Jim Miller is the man behind the increasingly successful U.S. national team program. The former pro rider came to USAC in 2002 as the director of the T-Mobile women's pro team and took the reins of the fledgling junior, U23 and women endurance programs two years later. The personal coach for athletes including Beijing gold medalist Kristin Armstrong and recent Dauphin? Lib?r? third-place Tejay Van Garderen, Miller now serves as vice president of athletics, overseeing the top-tier racing programs for USA Cycling in all disciplines. VeloNews sat down with Miller at the national championships in Bend, Oregon.
The national team is really coming of age with a broad contingent of riders in the program excelling in the ProTour, at world championships, in the top women's stage races. What is at the core of that success?
The big thing is the consistency. We've had consistent programming, consistent funding and we're continually exposing these kids to the proper amount of racing. It's allowed us to focus on the kids instead of just short-term projects. When you take a kid at 15--we have a 15-16 program in Europe--we're not trying to make them good juniors. We're trying to make them good U23s because good U23s make good ProTour riders.
How do you go about that?
It's focusing on the process; you have to go slow. Bike racing is a slow process. You can't force it. Kids mature at different rates and you have to give them their own time to mature and come around on their own. More so than just building a program for one or two riders every generation, we're building a program that is just a process so that a lot of people fit into it and a lot of people come out of it.
The transition from a narrow focus on a few athletes to more of a procedural focus is something that the national team has undertaken in the last few years. How has that transition worked?
Athletically, it's been a very smooth transition. It was a bit of a shift in psychology for some people, but now that they see how it works and how they fit in and really the net it casts and what comes out of it, I think it's been well received.
Looking past London in 2012, how do you hope the road development program changes going forward?
I hope it stays the same, actually. I think we're doing a really good job. On the men's side, we have really good relationships with the junior teams like Hot Tubes and Garmin. We have good relationships with the U23 teams as well. We're very proactive at working with the teams and not just to get their riders, but so that their riders have good programs.
One thing that has been a big change and has helped immensely is that when we talk about any promising kid--Taylor Phinney, Ben King, Lawson Craddock--we coordinate with their trade teams to ensure everyone's goals are pursued, and the rider's rest is properly timed. We work together to make a really good U23 guy become a ProTour guy. As long as we continue to do that, we're in really good shape on the road.
We're cranking out ProTour guys left and right. And really solid ProTour guys, too, not average, run of the mill, riding-on-the-front-for- somebody-else guys.