Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Wes Sulzberger has been described to me as “one of those guys you’d be happy for your daughter to marry”. For all you fathers who want a pro cyclist as a son-in-law, I’m sorry to say he’s taken. As a cyclist, Wes is one of those riders who puts every one of his races on the line for his teammates and keeps a humble profile. He was instrumental in Cadel’s World Championship win in Mendrisio and played a big part in Geelong. Wes was kind enough to spend sime time answering questions about how he got into cycling, his days as a junior in Tasmania and his transition to his professional career with FDJ and now Orica-GreenEDGE. For those of you who want to have the chance to ride with Wes for a week, check out the Launceston Pro-Ex from Nov 25-Dec 2.
What did winning silver at the U23 World Championships do for your career? What came directly out of that results? (i.e. did your FDJ come out of that, or was that already negotiated beforehand?).
Three teams folded after the 2007 World Championships as a result there were a lot of pro riders out on the market again. Unfortunately for me there was nothing in the pro league so I stayed with the AIS team for another year which in hindsight was a better decision. Shortly after the 2008 World Championships in Varese, I had signed with Française des Jeux.
You did some pretty big races in your first year as a pro cyclist. What was the hardest transition in your first year as a pro with FDJ? (i.e.the pace, homesickness, the distances of the races, etc)
One of the hardest aspects, was the language barrier as I had never spoken a word of French and being in a French team this was tough. I managed to grasp the basics of the French language quickly. Additionally, I tried hard to include myself in all the conversations so that I could be accepted into the team.
What are your interests outside of cycling?
Outside of cycling my main interest would be travelling. When I’m in Tasmania, mountain biking but thats still cycling I guess! Golf, but I’m terrible at it. Furthermore, I am also interested in nutrition and have been reading some great books on it lately.
What’s a typical day for you like during the season when you’re not racing?
When I’m not racing, I’m training. My training schedule is dependent on my next race. The training schedule will include the number of hours I allocate for training as well as the type of training. After a tour I will always have a few days of easy riding(1-3 hours ) and on other days I will ride for up to six hours. I always try to be out riding by 9am, if I leave it later or have a big sleep in I struggle to get motivated.
Do you consider yourself naturally talented athlete? Or is it something you feel you have to work harder at than others?
I think its a mixture of both, to be competitive at this level everyone has to work hard but I really love that part of riding, I like pushing myself, the satisfaction when you get a result is huge when you know how hard you have worked for it.
What do you miss most about living away from Australia?
Not having my family and close friends near by. Sometimes its nice to be out of the cycling world and talk about other things besides cycling.
Besides the obvious, what are some of the big differences between the way a French team is run and managed versus GreenEDGE?
There is a major difference between the two teams. The French are very old school for example, we would be given cordial in our bidons instead of electrolyte drinks because thats they way they have always done it. If it worked back in the day they wont mess with it or look into any new developing practices. On the other hand Orica-GreenEDGE as the name suggests are trying to get an edge in everything they do. As part of our team we have a sports scientist and one of the most over qualified doctor for cycling thats out there!
Highlight(s) of your career so far?
My biggest highlights so far have been riding the 2010 Tour de France and helping Cadel to his World Championships victory in Mendresio (2009).
Do you have ambitions to win a particular race or jersey classification in your career (within your strengths)?
A grand tour stage win would be pretty special.
What types of things do you need to work on in your cycling to get better to get that big result?
Pretty much just keep doing what I’m doing and take every chance I get to go in a break away.
Have you ever been down on the sport or questioned why you’re doing this and felt like quitting?
Not once, I went through a three month period of having no racing which might get some guys down but it didn’t stop me from training every day or from wanting to train.
What’s the best thing about being a pro cyclist?
Your office is outdoors and it can be different every week. Also you can live anywhere in Europe which is a huge freedom.
What are your guilty pleasures?
100% raw cacao…I think I’m a bit addicted to it actually!
What’s the hardest thing about being a pro cyclist?
Having to spend so much time in the airport!!! There are always so many grumpy people there either not wanting to leave or just wanting to be at their destination already, that can be really tiring. Also people standing in front of the carrousel and blocking everyone else from retrieving their bags!!
What are you listening to on your ipod right now?
Hilltop Hoods – Drinking from the Sun – their new album. My fiance Shannon and I also stream Triple J online when we are in our apartment.
Your brother Bernie is also a rider, same with your sister and I hear that your parents also still have a crack in the vets racing. Has this always been in your family or just something that evolved as a family pass-time?
Dad used to ride when he was younger so he knew a bit about it. Bernie and I started through school, joining the West Tamar Cycling club when I was 10. Mum broke her leg out on the farm and started riding as rehabilitation for her ankle thought riding a stationary bike was too boring for her. To overcome this mum and dad got road bikes and trained together. Grace started a bit later but I think it was inevitable that we would all end up riding together. All our spare time was spent training or going to races together.
Who’s been a mentor to you throughout your career?
We had a lot of highly qualified coaches up at the TIS(Tasmania Institute of Sport) including Kevin Tabbota, Paul Brosnan, Matt Gilmore, Neil Ross and Ron Bryan who all had great knowledge to pass on to the young guys like myself who went through and are continuing to go through the ranks.
My first coach was Paul Manion, he coached me for eight years after I got my dad to harass him into making me a training program when I was 10. He motor paced me in the cold Tasmanian winters before national selection races. As well as teaching me all the fundamentals of cycling. I have other riders who I look up to but I don’t actually have a specific mentor that gives me advice or guidance. I observe a lot though and take note of things that work for other guys that might be helpful for me too.
Who are your regular training mates in Europe?
Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swedish ex mountain biker who now races for Astana) and I train together a lot and we have a lot in common so have plenty to talk about when we’re out on the road. Depending on everyones racing programs I can also find myself training with any of the other Aussie guys who live in Monaco, i.e. Simon Gerrans, Matt Goss, Mark Renshaw, David Tanner, Baden Cooke, Richie Porte and also Philippe Gilbert.
What are your regular training roads when in Europe ?
Mostly I head towards Italy along the coast, then turn left, inland towards and up the mountains. There are plenty of different loops around here to keep it interesting. Sometimes I go offroad too if I find a little goat track and see where I end up. I’ve unintentionally added a few extra hours onto my day by doing this a few times!
Favorite training ride in Tassie ?
The Holwell loop which goes through the hills around past the farm at Flowery Gully where my parents still live.
What’s some of the best advice on mindset, motivation or form that you’ve received from your mentors?
Listen to your body, when you are sick you are sick, so rest!
What would you be doing right now if you weren’t a pro rider?
Well I’d love to say is I’d be racing in Moto GP but more realistically I would probably be working in the mines in Kalgoorlie.
Any tips for the youngsters?
You only get out what you put in so be prepared to work hard! Also try to stay humble and grounded.