Alex Coutts – Scottish Professional with Flanders
After a year at DFL, 23 year-old Scottish professional Alex Coutts from Gorebridge, has renewed old sponsorship links with Flemish bike concern, Flanders.
We caught-up with him recently at mentor John Anderson's Edinburgh shop, the Bicycleworks. Coutts was just back from a training trip to Spain and is already looking like he is ready for action.
Tell us about 2006, Alex.
"It wasn't a great year for me, I was ill after the Commonwealth Games and never seemed to recover from that.
"I don't think we raced enough either; we were based in Leuven near Brussels and a lot of the races we rode were in Holland.
"They were mostly pro-ams; in Holland it's always windy and the echelons form - it's not really the type of racing I'm best suited to."
Back to Flanders; so it's like going home?
"Flanders only supply the bikes, the main sponsor is, 'Babes World', I believe it's trendy ladies clothing. With the untimely death of Flanders team-supremo Frans Assez this year, there have been some major changes."
Why the split with DFL?
"I just think it will be a better structure for me now as far as the races I will be riding goes. For example, there will be more stage racing and also hilly single day races, the team has good contacts with organisers all over Europe.
"I'm familiar with many of the events because it's a similar programme to the one I rode with Flanders two years ago."
How do you go about finding a new team, and do you have a manager?
"I've been in Belgium for a few years now and I've made a lot of contacts so you get to know who to talk to.
"John Anderson (joint-owner of the Bicycleworks with former Scottish champion, Andrew Davies) acts as my consultant. He was present when I had the meeting with Ronnie Poolvorde where I agreed terms.
"John has had a connection with Flanders for a number of years now and a lot of what happens in pro racing is down to contacts."
Why the Flanders link again though?
"As I said, Flanders are only the bike sponsors but there is a 'roll-over' of personnel from the 'old' team; for example, Andre the mechanic will still be on the team.
"I think they will help me a lot; not just chuck me into races which don't suit me. They've seen me race and know what I am capable of."
What's the programme for 2007?
"We have a training camp at Calpi in late January where we'll be picking-up our bikes and clothing. I think we're on carbon frames with Campag Record groupsets this season.
"Then it's the GP Ouverture, Etoille des Besseges, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and most of the Belgian and French semi-classics like the E3, Scheldeprijs and right through to the GP Isbergues. I also be riding the Tour of Serbia where I finished top ten a couple of years ago."
Where will you be staying?
"It will be in Flanders but we haven't yet finalised exactly where. There are ten Belgian guys in the team so it may be with one of them but John also has a couple of options to explore for me."
With your talents as a climber might France or Italy not be a better option for you?
"I've raced in Italy before with the Endura team before it folded, but it's getting harder to get a place there. I believe the Italian federation has tightened-up on the number of foreigners allowed in teams.
"France is a big country and it's easy for your results to get 'lost' there in the huge number of races that are held.
"Also, In my experience, France is quite an insular scene Having said that, we'll be riding in France regularly and taking-in some challenging events. When I was in Spain just last week there was a news item on TV that said there are 50 Spanish professionals looking for contracts.
"It's also the case that many pros wouldn't have a contract if they didn't bring personnal sponsors on-board with them.
"Against that background I feel I'm very lucky to have a confirmed place on a good outfit with a sound race programme."
Does the team have a nominated leader and what are your goals for 2007?
"There's a rumour that Francesco Planckaert is joining us, but I don't know if that's true. As for personal goal - that's simply to perform as well as I can in the races I ride."
Thanks for your time Alex. John Anderson will be accompanying Alex to the Calpi training camp in January, and will be sending VeloVeritas exclusive pictures. We also hope to keep in touch with Alex throughout the season.
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