|Kevin Gottlieb looks back as teammate Tim Rugg celebrates at Jeff Cup 2013|
1. You'd only been racing for a few months when you decided you wanted to be a pro. We (your teammates) all laughed, but the next thing we knew, you'd won a mess of races and were one of the strongest local riders (you'd also sired a half-bear, half-Rugg demon spawn, but this is a cycling blog, and I'll avoid the complexity of cross-species fertilization issues as well as respect your privacy). Your results put you among the best elite amateurs nationally, but you didn't get the call-up; yet, you're still riding your bike. What keeps you motivated?
TR: I've wanted to prove from the beginning to myself and others that I could something if I really tried and gave it my all. I've really tried and that's definitely what's helped me to get to where I'm at, but I didn't make the sacrifices it would have taken to get the call-up when things started taking off. Early on I thought I had to get a contract to prove I was good enough. I actually think a lot of young riders get mixed up in that mentality. But racing and being successful is so much more dynamic than that. I have a couple ideas in my head that keep me motivated that aren't as static as getting a pro contract and I hope that when it happens, I won't have that desire to prove myself. But the desire to prove myself is what keeps me motivated with the goal being separate but integral to the end-game. But hell, the travel, swag, gear, media exposure, pictures, memories, friends, drama, competition and everything else that comes with being a blue-collar bike racer definitely keeps me going.
2. You've been hampered by a number of physical issues, including nearly being run over by Gord Fraser driving Competitive Cyclist's' team car. How has the Rugg corpus failed to live up to the Rugg spiritus?TR: Going into 2010 after my first full season and getting closer and closer to proving myself I was admitted for surgery to deal with complications of a congenital defect, Intestinal Malrotation. I was 25 years old and this was the first time I had been diagnosed with this. This led to complications like pancreatitis and during my break-out season, a hiatal hernia in my esophogus due to acid-reflux since I still struggle to figure out on-the-bike nutrition. It would have been nice knowing at a young age that I should not try to be an athlete, ever. But now I'm too old and definitely too stubborn to stop trying. Each winter I have been plagued with something else; burst bursa sack in the knee cap 2011 (Followed by at least 100 crashes that season), shattered collarbone 2012... but I'll keep fighting. My body hasn't failed me. I'm just still learning how to race and use it while balancing a full-time job, training schedule, personal life, etc. I don't ever see my body living up to the spirit. I've had a fighting spirit since I was born.
3. This spring you moved back to local team (Kelly Benefits Strategies - Lateral Stress Velo). What's the plan for this year, and what do you see as your role on the team?
TR: I am so excited to be a part of this team! KBS/LSV did some recruiting in the offseason to compliment an already stacked roster to develop an elite team and a development team that is already making noise and will continue to make it's stamp at regional and national races throughout the year as one of the best amateur teams in the country. It started out as just a joke between Blair and I at the Church Creek Time Trial Championships to join the squad since I had been a rival for as long as I had been racing, but once the commitments started coming in it was obvious that this year was going to be something special.
The plan is the stamp I indicated above. We've already received an invite to the Nature Valley Grand Prix as a team and I think this summer when the whole 8-guy squad is racing together, we will be able to meet our main goal of a National Championship title. There's no secret there, every elite team in the country is after that. My role is to do everything I can to get us there. I will be a mentor when I have to be, I will sacrifice when I have to, I will win when I have to, and I will do everything I can to make sure our young talent gets the exposure they deserve to live the dreams they have.
4. You're known as an aggressive--some might say obnoxiously combative--racer. Why the chip on the shoulder?
TR: You know me off the bike... it's got to be some hulk-like thing I can't control. That's why I'm racing in green this year! Had to... Chip on the shoulder is a little too literal now-a-days with that titanium plate holding my collarbone together. But that's just it, the redundant theme, I just want to prove I am good enough. "Good enough for what?" is a deeper rooted psychological conversation we all have with ourselves but I just love being off the front. What's more motivational than racing "catch me if you can" style. When I ride solo, I feel like I'm daring everyone to not take me seriously. Because that's just it, I want to be taken seriously. The chip is what I've had to sacrifice in 4.5 years as a bike racer and still not having a clear since of direction but no end in sight. Every time I attack I think about this. I guess I'm just trying to figure out what the end-game is on my own.
5. What have been your proudest moments as a bike racer?TR: Bronze medal at Nationals in 2011 comes to mind. I took that race by the horns and left it all out there. Yesterday at Jefferson Cup RR had a striking resemblance and gave me the same kind of chills and uncontrollable energy following the race. Both races I found myself never giving up, no matter how hard it was, no matter how much the odds were stacked against the situation, and both times the result over-shadowed my ability but exemplified my fighting spirit and I'm really happy for those experiences. Getting the Most Aggressive Rider jersey at the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix was one of the coolest moments. The only American winner of the Tour De France, Greg Lemond, presented me with the jersey on stage and I got to stand with some of the best bike racers in the country.
6. You are something of a musician. Tell us about the singing and hardcore background.TR: Hah! Those were the days... Not really. I started playing the trumpet in middle school and took it all the way to college intending to be music major so that I could play on a cruise ship for a couple years and then spend the rest of my days as a band teacher. Not a bad plan, but things changed midway through college and I put away the horn. I got pretty anxious not playing music and started making music with some friends during the post-hardcore/screamo phase up what you would call the "hipster culture". I wore the girl jeans and gauged my ears, and pierced my lip, and dyed my hair black, and sometimes orange, and sometimes straightened it. Haha. Eat that up.
Anyways, we got to a level of "Not-so-bad" and toured the east coast while still taking classes, recorded an album, lost a lot of money, got in some fights, and that was that. What I'm left is with a nostalgia for double-kick bass drums and breakdowns and some pretty hilarious memories and a matured musical desire. No joke, if this cycling thing ends sooner rather than later, you'll see me playing my trumpet again or maybe even singing Opera. I've been blessed with huge lungs that seem to be required for all of the above.
7. What riders--local or pro--do you most admire?TR: For top level riders I'd say Joe Dombrowski, Justin Mauch, and Chris Keeling. I believe in the future much more than I know about the past in cycling. These guys are just so cool too and everyone who meets them is reminded what it's like to believe in anything. I've definitely recognized that many of the guys in the pro circuit have the same attitude I have when I race locally and it's very exhausting mentally but lends perspective to what everyone is hoping to achieve and how hard it is to get there and how much sacrifice has to be made.
The list goes on and on for local riders. You, Dan King, DJ Brew, Ryan McKinney, Jose Escobar, Pete Warner, Rick Norton, Nima E., and many others whom I will cut the list short before I ruin my aggressive racing image. These guys come to mind as some of the most encouraging and impressive riders our region has to offer and I'm a better racer and person because of how these guys represent themself on and off the bike.
On the woman's side I got to say Jade Wilcoxson of Team Optum and Lindsay Bayer of Colavita. These ladies went for it and are doing it and are great advocates for women's cycling. I met a Now and Novartis rider out in Santa Barbara too that well, before now, I secretly admired. But by meet, I mean, I saw her and she was fast as hell and looked really sexy in a bike helmet.
8. How do manage being a full time lover, full time warrior, and still find time to train?
TR: I once calculated the time it takes to do all these things and realized I had 30 minutes of free-time a week to just think about nothing. Thankfully I can think about nothing when I'm not training at cross-eyed intervals or yelling at other riders to show me why they came to train or race. But man, I can't begin to express how hard it is to pull a 40 hour work-week, maintain physical therapy or some sort of medical visit, go to the bar to meet ladies and dance the night away (I consider this a part of training), do the things we all have to do around the house unless you Justin Mauch who's never washed dishes, sleep, and still manage to find 20 hours a week to workout, train, and race. I don't really need to explain it to most, because we're all trying to figure it out. The truth is, If I want my full-time job to be bike racing, all those other full-time things have to be axed. The hardest thing to find time for is recovering. Maybe a sabbatical is in order. Why not?
9. Which of the following is most Ruggpealing?This is only funny because it is true. Dude had a NRA shirt on... I had to improvise.
a. Defending yourself from an aggressive driver with only a Zipp Firecrest wheel
a. Defending yourself from an aggressive driver with only a Zipp Firecrest wheel
b. Being saved from a forest fire by the Lord of the Eagles
c. Winning a race in which your constant attacking and verbal barrage of insults inspires debilitating diarrhea in your opponents, and you win by default
d. A little honey and wine with a hot little brown bear up in the scenic Shenandoah
e. Losing a race in which my constant attacking and verbal barrage of insults inspires debilitating diarrhea in my opponents, and my teammates win by default.
10. Before you were a bike racer, you did your share of development work in Africa, spending some time in Uganda teaching crafts and helping locals create a exportable industry. How do we square Rugg the on-the-bike maniac with Rugg the humanitarian?TR: Again, the aggressive racer cred is being destroyed. Let me just point out that I was really really intense about wanting and trying to save the world! No one was more intense except maybe you, maybe!
This ones easy though, the moment we realize we are only human we become humanitarians. I've seen acts of disgust between riders in a race be reconciled during that same race because more often than not it's obvious that people are wired to be humanitarians above all things. Let's just say I have a lot of these moments where I lose site of who I really am and what I'm really aiming towards, but I always remember.
Or, maybe I'm wired to have different lives. Some people call that a disorder, but I rather like having multiple personalities that are stable within there own separate environments. Wooooooooooo!