The Free Agent race team opens up

Patrick Nugent

A portion of the very fast Free Agent race team, from left to right: Connor Fields, Maris Strombergs and Kyle Bennett.

Hands down, Free Agent has the best pro race team running right now, including Olympic gold medalist Maris Strombergs, Olympian Kyle Bennett, Christian Becerene and Connor Fields. Recently, I had a chance to meet up with Maris, Kyle and Connor to get an inside look at the Free Agent pit and throw some questions at them. To to complete the Free Agent picture, I also contacted the Free Agent Team Manager, Dale Holmes to shed some light on the team situation.

ESPN.com: What are your guy's favorite flavors of RockStar Energy Drink?
Connor: I like the lemon one.
Kyle: Pomegranate
Maris: I like the regular one, the white one, Sugar Free.

Do you think being on the same team, with all of you being top contenders makes you fight a little harder to fight for the podium?
Kyle: A little bit, yeah.
Connor: I don't race these guys yet, but it makes me work harder. I've always looked up to these guys, I have a poster of Kyle on my wall.
Kyle: Still?
Connor: Still yeah, haha.
Maris: Outside of the track we are real good friends though.

Patrick Nugent

Connor Fields out in front.

As the young gun Connor, do you feel any pressure being the young gun? Something to prove?
Connor:Yeah, I mean sometimes I do. I think about these guys when I'm at the gym, I'm trying to be like them one day.

Is there any trash talk between you guys in the pits?
Connor: A little bit, me and Maris more than anyone else.
Maris: Na, yeah, he talks a lot of trash (laughter).
Connor: But I'm just kidding and they know I'm kidding.

What is the best part of being on the same team as three of the most respectable riders?
Kyle: Just feeding off each other's energy. I someone's not feeling it, someone else is, you know and it helps bring you up.
Maris: That's right.
Connor: For me being younger, it kinda just showed me how to be a pro, I can learn from these guys.

Do you feel like you've matured a lot since joining the team?
Connor: Yeah, when I first joined the team I probably annoyed these guys a little bit, but hopefully they like me now.

When it comes to the Olympics, Connor and Kyle obviously aren't on the same team as Maris. Are you going to pull any block moves?
Connor: Maris was in the Olympics with Kyle already.
Kyle: Well, I gotta get there first. But I mean, it's different when you get out there on the track.
Connor: Behind the gate I'll shake his hand and wish him good luck. I'll blast him over the first turn, and be the first one to give him a hug at the finish line.
Maris: Yeah, that's they way it is.
Connor: When you hop in the gate, all bets are off. But as soon as you cross the finish line, it's back to being friends.

Patrick Nugent

Strombergs leads the pack through a berm.

When Connor goes pro, are you guys (Maris and Kyle) going to take him under the wing, or rob him of his podium check?
Maris: I'm gunna cut him off all the time.
Kyle: If I'm ahead of him I'm going to be waving back at him.

Do you guys all ride the same bike? If not what's different about them?
Maris: I have a squared back end. It's a little bit heavier but it's stiffer, I like it better cause I'm a big guy, it works for me.
Kyle: I probably shouldn't say, but I'm on the old one right now. It's last year's model. I was riding the new one but I like the old one better.
Connor: My bike is actually Kyle's that he designed to ride.
Kyle: It's just got a little bit more relaxed headtube angle.

Dale Holmes: Free Agent TM

What is your main role as the TM at Free Agent?
Scouting new talent, securing sponsorships, handling travel arrangements for our riders, relationship management with ABA, NBL, and UCI, press and media relations, liaison between both our riders and upper management, directly involved with product development.

How did you end up with arguably the most powerful pro team in BMX?
We set our standards high. We maintain a grass-roots program and we're focused on improving every year. I think we have always had a passion to strive to do our very best and this philosophy has inspired our guys to push each other.

Patrick Nugent

Team practice: Kyle Bennett gets a stylish pump on the left, while Fields keeps it tucked on the right.

Are you scouting out a top AM now that Connor is bumping up to Elite?
Yes, we've already picked up Juan Marin from Florida. He's a nice kid with a passion to ride.

Do you keep tabs on people's diet and training schedules? Do you have to be on top of them or are they good at handling things on their own?
No, I stay out of the older guys' training but I'm always an eye in the sky at the races if they need it. Maris has Ivo and I have complete confidence in Ivo's ability to direct Maris well -- just look at his results-enough said. I'm there if my guys need to vent after a bad lap and I try to fire them up once in awhile if I sense they could use it.  With Connor, I try to help him a little bit more with the basics -- not so much training schedule more of a "big brother" role really.

Any shoutouts?
Everyone at Free Agent has always supported my goals and ideals for the team and continue to give me free reign to get the job done. I'm grateful for that. Thanks to Steve at Rockstar and all team sponsors for making it come together.

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