I Twenty & Five™ Questions with Ben King
That is an interesting statistic. I saw a plate on a truck during my last training ride in VA that said, “twrkngrny.” I took that to mean, twerking granny. My friends? No… I guess they aren’t vain. My moto: Go big, and then go home. Also, trust in the process.
There were times when I hated it. I think I was afraid of falling into the stereotype. But my parents decided that it would be best for my education and development. It allowed me to have dozens of hobbies, taught me to be a self motivated learner, and hold myself accountable. I’d hurry to complete my work and run off into the mountains or on my bike until my friends (yes, I still had friends) were out of class. In hindsight I’m extremely appreciative. I was well prepared for public school academics. I enjoyed going to a public high school for the social aspects. I was on the cross-country, indoor track, and swim team, but I felt like I was wasting so much time in the classroom. Whether or not I homeschool depends first on whether or not I have kids and also who I marry! It’s definitely a family decision. My mom was responsible for our curriculum. She put a ton of effort into it.
Someday. I have no idea where I’ll be when I’m forty. Ten years ago if you asked me where I’d be when I was 25, there’s no way I’d have said racing the Tour de France. I base my decisions on principles that I would also like to guide my family in the future. On the rest I can compromise.
It was my first criterium! I wasn’t hurt. Kids bounce easier than grownups. My bike was twisted but I rode my dads. I’ve been hit at least three times. The most memorable was my first year in Italy. Hit and run. It turned out to be one of the most depressing days I’ve had. Again, I wasn’t hurt. It’s always been an irresponsible driver on a cell phone or underestimating my speed. I’ve gone off the road a few times in races and bounced off people. When I was a junior, I was racing in Belgium. I attacked off the front alone, slid off the road on a brick section, hit a big squishy lady, and jumped right back into the pack.
Is me introducing my dad to Facebook really more important than him introducing me to cycling? We’ll go with it… I rely on technology to keep in touch with everyone close to me. Skype. Email. WhatsApp. Whatever it takes. Dad went through an emoticon phase. And the typos…well. He’s adjusting.
I missed three weeks of class my first spring semester at Virginia Tech. Almost every weekend I left school on Thursday night, flew to California, raced Saturday Sunday, and flew back on Monday. The training was manageable and the collegiate cycling scene was a blast, but doing both full time was insanity. Except my closest friends, I didn’t meet anyone who could relate to that lifestyle. I’d sit in class, wasted from traveling, racing, and waking up at 6:30 AM to sneak in a couple hours on the bike or hitting the gym between classes, and listen to how wasted my classmates were the night before. Blacksburg is an outdoorsman’s paradise. If I had free time, I’d go cliff jumping in the quarries, caving by the new river, hiking to the cascades, or some other adventure with friends. It was a difficult decision to stop, but I knew I had to race in Europe to make it to the next level. I never would have left school without the support of my parents and mentors, but I had the security of a two year contract with Trek-LiveSTRONG U23 and all the doors were open if I could prove myself. If I went back, I’d probably continue studying marketing, economics, or communication. Through the world of cycling and sponsorship, I’ve learned a lot about it. Sport is business, and we are rolling billboards. Cycling is what I know best and the industry is growing.
I do travel on the team’s dime, but it’s a good feeling to save the team money. I’ve flown three times in the past ten days and I’m two for three on free bike checks. Some tips. Smile. Distract the agent when they start looking at the huge bag you’re checking. Act naive. They know they’re robbing you and sometimes they feel bad about it, but not if you’re aggressive. Arguing never gets you anywhere in airports. I don’t expense little stuff. Maybe not the best thing, but one thing I’ve noticed about airports is that some people let down their guard. They hold eye contact longer, they’re bored too, and they know they’ll never see you again. They’re all going somewhere for something and sometimes it’s interesting. A man once invited me to visit his home in Bangladesh.
I’ve got an iron gut (except for this one time in Mexico…) A mocha and a muffin is comfort food on stressful travel days.
How about I tell you the most interesting conversation I have on the bike in the Tour of San Luis this week. They happen all the time.
Sometimes I wonder if cyclists occasionally bend the laws of physics. I’ve made and witnessed some incredible crashes that (actually) never happened, because for some reason something bounced or spun the right way. In 2011 during Paris-Roubaix, after a crash split the pack in the Arenberg Forest, I bridged back to the peloton with Boonen. We entered a thick dust cloud on the next cobbled sector. There were broken bikes and bloody riders strewn across the path. The two guys in front of me crashed into them, and I jumped or maybe partly rolled over somebody. I owe him an apology. I will try to never be in that situation again.
I still haven’t caught a largemouth over eight pounds. It’s on my bucket list. I’m not an experienced fly fisherman but I love it. I’ll take any excuse to get outdoors and be on the water.
Soft plastics and top water.
This happened. And afterwards, dozens of people sent me the blooper link.
I love to hunt because I love to be outside, watch the sunrise or set, and observe nature in silence. I bow hunt all year unless we need meat.My friends call me an educated redneck.” I don’t take anything I won’t eat. I grew up with guns and know how to handle them safely. I bow hunt because there’s something more primitive and satisfying about it. It’s more of an art and a challenge, but not less ethical if you’re a good marksman. It feels closer to nature. I own a mountain of camouflage and yes, urine. My friends call me an educated redneck.
In general, yes.
The scenery. The climate. The culture. The people.
Guns Grits and Gravel has become an annual man weekend in West Virginia. Four years ago Jay Moglia invited Joe Dombrowski, a mountain biker, Jeremiah Bishop, me, and some of his and our friends to his lodge, The Lost River Barn. We bring mountain bikes and spend all day freezing on epic, mountainous, backwoods rides. We eat like kings (Thanks, Audrey!), shoot some things, and burn other things. Music got thrown in the mix and we record a song each year.
Jay and his cousin John Cutler are experienced musicians. They orchestrate the whole recording process and everyone is included. I didn’t know Dombro could play until he busted out a solo in the Wandering Wheelmen’s first ditty. Did you know he can cook too? Guitar is one of the hobbies I picked up as a homeschooler. I can go months without playing and then play until my fingers are bleeding. It’s relaxing. I bought a guitar in Italy and there wrote this song for GGG this year.
Haha, Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie is the ONLY pizza in North Garden. There is a gas station, post office, and Dr Ho’s. The atmosphere is country but the food is clean and delicious.
I think it’s simple but not easy to compete as an act of worship. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”1 Corinthians 9:24Pride complicates things. 1 Corinthians 9:24: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” I think some Christian athletes take this verse and run with it. (See what I did there?) But, Paul says to these people that they do it to get a crown that will not last. Racing is used as a metaphor for life, but the verse can be quite literal to a person who’s life revolves around racing and competition. The verse doesn’t simply say to get the prize. Winning and success are the fruits of excellence. Competing as a Christian is more than a state of mind or the intention to thank God along with the sponsors. It means developing and representing righteous characteristics like respect, honesty, discipline, humility, and teamwork. If we embrace the virtues inherent in competing with excellence then we will gain more than fame and glory. We reap the benefits of Biblical living. In Romans it says that suffering produces character, character produces hope, and to me that means the hope and joy I have in my relationship with God. St Iraneus said, “the glory of God is man most fully alive.” A person driving himself to master and perform his unique abilities with excellence is a person living a full life. For me cycling is a way to use the unique gifts that God gave me to participate in something beautiful and pleasing to him. Cycling is a sport full of beauty and passion. So, yeah, it’s definitely way bigger than me and goes way beyond cycling.
Of course, I like to win. I’m ultra competitive. Success is the fruit of excellence. But from my perspective, God doesn’t care whether or not I win or lose, even though I do. In a race I don’t think he’s on anyone’s team. As cliche as it sounds, what matters most is not the end result, but the process and the journey. As athletes we micromanage every aspect of our lives, but we so often feel out of control. That’s when I turn to God and put my trust and faith in Him most. It helps level out the ups and downs. Proverbs 3:5. Proverbs 16:9. Matthew 6:28-29.
I was never really into partying for the sake of partying, but when there’s something to celebrate, a win, overcoming a difficult race, the end or beginning of a new season, a wedding, a birthday, whatever, somebody better get a leash on me. I don’t push my beliefs on anyone and they don’t encourage me to overstep my personal boundaries. I don’t know. Ask my teammates if that makes me less fun. I know I’m getting wordy, but you said “dude.” I walked through a series on Biblical manhood with a fellow dude last year. Basically, don’t be a chump. Here are the bullet points:
- Create and cultivate
- Reject passivity
- Accept responsibility
- Lead courageously
- Invest eternally
- Strong convictions and moral choices
- Servant spirit
- Love what is right
- Take initiative
- Fight with purpose
- Relational and emotional connectedness and awareness
- Calls other guys into action
- Positive energy
I like to enjoy my food, but when I’m training, I have a huge appetite. With big utensils the food is gone in like 30 seconds.
Epic point to point adventure rides.
I need to take advantage of the opportunities that I have to win. Usually that comes from breakaways. This year I came close on multiple occasions and remembered what it’s like to race for the win. I do get a lot of satisfaction from supporting my teammates. Long term, I would love to be a gregario on a winning Tour de France team, and race well at the World Championships in Richmond and the 2016 Olympics.
II Lists with Ben King
Rank (re-order) the following Kings based on cultural significance
- Don King
- Billie Jean King
- Carole King
- BB King
- Larry King
- Ted King
- Ben King
- Lion King
- Larry King
- Carole King
- BB King
- Don King
- Billie Jean King
- Ted King
- Ben King
Sorry Ted, we’re on the bottom. They all have seniority on us.
Ben King’s Top Threes
Top three favorite “inactivities”:
- Watch movies
Top three favorite types of jerky:
Top three movies of all time:
- Cinderella Man
- The Departed
- Anything with Denzel
Top three Josh Turner songs:
- Everything is Fine
- Would You Go With Me
- Long Black Train
III Fun Facts with Ben King
- Favorite Food: Chocolate.
- Favorite Color: Forest Green.
- Favorite Band: Changes weekly.
- Favorite Movie: Cinderella Man.
- Pre-Race Ritual/Superstition(s): Coffee.
- If you weren’t a cyclist, what would you be? I used to spend all day catching critters in the woods. One of my best friends and I thought we’d be herpetologists. Now he has his masters in herpetology and wrestles alligators as a side job. Probably, an accountant.
- What do you do when you’re bored? In Italy, go for a walk, sit at a cafe, and people watch. Do chores I’ve been putting off.
- Family: 2 sisters and a brother.
- First Financial Splurge After Going Pro: I bought a Mathews Z7 bow. But I’ve been good about saving and was able to splurge on a house in VA this off-season.
- Guilty Pleasure(s): Shakira.
- Sign: Share the Road… or did you mean like this…
- Prized Possession: This knife.
- If you were a super hero, what would your power be? Flying.
- What’s most surprising about you? Some people are surprised when they find out I was homeschooled which is a relief.
- Celebrity Crush: Jessica Alba.
- Role Model(s): My dad.
- Worst Fear(s): Spiders.
- Bad Habits: Overtraining.
- Favorite Quote: “Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.”—Robert McKee and “But that’s the price we have to pay for stability. You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people call high art… (Comfort and happiness) don’t mean anything. They mean themselves; they mean a lot of agreeable sensations. Actually happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensation for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand. (Comfort and happiness) is childish and simple. Science, beauty, and truth are possible enemies of happiness and comfort.”—Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
- Ticklish? No…NO!
- What’s your favorite smoothie!? Depends on the weather. There’s a smoothie for every occasion. In the summer I go crazy with ginger and mint in the mix.
- Weirdest Dream: I had a nightmare last night that I stepped on a land mine and it blew off my legs from the knee down. Earlier in the day Janier Azevedo explained that there are still live mines planted in the jungle in Colombia from wars years ago. It was a seriously traumatizing dream. (I’m in Colombia)
- Hidden Talents: I’m stumped. Maybe I am, in fact, boring. Or maybe they aren’t hidden.
- Fanmail Address: 5055 Hope Ln, North Garden, VA 22959, or find me on Instagram: @bking137 and Twitter: @benking89