Who is Greg Daniel?
Greg Daniel announced his presence on cycling’s big stage in the fourth stage of the Tour of California, which he finished in second place, after an escape that fooled the peloton. The native of Colorado – who is in his second U23 season – races for Bissell Development, a team that sent many riders in World Tour over the past seasons. Daniel – just 19-years-old – hopes to also make this step in the future, but until this happens he focuses on his next races and making himself noticed. At the moment, he hasn’t any races on his schedule, so I took advantage of this break and talked with the young American about his first years in cycling, his season so far, and future goals.
– Greg, you started in triathlon, but switched to cycling at the age of 13. Why was that?
I started cycling to follow in my uncle’s footsteps and to hopefully do the Kona Ironman. There was just one issue. I couldn’t swim. I enjoyed running and riding but when it came to swimming, I sank like a rock so I decided to stick with cycling. I did my first race not knowing what to expect and I won, and couldn’t stop winning, winning my first 3 races I did.
– How were your first years?
They were really enjoyable! I spent my first two years racing on a local team which concentrated on getting inner city underprivileged kids on bikes to get them out of the harsh neighborhoods they were growing up in. It was nice to race for a team and also give back to my hometown city by helping these families get out of their rough neighborhoods. When I was 16, USA Cycling invited me to go to Europe for the first time to race over there. I was ecstatic! I knew that all the big races are in Europe and USA Cycling gave me the chance to experience these races at such an early age. Without USA Cycling’s help, I would never be where I am today.
– You had good results on the road, but also in the ITT. Do you know what road would you like to follow as a pro? Or is it too early to figure it out?
I think it’s a bit too early to tell. I still have a few years to develop so I am keeping my options open. I’m just concentrating on being the best racer I can be at the moment and then letting the other disciplines develop on their own. I’d like to develop into more of a GC rider but to be honest, there is nothing like going in the breakaway. Makes the race more interesting.
– How did you end up riding for Bissell?
I knew Axel Merckx had a great program and he has sent more riders to the pro tour than any other team so that is the team to be on. In my mind, there is no better development team. Axel is a great guy and know what it takes to be a pro tour rider because he was there. His experience and expertise is priceless. I’ve learned so much over the past year and a half I’ve been racing with the team, and I can already notice a difference in how I race. He’s the reason why this program has been so successful.
– After a couple of promising results as a Junior, you won a race last year in Europe, in the Arden Challenge. How was that day?
That day was really surprising to me. I just came back from my appendicitis so I wasn’t expecting a result at that race. However, I just felt really good that day and felt that I may as well go for it. No sense it not trying because then you never know what could’ve happened. I could hardly believe I won that day, and to win solo was just surreal. But I would not have been able to do it without the help of the riders and staff of USA Cycling! They were behind me the entire way and I will never take the support they continue to give me for granted.
– You surprised a lot of people with your second place in stage four of the Tour of California. What did that result meant for you?
It meant so much to me. I could hardly believe it! This was a race I only dreamed of competing in, and to not only compete but to get second on a stage was fantastic! I honestly didn’t think the breakaway was going to make it so it took awhile to sink in. Obviously it was a bit bittersweet because that first place was just so close but I’m happy with second. Getting second only motivates me even more to get that win I’ve been dreaming of.
– I know you like Paris-Roubaix and this year you got the chance to race there. How was the whole experience?
To be honest, I was a bit nervous at the start. I’ve never raced on cobbles before, except for at flanders but I didn’t finish due to an illness. I really wanted to give my 100% at the race though so I made sure to get in the break to hopefully help out our team leaders later in the race. Sadly, back to back mechanicals forced me out of the break. That’s racing sometimes and Paris Roubaix is a race where you can’t afford to have any bad luck. The race was so much fun though and such a great learning experience.
– Will you come back as a pro?
I sure hope so. It’s Paris Roubaix and it has a beautiful history. I had so much fun racing it and what I learned in those 4.5 hours of racing is priceless.
– What are the differences between racing in Europe and racing in the US?
One big difference is the road size. In the US, the roads are so wide that position isn’t necessarily hard to get. When in Europe the roads are so small, you need to be more aggressive to stay up there. Luckily, since the roads are small, you don’t get swarmed often so if you’re at the front, you stay at the front. If you’re in the US at the front, you can easily get swarmed by the peloton and if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself at the back in no time. Besides that, it depends on the race. I noticed that big races like the Tour of California are very organized, while in many U23 races, since the teams don’t have as many riders, it’s more hectic. I think it’s important though to get both European and US racing under your belt because they both offer vital lessons in racing, and the only reason I was able to get a taste for both European and American racing is through the continued support of USA Cycling which sends young Americans over there for that very reason, to develop the future of American cycling.
– I know that the National Championships are next. With what goals will you go there?
I would like to win the time trial. Time trials are a true test of fitness and strength so those are always my favorite. The road race is sometimes difficult to call because it can be a bit hectic but I think Bissell will have a good chance at keeping both the national titles.
– What’s your schedule for the second half of the season?
I’m not sure yet. It depends a lot on invites Bissell gets. I’d like to do Cascade, Tour of Utah and Colorado, and hopefully Worlds, but it all depends on who’s going well at certain times of the year and if Bissell even gets invited to Colorado. Colorado is my hometown race though so if I were to do that race, I’d be really motivated for a good result there. It’s not often I get to do races in my home state, let alone my home country.
– And what expectations do you have from these races?
It’s hard to say. Bissell will have some good riders for the GC but I’d like to give it a go and go for a stage win. We have some great riders though on the team so I will also try to help their chances as well to get a good overall results or maybe help lead out some of our sprinters on the flatter stages. And I’d like to do the TT at worlds and see if I can get a good result there. The World’s road race will be a good course for me but the USA has a lot of strong riders this year so if someone is looking like they have a good shot at winning or getting a podium, I will gladly try my best to help them.