When folks hear the name Richie Cunningham, lots of non-triathletes immediately think of the fictional character from the 1970’s TV series “Happy Days”. Richie, the triathlete, is a professional triathlete who originally hails from Australia. He’s a prolific racer, and this season ranks among his best seasons in the past several years. Just this year, Richie logged back-to-back victories at Rev3 Quassy and Rev3 Portland. He’s also notched a bunch of podium spots…he’s been on the podium in five of eight races so far in 2012.
More than just a stellar athlete, Richie is a great ambassador for triathlon in general and Rev3 specifically. He’s well on his way towards winning the 2012 Rev3 series and the ultimate prize of $25,000. Plus he raises chickens.
So kick back, grab your favorite hydration beverage and meet Richie. He’s the focus of this week’s “Ten Questions With….”
TriMadness: For purposes of background, you grew up in Australia, spent 10 years in Germany, and now live in the US. Tell us about the part of your career in Germany – what kind of racing were you doing, how did you like living in Europe, and what ultimately compelled you to move to the US?
Richie Cunningham: I was mostly doing Olympic distance ITU racing while I lived in Germany. The training in Germany was really good. I lived right across the street from the pool, had miles of trails to run in and good riding. I moved to the US because it was were the future of racing was. I moved up to 70.3 and it seemed like a good time. I also started dating my now wife, who was living in Boston at the time, so that sped up the move.
TM: You race quite a bit…over the past several years you have averaged 14-17 races, and you seem to race anything from Olympic distance to half-iron distance. It seems that the half-iron distance is your favorite distance though. What about that distance “clicks” for you?
RC: I think it’s just where my talent lies. I enjoy the training for it the most too.
TM: You’ve raced quite a few (12) Rev3 races over the past three years, and have a really solid track record at their races (25% on the podium, with two victories). The fields at Rev3 races are generally loaded. Is there something about these races that brings out the best in you?
RC: Rev3 races are usually on challenging, hilly courses and that suits me well. I also just really enjoy the Rev3 race experience. They really take good care of the pros and pick nice courses.
TM: You just won the Rev3 race in Portland in a relatively close contest. Walk us through your strategy on the run when you realized that Jesse Thomas was gaining ground on you.
RC: My run strategy actually started at the end of the bike. I saw that Jesse was too close to me and I really didn’t want to start the run with him so I hammered the last 10k of the bike to add a bit more lead. In the last few miles I saw that he was close, so I put in a hard mile hoping that would be enough to keep him from catching me. Then I just tried to maintain my pace until the end. It was a tough race.
TM: Looks like you have a pretty commanding lead in the Rev3 Championship Series. Are you a lock for the $25,000 prize at the end of the year?
RC: It’s hard to do all the math to figure it. I am hoping that I can have solid races in the rest of the series and hold the lead, but Jesse and Victor could still take it from me.
TM: You’ve been pretty vocal about the whole Lance Armstrong/USADA thing. Do you think that USADA’s current testing process is optimal? What changes would you make?
RC: No, I think everyone should be on the blood passport system and blood should be stored for testing any time in the future.
TM: What is the testing process like? How frequently are you tested – every race, randomly, monthly?
RC: I’m tested about 2-3 times a year – usually just urine. I’m tested occasionally at races – usually when I am on the podium. I am also in the USADA testing pool, so they can come find me any time for a blood/urine test.
TM: Do you think that triathlon in general is a “clean” sport? Is there ever any talk amongst the pros that “so and so” must be juicing because of his/her performance, improvement, etc?
RC: Yes, in general I think it’s a relatively clean sport. It’s still a young sport, so I think that helps. As pros, we do like to bitch about who we think might be doping. Hopefully we’re wrong.
TM: OK…on to easier an easier topic. I read recently that you and your wife raise chickens. Tell us about them.
RC: We got chickens last December. We have 6 of them (all girls) and named them after our friends – Joe, Pat, Alan (my brother), Terra, Chris, and Edwina. Joe is the noisy but friendly one. I though that fit Joe Gambles well. Pat (Evoe) is an easy going, nice chicken. Alan is the fat one, so I had to name her after my brother. Terra takes care of the eggs, so we named her after Terra Castro, Chris has the tightest feathers – Chris Legh likes to wear tight shirts… and Edwina is named after our friend Mary Edwina Miller. She got to pick her chicken.
TM: How often do people confuse you with the Richie Cunningham from the “Happy Days” TV show?
RC: I used to get jokes all the time, but now the show is getting older and a lot more people have never seen Happy Days.