He’s another “Vik find.”
Australia’s Mr Sam Spokes, he had a good season in Belgium last year and this year he’s with Etixx-Ihned Cycling Team – the QuickStep U23 feeder team.
Last week he pulled off his best win in the four stage Vysočina Tour in the Czech Republic and as is our way, we “had a word.”
Where are you based for 2013, still in Belgium, Sam?
“This year I have made the move down south to Lucca, Italy to try and get a bit more mountains to train on and for sun shine!”
Tell us about Etixx-Ihned Cycling Team please – it’s Czech registered but the QuickStep ‘feeder’ team?
“Yes Etixx-Ihned is the new feeder team of OPQS, it’s the first year and the team is based out of the Czech Republic and has Czech staff.”
Congratulations on the win; give us the low down on the Vysocina Tour, please – where, how many stages, parcours …
“The Vysocina tour was about two hours out of Prague; it’s a four stage tour and one of Czech oldest running stage races – the parcours where quite hard with a lot of short steep climbs and not a lot of flat roads.”
You won stage one…
“Yes, Stage one was a short and furious stage, riding out to a circuit which was 4.5 km up a climb and then 4.5 kms straight back down, this left little time for recovery.
“I managed to put myself in the break and then with 30 kms remaining was joined by another small group.
“One the way back there was a climb with five K to go and I was able to launch an attack over the top and then extend my lead on the drop down to the finish.”
And you won the GC – what was the standard of opposition like?
“After stage one, the team rode like champions to keep the race under control and me protected, the competition was a good level with a few other continental teams and then plenty of Eastern European team; they made me and the team fight until the end to secure the GC win.”
What are you other palmares for 2013?
“This year I have been lucky enough to get some amazing races in all over Europe, my other results include; second place in the Czech cycling tour TTT, sixth Stage Five Thuringen Rundfuhrt, ninth in Stage Two Vuelta ao Alentejo and ninth Stage Two Paris-Arras.
“But one of my high lights was winning the KOM, sprint jersey and combine jersey at Tro Bro Leon.”
Tell us about Tro Bro Leon.
“Tro Bro Leon was a highlight of my season so far, the race is somewhat like Paris-Roubaix but instead of cobbles it’s small farm roads with rocks mud and lots of holes.
“It’s known as the ‘mini hell of the north.’
“I managed to get into the break, which was 22 men strong and we set up a good a gap on the peloton, but after 60kms I was run over from behind by the race official’s car, lucky I was able to continue and rejoin the front group, I then went on to taking the KOM, sprint and combine Jersey.
“In the final I had to change wheels at a bad time and was unable to go with the winning moves and had to settle for 33rd on the day, but to be able to ride in such big crowds and stand on the podium was a big thrill for me.”
Have you raced much in Belgium?
“This year I’ve only raced once in Belgium; we would have liked to do more as a team there but in the early part of the season we missed a few invitations because of the UCI rule which stopped us and EFC Omega Pharma QuickStep racing together – this rule has been since dropped though.”
How much does QuickStep management have to do with the team?
“OPQS have a lot to do with our team; our management is in regular communication with the team.
“It was Patrick Lefevere, who got the team going and he is a big believer in working with us towards making the jump to the professional team.
“Having someone with so much experience behind you is a big motivation and I think to be able to get to ride under his guidance is big bonus for our team.”
I see Etixx’s Julian Alaphilippe will be riding stagiaire with the QuickStep for the end of the year.
“Julian has had an amazing year so far and he has been rewarded with a contract for next year with the professional team – this shows that they are committed to developing and then taking us to the next level.”
How’s your programme from now to the end of the year?
“The next month there are a few one day races for me, but with the Tour de l’Avenir and world championships on the way, and such a strong team the problem that arises is that most riders will be fulfilling national team duties and this can make the team program not as strong as the first part of the season – it’s a bit of a waiting game to see who will be selected and what races we will have.”
The Worlds; I remember last year that you were disappointed not to make the Aussie U 23 team – what about this year?
“Last year I was disappointed not to go to the Worlds but also happy to get a ride in the Tour de l’Avenir.
“As for this year we will have to wait and see if the Australian selectors think I ready to take it on; personally I think Worlds is suited for my abilities and this year I’m climbing 10 times better than last year.
“But again it’s a bit of a waiting game – I’m training and preparing for both l’Avenir and Worlds as if I’ll be riding, so if I do get the call up I will be ready to go.”
Are you happy with how you’ve progressed in 2013?
“I’m quite happy with my progress this year, I think there are a few areas I need to improve like time trialling and sprinting but the work I have done on my climbing has really showed and I hope I can capitalise with some more results in the remain part of the season.”
When do you head home to Oz for the winter?
“I will most likely head home around the start of October, but once again it really depends on what races I’m selected for and what races the team has.”
What’s the game plan for 2014 – back with the same team?
“2014 will be my last year in the under 23, so I’m looking to have a big year.
“At this stage I’m really happy with the team so I see no reason to change, the only thing that would make me move team would be if the opportunity came to turn pro.”
Finally as a young man coming up through the sport; your take on the French Senate report – Zabel, Stuey …
“To tell the truth I’m a bit sick of all this old doping stuff being brought back up, it was 15 years ago and all it’s doing is hurting the riders of today and the sport we all love.
“I think it’s sad that this has come out because like most young Australians, Stuey was someone I looked up to.
“But if it had happened pre-Armstrong scandal it would hurt a lot more, it’s like now where just waiting for more names to be thrown into the spotlight, and I think the attention should be on the current generation and the things that are being achieved now.
“It’s time to turn a new page on cycling and move on with the new clean generation and enjoy the sport for what it is; beautiful…”