Interview with Daniel Holloway.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Daniel “Hollywood” Holloway last week in Amsterdam.

So, how’d you get your nickname? Because you’re so friendly to fans like me and stuff?

Aw, I got that persona when I was 19 or 20, we had a national team training camp in the Bahamas, and I showed up with aviators and white jeans, a patent leather bag. One of the coaches was like, ‘Jesus, dude, you’re so Hollywood.’ I’m from California, and if you come from California, you’re either a surfer or from LA, so I was labelled pretty quickly and it stuck. And, you know, I like to have fun and do my best to put on a show, because we’ve gotten to the point in time where everybody is so focused on performance that there’s no crowd engagement anywhere, whether it’s criteriums or six-day racing or your local velodrome. People come to watch, so you need to engage them. It just makes it worth their time and everything else.

So which one are you? Are you a surfer, or are you from LA?

Ha, I’m from inland, a little valley called Morgan Hill. I grew up in the suburbs [of San Francisco], so I can’t swim, so I don’t know how to surf. I’m not the biggest fan of LA, just the rat race down there, even though I have been spending more an more time there. But I stay in the south bay, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, just a more laid-back vibe, you can find everything in its little pocket, good riding and stuff.

But there’s also stuff happening there, aside from the excelling road riding, I didn’t know until recently that they put on a half six days in Carson City.

Yeah, last year Jack Simes got a three-day going, brought some Euro guys over to try and gain some exposure, but the venue cost at the StubHub Center is just so exorbitant that it’s just not cost-worthy. It takes so much money just to get the facility, and in the end they nickel and dime you if you want good sessions, or if you want TV, or if you want music. It’s very controlled, so it takes lots and lots of money to try to do an event, right? And the infrastructure inside the velodrome isn’t really designed to host large events, it’s kind of difficult to work with, so you know, if you had a million dollars, you could put on a really good event, but if you’re trying to do it on a small budget, it’s just never going to work. It’s unfortunate.

So he’s not doing it again?

Yeah, we didn’t hear anything about it this year, and it’s just one of those money things, for such a kind of niche thing, to get a sponsor or a private investor, a lot of people want to see perfect success the first go-round, with any amount of money. I think it was a good starting point, but it just wasn’t successful enough either to have a private investor continue on or to attract another sponsor to replace that. So it’s unfortunate, but hopefully it was a learning experience for everybody that’s involved or looking in from the outside, about how to re-try or re-approach it.

It’s always a chase for sponsors in the cycling game.

Yeah, and a big problem is that everybody has their hand out but they don’t have a legitimate program, or a way to say how it’s worth it. Everybody’s like, or a team, is like, hey, I want ten helmets, we’re going to win all these races in our region. But the region is like 300 square miles and, you know, there’s no reach, they don’t do blogging, they don’t do social media, and they just take the helmets and say thank-you and that’s it. So you have an obligation to do more, do more for that sponsor, the sponsor wants the value of their helmets back plus some, right?

So, if you can continue to show them that it’s easy to build relationships and build a reputation, the industry is so small that just because this guy’s a marketing guy for this company doesn’t mean in three years he’s gonna move somewhere else, you know? And he can say, you know, this guy is reputable, he believes in you, and can vouch that you’re going to do things for their company that’s worth value. It goes a long way. A lot of people just have their hands out in the industry and don’t really give it back.

And if you start asking big businesses outside of cycling for money, they want to see the value. It’s a passion play, but then, a guy that’s in marketing, or even the CEO of a company, has to go to a board and present this proposal and say, yeah, I want to give a quarter of a million dollars to this team, or this race. And everyone else on the board is going to be a naysayer because it’s new to them; they don’t know how to approach it.  So you have to give your marketing guy as much quality information and numbers for him to be able to stand up against this board, whether it’s three guys or ten guys, and say, no, this is why it works. And this is why it’s worth the time and the energy and our resources to do this.

You know, it’s just a lot of fine-line things, it’s a big puzzle: do you start from the outside or from the inside? As a new guy, with my current road team, we’re just figuring things like that out, we’re going to try a new approach to how the team operates next year, as far as what we do off the bike, like I was saying before: the cool bike racing is a bonus to being a professional sportsman, and having your sponsorship obligations and trying to sell product. We’re not really salesman, we’re more on the marketing side, but it’s giving the people who talk to us the most information so they can go actually buy a bike from the salespeople.

You wake up Monday morning, something new’s going on, ebola or whatever else that’s making headlines, and we don’t even make national news to begin with. But that stuff still overtakes us on Facebook and everything else, so we have to be relevant seven days a week. So we’re trying different things and a lot more outside of racing: visiting people, visiting shops, being in the community, talking to people, just you know, Cat 5s and weekend warriors want to talk to the professional athletes, you know, we gotta act like humans and show them we’re just normal guys that like music and like pizza and like movies, and build a conversation rather than being intimidated because I’m a pro. No, I’m just a regular guy that just happens to be a little talented and can win a bike race every once in a while.

But you build that connection, and all of a sudden they’re excited and it’s just positive imagery for our sponsors. It’s just always a positive connection to see a Felt bicycle with Fast Forward wheels, whatever else it may be, there’s positive brand awareness, and that’s really important. Down the road, these guys don’t always have thousands of dollars to just re-up new equipment, but it’s when it’s time, if you have this positive vibe and this positive image, they want to be associated with. And when they’re ready to spend the money, you hope that you’ve done everything right for them to purchase your product.

Makes sense. I also noticed that you also work mentoring in the Bay Area…

Yeah, it’s a junior team, kind of local, I know one of the guys that’s the co-founder of the program. I was super fortunate as a junior to get tons of support, and it made my life easier, it made my dad’s life easier financially, so he could spend time and energy getting to the bike races instead of more time working to be able to afford a new bike or new wheels if I crashed or whatever else. You know, I like to give back to the juniorws with my experiences, I made a lot of mistakes as a junior and U23s as far as handling relationships and just, you know, my attitude on the bike and off the bike, so…

Any examples or is that…

I just had more attitude than my results maybe alluded to and I didn’t always follow-up with the sponsors, to keep those relationships going or, you know, a clean slate. And on the bike, I wouldn’t say I was angry, but I was very vocal. If a guy did something I didn’t like, he’d know about it, and sometimes it’s better just not to say anything and just kind of ignore it. In the cycling world, that stuff just hangs on to you forever, the way you train and eat and stuff. All that stuff stays with you for a very long time, and it’s taken a long time to just remove some of those negative features that are garnered as a younger rider. So when these kids ask for information and tips and stuff, [I can share] my experience. If you go eat ice cream, don’t always go and post it on social media. Enjoy your ice cream, but online, that’s forever, and people see it.

How do you feel about the format, compared to a criterium? What’s the best part of coming over here to race the six days?

Just being unique, being one of two Americans to do it. I think now, I have the most six days under my belt, of the last couple generations of Americans, so it’s kind of cool to start building that kind of legacy. We haven’t done well but it’s a stepping stone and hopefully it’s just getting comfortable and we’re starting to just build our time here, so it’s knowing in August you’re going to do all winter, you can prepare for it, make a jump up.

So it’s unique in that aspect, and it’s a different outlet for my sponsors, get some good exposure, and the road season stops in September, so October through February there’s nothing going on. But if I can get on the track, I can do more racing and show my sponsors that that’s a value and keep it fresh. A lot of road guys die off and it’s hard to continue to do social media when you’re not racing and everything else, but if you’re racing and you’re traveling, you’re always relevant, you’re always posting something new, keeping your fans engaged and excited.

It’s cool to change it up.

I’m not the most focused trainer, you know, it’s hard for me to just go out and train a specific program by myself, I’m more of a social rider so group rides and small groups help me get out the door and start the day. So to come over here breaks up my winter, gives me short, focused goals that I can work towards. When road season starts, I have some good intensity and racing that didn’t take a lot of mental effort. Just get out there, I’m forced on the bike, and the fitness comes with it. It’s good that way.

How’d you get hooked up with Angus and Guy?

I’ve known Guy since we were juniors together, we were on the nationals program together, we have a long history. He knew Angus and built a relationship with him. It’s nice to be where your partner is, and not split up. You can see that not everyone on the European side shares soigneurs and stuff like that but here, it feels like it’s pretty important to be in the same space a lot and build that bond, because when you’re out there suffering, you just want to have that relationship. So if you split up, off the bike, it can kind of be detrimental.

Yeah, I noticed that there’s a team of Dutch brothers here [Christian Kos & Patrick Kos]. Do they have an unfair advantage?

Nah, well, I think in many different sports you can see that brothers have an unspoken bond, just from being brothers, they know how the other guy’s feeling and can really help each other out. It’s beneficial to know immediately how the other guy’s feeling, this connection that no other team would have.

One last question: what’s on your iPod? What are you listening to these days?

It varies a lot, I like a lot of hip-hop and stuff, through all kinds of generations, Kool Moe D all the way to Childish Gambino nowadays, and I also like folk music and some country to just even it out, but I can listen to just about everything.

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