Stage One Down: Volta Ciclista a Catalunya

Filed under: On the Road Again — Tags: , — admin @ 4:50 pm

March 23, 2010
Written by Steven Cozza

I got my first stage of the year out of the way without getting injured (woop woop). My racing season started yesterday in the Volta Catalunya prologue. Today’s stage one was a 188k, mostly flat stage around the town I live in over here, Girona. It’s a cool race because it’s got a hometown feel, probably since so many of us live here and have friends here.

From the gun, attacks were going until finally a break of two got away – one of those two guys being my teammate, Peter Stetina. It was awesome having him up there today. He won the KOM jersey for the day and as we came into the 3 lap finishing circuits, my teammate Michele Kruder from Holland took 5th in the sprint to put the cherry on top.

It was a great first day back for me. I did all I could to support my teammates as best as possible. Getting bottles and trying to keep Michele protected from the wind was my job today and I did it the very best I could.

My goal this race is to gain as much fitness from it as possible. After being away from racing for so long and having to nurse a broken collarbone back to health, I was bound to lose some top-end speed no matter how hard I trained (and believe me, I trained hard!). Nothing’s like racing, so Catalunya will be really good prep for me and the fast-approaching Classics.

More good news to come.

From the prettiest man alive with a mustache,

Steven :-)

Doing Whatever It Takes

Filed under: Talk with Steven — admin @ 1:55 pm

March 12, 2010

Interview / Cafe Chat by: Chris Fontecchio
The Podium Cafe
http://www.podiumcafe.com
 

Cozza_medium

As fans we frequently commodify athletes — attach labels to them to indicate their value. My favorite example, as a Red Sox fan, is the discussion of who is the team’s “ace,” or top starting pitcher. Recently, reporters who should’ve known better asked Josh Beckett, a notoriously prickly dude, about it, and he responded with palpable disdain. Didn’t answer at all. And I can sympathize: not only the lack of sympathy for Boston sportswriters but the concept — what does that label mean to him? Why would the identity of yesterday’s pitcher matter when today it’s his job to find 27 outs someplace?

We fans do this in cycling too — and it’s not “bad” or even always wrong. The results justify our “sprinter rankings” discussions or predictions of who will win Paris-Roubaix or climb up a grand tour podium. In the sport’s rarified air, you can find guys commodifying themselves as “captains” and protected riders. Hell, last year we even enjoyed the distinct pleasure [cough] of watching Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador wrestle each other for the label while their DS vainly insisted that it didn’t matter.

But commodifying has its limits back in reality. Even if Lance and Bert couldn’t hear Bruyneel’s message, “just race your bikes” is something that resonates for a large percentage of the peloton. Take the case of Garmin-Transition’s Steven Cozza. The 25-year-old Californian defies easy commodification: he’s not a cobbles behemoth or a mini-mountain goat. He rates his own abilities as climbing and time trialing but was famously seen on the front of Paris-Roubaix last year for a few hours. We spoke via email last weekend and he shifts easily from discussing winning the world’s biggest one-day race to riding in support whenever his team asks him to. In short, he’s a bike racer, he just wants to race his bike. Check it out:

PdC: Generalizations are bad, but among the European peloton are the classics guys known for any particular traits of personality?

SC: Yes, Classics guys tend to be very very mean. We are not like those wimpy French stage race guys out there. Us Classics guys have mustaches and chop firewood for training. For example, I ate rattlesnake for dinner last night. I’m gluten-free, so rattlesnake is one of my favorites.

You can see where this is headed… Join us, on the Flip:

PdC: So you recently said that you dream every day of winning Paris-Roubaix but your website lists climbing and time trials as your strength. At this early age are you trying to figure out where you best fit in?

SC: You know I try never to count myself out. Why put limitations on ourselves? There are too many jerks already out there telling us negative things and my ears are closed to all of them. You just got to believe in yourself. Anything is possible.

PdC: It sounds like in your heart you’re a classics guy. So how did you become a “classics guy”? How far back does this connection go?

SC: I like the Classics and see myself going far with these races, but I just love racing my bike and the harder the race is the better it is for me. This is why the Classics suit me so well.

PdC: Staying with Paris-Roubaix, last year was your first full-on running? Had you raced over those cobbles before turning pro?

SC: I’ve raced since I was 17 in Belgium. I have spent many years racing over those cobbles and absolutely love it.

PdC: So being in a long break [Cozza was part of a lead group at the 2009 Paris-Roubaix], was that like being a kid in a candy shop? What did you think about it?

SC: Yes, it was. I was very excited. It was a really hard break to make in a cross-wind section. It was like having a front row seat at the movie theaters, except I was in the movie. I love every minute of Paris-Roubaix because of the challenges it presents. There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure.

PdC: In a race that long and difficult, did you have hopes of staying away? Or did you think, it’s Paris-Roubaix, we will be chased down?

SC: Yes, of course. It’s happened before and it could happen again. You just never know. I wasn’t in the break just to be in the break. I was in the break that day to try and win that freakin’ race. I want to be the first American to top the podium one day. Those are larges ambitions, but you’ve got to dream.

PdC: To finish after being in the break was a real accomplishment. How close do you feel to being strong enough to competing in P-R?

SC: I feel I can already compete in the best races in the world. Ive had quite a bit of injury and bad luck over the past year. When I put all this bad luck behind me I’m going to come out swinging.

PdC: Are you hopeful of a spot on the team’s Tour de France roster? Is that a pretty big key to your development?

SC: Yes, I would love to race and be competitive in the Tour de France someday. It’s something all pro cyclists want to aim for.

PdC: What do you do to train for the classics? Do you head up to Belgium far enough ahead of time to get in some training? Or is the plan to keep racing, generally raise your fitness and see where it gets you?

SC: It’s a little of both. It’s very important to get some long kilometer days on the bike. After some of the 200k race,s we will go out for another 50k just to be ready for Roubaix. Since I am nursing a broken clavical that I had operated on after my crash in Qatar, my approach is a bit different. Long training days and motorpacing until I can race again.

PdC: Are there places around Girona that help mimic the climbs of Flanders or the Pave of northern France?

SC: No. Nothing can mimic these climbs. You have to go there to train on them to really be great.

PdC: You’ve mentioned climbing as part of your arsenal. Did you get a sense of the Tour of Flanders and whether that might be a better race for you?

SC: Flanders has short steep climbs in it. You don’t need to really be a pure climber which I am not. The Flanders climbs are perfect for me and I really enjoy this race as well. I think I can ride very well in Flanders in the future.

PdC: Between P-R and Flanders, how are the rhythms of the race different?

SC: They are actually very similar. The best guys use the cobbled sections to make the selections in both races. It’s just that one race has short, steep cobbled climbs and the other does not.

PdC: Right now you’re a young rider on a team that’s put together a front-line Classics team. I gather your job (if you’re healed) is to support them?

SC: I’m 25 years old. I wish I could still use the ‘I’m young’ comment, but I am half way to 30 now. Whether I’m riding in support of my team or taking over a lead roll, I don’t really care. I just love to be able to do my job on the bike whatever that entitles. When I’m given a clear mission, I give it 100% no matter what it is in the race.

PdC: But you have ambitions to win P-R and presumably others. So how do you get the team to give you a chance? By getting results elsewhere? Driedaagse West Vlaanderen, de Panne, Eroica, stuff like that?

SC: Yes, that and to be there if something happens to our leader to take over the main role.

PdC: In what races do you expect to have more of a leadership role?

SC: When you are going the strongest you get the leadership role. That’s just how it works.

PdC: Do you worry at all about people thinking of you as a domestique? Is there a danger that guys get “labeled” by doing good support work? Or are these labels and distinctions just something for people outside the sport?

SC: No not at all. There are 200 guys in a bike race. Not everyone from every team can fight for the win. Teamwork really is important in winning a bike race and if it wasn’t for the domestiques, the leader would never win. It’s just how it works and to be a great domestique is a great accomplishment. Not every guy can do the work of a great domestique.

PdC: The collarbone — what’s the prognosis now? What kind of training do you do to preserve your fitness?

SC: Three weeks on the trainer and now back on the road. My first race back is Volta Catalunya. For more up-close updates, check out my web page at www.stevencozza.com and join my Race For Kids Fan Club while you’re at it.

Do check out his site. He writes well, with candor, and is passionate about his charitable work. He also talks about his hectic life lately, which (along with a non-functioning Skype connection) is why we did this by email rather than the preferred, more conversational phone interview. Guy’s got a lot on his plate as he struggles to get race-fit as soon as humanly possible.

Couple things I found interesting. First, following up on my opening theme, he makes a good case for shedding labels. After our discourse I have started to see those “I just wanna race my bike” comments you see all the time from riders not as banal but as sincere attempts to explain that racing isn’t about commodities. Everyone is a bike racer racing his bike, whether he’s asked to take a leading role or a support one. I should know better — the team concept of cycling isn’t exactly new to me — but chatting with Cozza is a nice reminder that the athletes don’t typically categorize themselves. Performing at such a high level requires a ton of hope, including for many guys the hope of winning the big race someday but in the context of teamwork, where everybody’s contribution is valued more or less equally. Cozza’s goal is to be one of those guys, do everything he can, and see where the chips fall.

I was also a little surprised to hear him say that 25 isn’t young. Obviously he would know more about this than me, but it’s worth wondering whether American riders can be held to the same standard as Europeans (for whom 25 is at most just entering their prime). Even guys like Cozza who went to Europe straight from high school still don’t tend to have the background in racing that the homegrown riders there do. Look at Tyler Farrar, who started really putting together his immense talent at age 26. Or Christian VandeVelde, who “exploded” onto the scene at age 32. Or even Armstrong, a wet-behind-the-ears World Champion but not a Tour de France winner until his late 20s. Cozza may believe it’s getting close to now-or-never, but I’m not so sure.

Photo by Doug Pensinger, Getty Images Sport

Tour of Missouri 2007 Best Young Rider Steven Cozza

Filed under: Video — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 7:44 pm

Tour of Missouri 2007 Best Young Rider Steven Cozza from scott cozza on Vimeo.

Velo News Pre-Race Interview Tour of Missouri 2007 Stage 4, Steven shares his thoughts about the race, overcoming an injury, his stache, a stuffed bear and the upcoming 2008 season.

Velo News provided Steven’s dad a copy of this interview to be shown on Steven’s web site

Cozza, Garmin/Slipstream Interview Amgen Tour of California 2009

Filed under: Video — admin @ 12:47 pm

Cozza, Garmin / Slipsteam Interview Amgen Tour of California 2009 from scott cozza on Vimeo.
Watch for the Garmin/Transitions boys at the 2010 Amgen Tour of California, May 16-23. The Garmin /Transitions team always brings excitement to the peloton. Lets get out there this year to cheer on Garmin/Transitions or your favorite team. Steven says “Wear the “stache”, boys and girls, men and women, young and old. I’ll have the stache. It gives me super powers! Ha Ha.”

*Permission was granted by KCRA Channel 3 Sports to post this video. They sent the video to Steven’s dad Scott Cozza in 2009. Special thanks to KCRA. Steven hopes KCRA will cover the Amgen Tour of California in 2010

Introducing a Gifted Velo News Writer Jen Caudill

Filed under: On the Road Again — admin @ 10:50 pm

Velo News article:
New Perspective: From Steven’s crash to my crash course
March 1, 2010
by Jennifer Caudill

*click the link below. It will take you to www.VeloNews.com to an article that reflects the courage of a professional cyclist and how love between two people can work magic or just read the article below!

http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/03/news/new-column-from-stevens-crash-to-my-crash-course-by-jennifer-caudill_106587 

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of columns by Jennifer Caudill. Caudill is an accomplished writer, photographer and journalist. She graduated from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism, has worked in creative advertising for Turner Broadcasting Company and published several travel memoirs. She is a recreational cyclist and an avid runner. Jen also serves as a podium hostess for North American cycling races as well as a fashion and editorial model for her modeling agency based in Atlanta. She frequently travels between Northern California, Georgia and Spain, where she currently lives with her boyfriend, Garmin-Transitions professional cyclist, Steven Cozza. 

It was only the second stage into the Tour of Qatar. Usually, I would have heard by then from Steven how the day went for himself and for the team. But hours had passed and VeloNews.com had already posted complete results. Starting at the top of the finish list like always, I began reading down the list of names. Nearing the bottom and hoping I had just missed his name, I finally saw it:  DNF Steven Cozza Garmin-Transitions 

Panic. What happened? He hadn’t felt spectacular the day before, but the morning email I received was positive and he was ready to race. Thanks to technology, I quickly went to Twitter to see if the cycling world knew something I didn’t. Ah, there it was – Vaughters had tweeted, “Cozza’s collarbone is broken …” 

Cozza hit the deck in Qatar 

It is very difficult to explain the sinking feeling I had just then. Steven’s family has been dealing with these accidents for years and I honestly don’t know how they can stand it. I began to feel sick to my stomach and my heart ached, wondering where he was and in how much pain he might be. Lastly, I wondered if his shoulder was all he hit and prayed he hadn’t landed on his head. 

I wasn’t scheduled to fly to Spain for another two weeks, but I immediately resolved to change my flight. Sitting at my parents’ house on an extended holiday while Steven was in a sling by himself across the Atlantic didn’t sound very productive. Via Blackberry (the way we typically stay in touch when we’re in different countries), I typed, “I hope you’re ok. I heard what happened. I’m going to try to get an early flight out of here.” An hour or so later, I got a response, “I’m alive. Just left the hospital. Yes, please.” So that was that, we both wanted me to be in Spain to help out. I changed my flight and started packing. 

As I was getting myself from Atlanta to Barcelona, Steven was in Belgium getting hacked, drilled, sawed, stitched and more. His collarbone had been broken so badly that the smaller broken piece attaching to his shoulder could not be repaired. It was removed and synthetic ligaments were somehow inserted and tied around the remaining bone to hold everything in place. Or … something like that. 

The work begins 

My duties began the moment I landed in Spain. We went to the supermarket and I did all the shopping. This may not seem like a big deal, but let me explain. I hadn’t slept in thirty hours, hadn’t brushed up on my Spanish and couldn’t think straight. So purchasing food for several days for the both of us — in Spanish — wasn’t the easiest task. 

Steven had only been out of surgery for three days. He could barely move his upper body except for his right arm. But even moving his right arm, he couldn’t move his left arm and had limited movement in his neck. He needed a shower and help washing his hair. The dishes had piled up in the sink because, needing one hand to hold a dish and one hand to wash, he wasn’t able to get much done. He had been sleeping on a mattress with a comforter because he couldn’t get the sheets made properly. 

Click for larger image It’s not all podiums and flowers. 

The next 48 hours 

… were nothing short of brutal. Call me a fool, but I honestly couldn’t have imagined how much help Steven would need. I was his nurse, maid, cook, trainer, motivator and friend. He needed help sitting down, laying down, standing up, getting dressed, putting on his shoes, pouring water to take his medication … It isn’t easy to put socks onto a grown man’s feet. And for me, it isn’t easy to cook! 

What a frustrating time. I couldn’t understand how he was feeling. I have to admit I had moments of insensitivity. How many times was he going to ask me to pass the remote control or re-situate his pillows or tie his shoes? Most of my closest friends and family would agree that I am a fairly nurturing person, but after a couple of days of such an intense situation, the caretaker in me began to unravel. 

The hardest part has been keeping up his spirits. Steven’s job is to be strong and fast and healthy. He takes pride in his abilities and certainly feels like himself when he’s “flying” on the bike. This break and the recovery that are coming along with it, are testing his patience and his spirit and quite frankly, pissing him off. 

Where we are now 

By the sixth day after his surgery, Steven was able to get on his trainer. We rigged a contraption to help support his upper body and keep weight off his arms while riding. This rudimentary design consists of a bicycle tube and a Levi’s leather belt. Spare me the dirty jokes; the truth is, it does look like some sort of torture device. But it works. 

Steven hits the trainer. Photo: Jennifer Caudill 

We have a functional morning routine; I get him set up on the bike (he still needs help getting into bibs and cinching up his Bonts), then I head upstairs to make sure all the dishes and laundry are done. It’s also crucial that I know what we’ll have for lunch because as soon as he’s off the bike, he’s going to be hungry, and as we Georgia Peaches say, “bless his heart” because it’s nearly impossible for him to make a good lunch with only one good arm. 

Actually, just this afternoon, Steven was able to take a ride around the block by himself. I was upstairs and from downstairs, I heard, “Jen! Jennifer! Watch this!” I recognized the tone in his voice. It was the “I’m being sneaky” tone. Looking out the window toward the driveway, I saw something blue streak out of the driveway and onto the street. He must have decided he was done with the trainer and well enough to hit the road. 

Can’t take any more: Steven in the driveway. Photo: Jennifer Caudill 

We’ve both come a long way in the last 10 days. Steven’s pain has subsided and is now replaced with the discomfort that comes with rehabilitation. As he has submitted to the situation and found a rhythm and a path toward recovery, I too have found balance and an understanding of his specific needs. At the moment, we’re both relaxing on the sofa now. He’s reading a book about Muhammad Ali and he keeps shifting around in his seat, trying to find a comfortable position. It’s still hard for him, but he is improving every day. He keeps his Blackberry close by to make sure his team knows he’s getting stronger and he’s on track to pursue his quest in the Belgian Classics. 

While he reads and I write, I sure enjoy the down time. It has been an exhausting couple of weeks and a crash course in this new life for me. He keeps looking over at me with a grin and I know we’re both happy to be sitting next to each other. In the big picture, things could have been so much worse. Don’t be surprised to see a mustache-clad Steven Cozza powering over the cobbles in April. We’re both determined to make it happen.

Luck Like No Other or Please Take the Needles Out

Filed under: On the Road Again — admin @ 1:04 pm

March 1, 2010
Written by Steven Cozza

If there is someone out there sticking needles into a voodoo doll of me please, stop. I’m serious. This has been a past two months of insane misfortune. It’s like I got the fortune cookie an elephant pooped out or something.

The list of mishaps is too long and it’s no use harping on the past, but in just the past few days I have had my car broken into and burglarized. We had just filled the car up with goods we needed for our new 1 month temporary apartment until our permanent residence is ready in April. We went to the Hypercore, (a large mall with everything), picked everything from linens to pots and pans, and then parked the car in the driveway of my teammate’s house for the night. We woke up the next day and just about everything was missing – garage door opener and all. I was shattered because of the fact that I had already been ripped off early in January by a housekeeper from the hotel at our training camp in Calpe for about $300.

Well, we carried on and loaded the car with all our belongings and headed right back to the Hypercore to replace the stuff that was stolen. After that. we headed to our new apartment in downtown Girona. Upon arriving, the one way street in the ancient city was blocked at the entrance for the night, so my Spanish friend, David, and I had to back it down the smallest one-way cobbled streets you could ever imagine. We both hit the ancient stone walls several times just trying to get to the front door of the apartment.

Once we made it to the front of the building, we learned that the elevator was broken for the night and that we would have to walk up the 3 stories with every bag Jen and I owned – two cars worth of junk I have collected over the past couple years here. We then went into the apartment for the first time to meet the owners and sign papers and were hit across the face with a horrible burnt-down house smell. That’s exactly what it was. The apartment building had just had a large fire recently and the smell was just overwhelming. The good thing is we are only here for a few weeks till our real apartment is ready. It’s worth the wait that’s for sure.

Getting burglarized and cheated is a real horrible feeling and I don’t believe I deserve it nor does anyone else, but these things happen in life and I am just so thankful I have Jen over here supporting me through these tough times. She is quite the angel.

For a quick injury update. My clavical surgery is healing slowly but surely. I’ve been doing lots of rehab and everything I can to get my arm to work again. After the surgery, it was as if my arm just died instantly. It’s even numb in some spots. I have been told this is because a lot of the muscles in the area shut off naturally to protect the damaged areas.

So now it’s rehab rehab rehab until my arm starts functioning normally again. I am still currently on the indoor trainer and going to the gym. I tried riding outside the other day but it was too much discomfort. I am hoping by the 3rd week (March 4th) post surgery, I can start riding on the road again. The indoor riding is really starting to crack me that is for sure, but I understand it is what I need to do to be at my best come my next race, the Volta Catalunya in mid March. All the pain and suffering will pay off.

I just won’t let these tough obstacles stop me.
Steven