“James Spragg,” now there’s a name which hasn’t appeared in our pages for a while – but he’s back in harness and doing nicely thank you with some solid performances.
We first came across James back in 2010 when he rode for the Qin Cycling Team but season 2009 had seen him with Marco Polo riding a largely Asian programme.
His Qin days saw him far from overawed by the tough Belgian/Northern France school of racing and for 2011 he stayed with Qin in it’s new incarnation as Donckers Koffie producing another season of solid results in races like Le Samyn and Stad Zottegem.
Season 2012 saw ‘more of the same’ but unfortunately he hadn’t chosen the best team, riding for the ‘promised much but delivered little’ setup which was Geofco-Ville d’Alger with a major African programme failing to materialise.
James disappeared from our radar in 2013 but was back with a stage win in the Tour de la Guyane Francaise last year and the odd Euro result for Team Eurasia.
With Continental Team, Champion System for 2015 however he’s back in the groove with some good results – like 10th on GC in the recent Baltic Chain stage race in Estonia.
High-time we ‘had a word’ we decided.
What happened to 2013, young man?
“The last three months of 2012 weren’t the best with sickness affecting me but I’d agreed a contract with a new team for 2013 and was looking forward to it – a new programme with different races.
“I was to put pen to paper at the last race of 2012 but they flicked me, they’d signed someone else so there was no ride; I took the summer off and rode ‘cross in the winter.”
“That ride came about through a Japanese guy who raced and lived in Belgium, he wanted someone to guide his team of young Japanese riders – whose ability was better that their results suggest – and I wanted to prep for the ‘cross season so it worked well with me showing the young Jap guys the ropes.”
And a stage win in Guyane Francaise?
“That was a nine day stage race; I didn’t know anything about Guyane other than it’s where the European Space Programme is based – but it turned out to be a bit like Cuba and it’s really expensive, like four Euros for a coffee.
“The capital is Cayenne and all the roads seem to lead through the rain forest to where the space programme is based and then back again – but I did get a stage win, yes.”
And back in full effect for 2015?
“Yeah, I met Franky Van Haesebroucke in Guyane and he told me he was setting up a team for 2015 and would like me aboard in a similar role to the one I had with Eurasia.”
We’ve seen you’ve been ‘up there’ in the kermises.
“I’ve had some top ten’s but it takes a little getting back into not having raced properly in 2014.
“I started with the Fleche du Sud in Luxembourg and got round that OK and I’ve had some decent finishes in UCI 1.1 races like Plumelec-Morbihan – where I was in the front group – and the Boucles de L’Aulne-Chateaulin.”
Your Baltic Chain result was strong.
“Yes; 10th on GC.
“I was ninth on stage one, I could have finished higher but I lost my rear gear mech.
“It was a funny race, Stage One was very windy with cross/tail winds which whittled it down but the next two days there was no wind and it became too easy for the next two stages with the race pretty much decided on time bonuses where I was missing out with fifth and sixth places.”‘
And top 10 in the Stan Ockers at Borsbeek.
“That was a hard race with cobbles and cross winds, I was away with the Topsport guys – I was 11th the day before so going well – Kenny Dehaes (Lotto) and Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty) got away with two laps to go and finished one-two.
“I was ninth but felt that I lacked a little bit of racing in the end.”
Just off the podium in the UCi 1.2 GP Ville de la Perenchies.
“That’s a nice race, I like it, there’s a big cobbled section of about two kilometres; in training I hate cobbles but I love them in a race situation.
“I was away with three Verandas Willems guys and two Rabobank Development riders – they were doing one/two attacks and eventually three got away with Dimitri Claeys winning for Verandas Willems with me taking fourth.
“I’ve been going pretty well all year and riding decent races with my only disappointment being outside the time limit in the Ronde de L’Oise where my asthma played up – but apart from that I’ve been enjoying my racing.”
Where’s base camp?
“Oudenaarde, that’s four-and-a-half years now.
“I’m much better known in Belgium than I am in the UK; I mean, if I appear at a big race in Belgium, people know who I am but in the UK no one knows me.”
“There’s no connection to the former Pro Continental team of that name; we have some young Kiwis, a couple of Japanese guys, some Belgians with the team registered in New Zealand.”
What about your ‘cross adventures?
“My girlfriend, Margriet Kloppenburg races ‘cross too and we have our own team, “inthemud.cx” with BMC bikes as one of our sponsors.
“We ride races in Switzerland, where the sport is growing again, Belgium and France – and I ride some of the Super Prestige and BPost Bank Trofee races – but not the World Cups; the federation has to select you for them and you get no support from them in that respect.
“I have my first ‘cross on September 13th but I also have road commitments up to October 15th.”
And you’re still coaching with Dan Fleeman and Stevie Gallagher at Dig Deep?
“Yeah, that’s three-and-a-half years now.
“I coach too for UCI Matrix Fitness Pro Cycling Team, Laura Trott is one of their riders.”
What’s still ‘to do’ for James Spragg?
“I’d like to compete at a higher level; I have a lot of experience now with Continental teams riding at a good level.
“I think my problem is that I’m too much of an all rounder, solid across the board but don’t have a speciality; I can handle it flat and fast in the Netherlands but I’m just as at home in the French Alpes.
“That said, I think I’m capable of racing at Pro Continental level.
“One of our DS’s approached me half way through the season and told me that he hadn’t thought I was worth a place on the team but as the season has gone on he’s realised my worth and apologised for doubting me.
“My results maybe don’t reflect it but I can handle a UCI 1.1 in Belgium, France or The Netherlands – I do my job.”
With thanks to James and wishing him ‘all the best’ for the forthcoming ‘cross season.