Local McBride on board with Bode | AspenTimes.com

Local McBride on board with Bode

Nate Peterson
Aspen, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

ASPEN ” After flirting with the possibility of renewing his on-again, off-again relationship with the U.S. Ski Team this summer, Aspen native John “Johno” McBride ultimately decided he’d rather coach for Team America.

It’s all a bit strange, really. No, not McBride pulling himself out of retirement yet again. That’s happened twice before. Rather, it’s a bit confounding to have a “team” name when there’s only one person doing the competing.

Leave it up to McBride’s new employer, Bode Miller, to challenge the accepted rules for what constitutes a team.

To wit, Miller didn’t like the rules of the squad he’d been with for 11 years, so he decided to start his own this season. Then he decided one of his first orders of business was to convince McBride ” his most trusted mentor during his years on the U.S. national team ” to come along for the ride.

A father of two young daughters whose wife, Sunni, is expecting the couple’s third child next month, McBride thought he was done with coaching on the men’s World Cup circuit. He resigned as the U.S. Ski Team’s combined coach last spring, content to be a dad and lead a more staid life on his ranch in Old Snowmass.

The offer to coach only Miller and to set his own schedule ” which includes an extended window to come home and welcome a new baby into the world next month ” proved too enticing for McBride to turn down, however.

For a coach’s son who grew up with ski racing in his veins, it was a dream opportunity, and ultimately one that McBride and his family agreed he should take.

“It’s not ideal for sure,” said McBride earlier this week during a phone conversation from Lake Louise, Alberta, the site of today’s season-opening downhill. “I’d like to be seeing my kids everyday, but I do love to coach, and my wife is supportive enough to recognize that, and she knows I love it. It’s not a long-term deal. I feel a little silly talking to anyone about the fact that I’ve said I’m going to quit and I keep coming back, but ultimately Bode keeps making it a pretty attractive offer, and, one way or another, it’s hard to refuse something I love to do.”

As of right now, McBride is on board for the first leg for what promises to be an unforgettable, much-scrunitized World Cup campaign. He expects to be with Miller for the men’s races in Lake Louise this weekend, then Beaver Creek (Nov. 29 to Dec. 2). He hopes to rejoin Miller on his bus in late December or early January for the remainder of the World Cup season.

To be accurate, it’s actually two buses that Team America will travel in this winter on the World Cup circuit. There’s Miller’s personal bus that so famously put him at odds with U.S. team officials in recent years, and then there’s a new bus ” even bigger than the first ” which McBride is designing with a company in Innsbruck, Austria.

The new rig has a bunk bed in the back for McBride and other Team America staff, a small kitchen up front and a fully outfitted gym in the middle for Miller’s personal training.

Teaming with McBride are former national team coaches Forest Carey ” a schoolmate of Miller’s at Carrabassett Valley Academy in Maine ” and Miller’s uncle Mike Kenney. There are also two ski technicians and Miller’s personal chef and driver, childhood friend Jake Sereno.

McBride said the whole operation illustrates Miller’s level of commitment to being successful.

“It’s about doing this thing as best as possible,” McBride said. “The big picture is Bode is trying to take care of his health the best he can: his sleep, his eating, his conditioning, be around people he wants to be with and have the opportunity to hopefully train as productively as possible during the season.”

Certainly, there will be those who see Miller’s decision to leave the U.S. Ski Team in a different light.

His infamous 0-for-5 medal showing and off-the-hill antics at the 2006 Winter Games tarnished his reputation, as did some of his comments about the new, stricter rules the U.S. Ski Team instituted last season to attempt to reign him in.

Because he has the money and the desire to do so, Miller decided he didn’t need the umbrella of support the team provided anymore. It’s a decision that could work in Miller’s favor if he skis up to his incredible potential this season. If not, there only will be more fodder for those who believe Miller’s desire to do everything possible to win is suspect.

McBride said he wouldn’t have signed on to join Team America if he didn’t foresee the former happening.

“I’ve seen a guy that’s trained incredibly hard and been very focused through this preparation period leading into the season,” he said. “I’ve also seen a guy that’s had to be very patient. He had some injuries in the three weeks leading into [the season-opening giant slalom] in Soelden, [Austria,] and he was very diligent about finding the right people to see and rehab and stuff that he really hasn’t had to deal with in the past. I think he’s poised to have a fantastic season. With a little bit of luck, I think he’s very fit, and I think he can have a great year.”

As for those who think Miller just wanted to leave the U.S. Ski Team because he was fed up with curfews, bed checks and rules about drinking, and socializing with coaches, McBride said nothing could be further from the truth.

Especially with the drinking.

“They missed the boat on the partying part, because the kid quit drinking in July,” he said. “He hasn’t had a drop of booze since then. I think that’s another indication of his commitment to this whole program. I don’t think he quit drinking because he had a drinking problem. That wasn’t the issue. He just decided to do as much as he can, it’s probably better to focus his energies on what he can do for the next few years.”

At present, Miller has 25 World Cup wins ” just two shy of the record set by American skiing legend Phil Mahre. If he can ski another three or four years, as McBride predicts, Miller should smash that record. He has 38 chances remaining to break it this season, starting with today’s downhill.

Inside the bus, McBride said Miller’s goals for this season are to win downhill and slalom titles ” the two World Cup globes he doesn’t own ” and to make another run at the overall title, which he won in 2005.

“I’d have to say his level of motivation is higher than it’s ever been in some regards, because I think he has something to prove for himself,” McBride said. “More probably in that regard than proving something to other people. I think his commitment to doing this on his own, and his investment to pull this off is huge, in terms of his motivation. I think that in itself is motivating when you look at investing a lot of time and money and energy into putting your own program together. You want it to work. You want things to come together as best as possible.”

Either way, it promises to be interesting to watch.

Nate Peterson’s e-mail addres is npeterson@aspentimes.com.

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