You don't know the 22-year-old Creed, for the same reason you don't
know Danny Pate, Matt Decanio, Russell Stevenson, or any of the
other equally anonymous members of the Prime Alliance Cycling Team.
They have passels of national titles and race wins among them. In
Europe, cyclists of their caliber are heroes. In America, they are
skinny, 20-something males with farmer's tans, vacuums for lungs,
and a penchant for pain and heavy metal. In the course of a year
they might ride their bikes 25,000 miles, the rough equivalent of a
trip around the earth. They sleep in cheap motel rooms festooned
with bike tires and tart locker-room odor. They travel to so many
places they're not sure where they're waking up. Pennsylvania,
Colorado, California, Wisconsin, they race in multi-day stage
races, single-day events, and madcap looped criteriums where, in a
wink, a dozen riders can collide, splintering spokes and bones.
They receive the recognition accorded last month's mail. They earn
salaries, but prob-ably not much more than your average school-bus
driver's. The dream is simple: to be the best, the next Lance
Armstrong or Greg LeMond. The means is equally simple.
"Eat or be eaten," says three-time Tour de France winner LeMond,
chuckling. "There are easier ways to make a living."
Looking for an insider's glimpse into the life of America's
second-tier bike racers, I wrangled access to the Prime Alliance
team (it took one phone call) and came to Colorado for the August
2002 running of the Boulder to Breckenridge Saturn Cycling Classic,
at the time one of America's premier races. (In a measure of
American cycling's woes, there will be no Classic this summer.
Saturn dropped its sponsorship.)
Much ado is made of the team aspects of cycling, of pace and
tactics, team riders working together to ensure one of their
members crosses the finish line first. When I ask Creed about
tactics the night before the race, he pauses a tick, then smiles