Interview: Tony Cruz
Interview of Tony Cruz by Evan Trubee
Born and raised in Southern California, Tony Cruz has left an indelible mark on American road cycling. He turned pro in 1999 and over his career has ridden for some of the biggest teams alongside the biggest names. Always a loyal teammate Tony took home his share of victories in Europe and the United States during his career. He actually raced as a junior (then called intermediates) for Team Redlands in the mid-1980’s so he is truly one of our own. Tony was generous enough to take time and give us his thoughts on the Redlands Classic.
Tell us about some of your overall career highlights and proudest moments, how many years did you race professionally and for which teams?
I’ve been a professional cyclist since 1999. My first pro team was L’Equipe Cheval directed by Willard Ford. 1999 turned out to be a very successful year for me and our new team capped with the National Criterium Championships title. From there I rode for the Saturn Cycling Team and managed to improve on the previous season by winning the US Olympic Trials in Jackson, Mississippi and filling the final spot on the 2000 US Olympic Cycling Team alongside Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton, and Fred Rodriguez. In 2001 I became a member of the US Postal Pro Cycling Team and competed in my first ever Pro Tour event and Grand Tour and in 2004 I took my first victory in Europe at the 4 stage of the Tour D’Lan stage race. I raced for US Postal and Discovery Channel for a combined total of 6 years. In 2006 I joined team Toyota United and we quickly became the number one domestic team with more than 15 team victories which included stage wins at the tour of California. My final two years of European racing was spent with the up and coming BMC Racing Team where I was a team leader and mentor to the young and promising talent that made up the team. After a year off from racing I’m now a proud member of the Cash Call Mortgages Cycling Team. The team is comprised of the hottest talent in Southern California and is quickly making a name for itself with a bright future ahead.
How many times did you race the Redlands Bicycle Classic and in which years?
I’ve raced in 6 Redlands Classics. My first was in 87 racing for Team Redlands. I also raced in the 88 and 89 versions as a junior. I was at the 1990 event as a first year amateur and then didn’t come back to race the Classic until 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006 and 2008 as a professional. That makes a total of 8 times.
What spot did the race occupy on the team calendar/on your personal calendar? i.e. was it a target raceor a building block for the rest of the season?
The Redlands Classic was always a target race for me as a domestic rider and even when I entered the Pro Tour. It’s always had a special place in my heart and it’s the kind of event that gave a rider huge bragging rights and opportunities if you won the overall title.
What if anything made the race special for you?
What made the Classic special for me was the fact that it brought out many of the best domestic and European riders to race in my backyard. It’s a world class event that all of my friends and family can come to and cheer me on!
How would you describe the atmoshpere surrounding the race, the overall feel?
The Classic is rich in cycling history and the event is very well supported throughout the community and the energy the fans bring the race is fantastic. It’s also an event that’s recognized by racers around the world which makes it that much more prestigious to win.
What were some of the critical stages or points within the race that you feel separated the winners from the rest?
I think the two most critical stages are the timetrail and the Sunset Loop. You need to be able to put yourself in good position for the overall in the time trial and seal the deal on the Sunset Loop stage with a stellar ride!
Which win was most memorable and why?
In my career my most memorable win was winning the US Olympic Trails. Why was it the most memorable, because it was the fulfillment of a childhood dream for me. Life felt like it went into slow motion for me when I was crossing that finish line in first and I started to have a lot of flash back in that instance from all of my years of racing. It was a very special moment for me.
Tell us about your most memorable moment from the Redlands Bicycle Classic:
My most memorable moment at the Redlands Bicycle Classic was when I placed 2nd in the Sunset Loop stage in 2008. I thought I was going to get my first victory at the classic.