Viktor calls; ‘there’s an English boy – James Spragg – riding the Three days of West Flanders – he rode the Samyn too – you should find out about him.

James Spragg
James, er, at a party – we hope.

For sure, Vik!

Where are you from in the UK, James?

“Originally from Stoke but we moved to Exeter when I was young.

“I raced in the UK as a junior but mostly mountain bikes; I made the GB Talent Team but in the last few years I’ve only raced a couple of times in the UK.”

You went to France?

“Yes, I moved to France and rode for VC St. Lo, UC Castelsarrasin and Tarbes Pyrennes Cyclisme.

“I won a couple of smaller races but at the end of 2008, I started to get top tens in French Cups.

“That got me into the Marco Polo Cycling Team with Leon Van Bon and I rode 2009 for them, there was a lot of travelling – South Africa, Asia, the Ras, Holland, Hainan but it was a great experience.”

How did your ride for Qin [pronounced ‘queue-in’] come about?

“Leon Van Bon was talking to Eric Vanderaerden – who is DS on the team – for me last year and it just went from there.”

It’s a Continental team?

“Yes but the hope is that over the next year or two to go to Pro Continental – but the set up is good as it is, we have three bikes, road, TT and training.

“There’s a team bus and it’s all very well organised; it’s a new team and that usually means it takes a while to get settled but it’s coming together very well.

“Qin is a coffee shop in Brugges, there’s just one at the moment but they’re aiming to spread the chain across Belgium.”

James Spragg
James is “doing it”: living and racing in Belgium.

Who’s team leader?

“Jan Kuyckx, two seasons ago he was second in Paris-Tours and won a stage at Beseges.

“We have Jeremy Yates (ex world junior champion) too – he’ll be living just down the street from me.”

How did le Samyn go?

“It was a nice race, I felt pretty good – it ended in a mass sprint of 70/80 guys.

“It was nice to be back in action – Jens Keukelaire won it but Cofidis did a great job for him, that day.”

And West Flanders?

“The first day I missed the split with 8 K to go.

“The second day it went through Brugges – that’s the team’s home town so we made sure we were active and had someone in the break.

“On the third day there was a big cross/tail wind selection coming in to the Kemmel and it split to bits – that’s where my lack of racing told.”

James Spragg
James takes in some fuel.

You’re right in the mix, so how come we haven’t heard of you?

“I was on the Talent Team but then I went to France, plus I don’t have a track background.

“And I really only started to go well once I was Under 23 – I asked about U23 Worlds selection last year, but they told me that they really only consider riders that have been on The Plan.”

Describe yourself as a rider.

“A climber, but I like punchy little climbs the best – Amstel Gold type climbs.”

James SpraggHow’s the Qin programme?

“Really good – we ride all the Top Sport Under 27 races in Belgium, Dwars door (we hope), Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux, Brabantse Pijl (we’re hopeful of that too), some Spanish races, all the Belgian 1,1 races, the Tour of Belgium and Tour of Britain.

“We have a partnership with the Belgian Federation – some of their riders are with us and that’s very helpful.”

And how are you enjoying the Flanders lifestyle?

“I’m enjoying it – it’s not that different to France.

“You get a few jokes about being English – but bike riders are bike riders.

“We had a team get together at Bencassim for two-and-a-half weeks where we all got to know each other.

“The team has fixed me up with an apartment – so no complaints.”

James Spragg
James relaxes with some pals.

James Spragg Goals?

“I definitely want to ride all of the Top Sport races and get in the top ten in them.

“But my biggest goal is the Tour of Britain, one of the stages goes over my English training roads – that’s a big target.”

No ‘Plan’ but a place in a good team with an excellent programme – sounds good to us! With thanks to James; we’ll [make that Vik] will be keeping an eye on James this year and hope to talk to him again, soon.