonathan Devich - Epic Images