Monday, September 20, 2021
HomeInterviewsJames Spragg - Getting Back to the Racing

James Spragg – Getting Back to the Racing

-

It seems as if English pro James Spragg’s luck has finally turned. After a crash blighted 2011 and the all too typical broken pledges regarding a contract for 2012, Spragg has finally put pen to paper for Algerian/Belgian Continental team, Geofco Ville D’Alger.

Spragg spent 2011 with Continental team Donckers Koffie which had morphed from the QiN team in 2010 having being reinforced by stronger riders.

The QiN contract was signed for season 2010; with 2nd in Rukkelingen-Loon and 6th in the Memorial Van Coningsloo typical of the results he achieved – as well as having to work hard for the team.

His best result of 2011 for Donckers was 5th in the Heistse Pijl behind Vacansoleil aggressor Bjorne Leukemans – but a broken collarbone as a result of a race crash didn’t help his palmares.

Spragg originally came from the world of mountain bikes before moving on to skinny tyres and taking silver in the 2006 British U23 road race championship.

He turned pro with the Marco Polo team in 2009, winning a stage in the Tour of Thailand before joining QiN.

VeloVeritas caught up with him shortly after the team presentation.

James Spragg
James sports the Geofco Ville D’Alger kit for 2012.

How was riding for Donckers, James?

“It was a better race programme than QiN but there seemed to be a lot more problems – I got along fine with everyone in the organisation, but I could never get to the bottom of the selection criteria.

“You would be told you were riding a race and then, at the eleventh hour you wouldn’t be.

“I was meant to ride Paris – Brussels and the Franco Belge but was left out of both – it’s bad for the morale.”

The original plan was for Donckers to merge with Willems Accent, wasn’t it?

“The Willems Accent team and Donckers came together but it wasn’t really a merger – only two riders from Donckers came across.

“I was reading in an interview our manager gave to the Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper that I was being retained, but then I received the phone call to say that I wasn’t.

“The two guys who went across both had two year contracts and one actually took a sponsor with him.

“Donckers have actually gone in to sponsoring Marco Polo, this year.”

James Spragg
James rode at Kuurne last year.

How many days did you race in 2011?

“I only just hit 50 – and that was with me riding pro kermises under my own steam.

“There have been so many promises that haven’t been kept – I was told I was riding a race in Iran as part of the team’s preparation for the Tour of Belgium but again I was told late in the day that I wasn’t going.

“As it transpired they didn’t go to the race anyway – visa hassles or something like that.

“But then I was told I that I wasn’t going to the Tour of Belgium – I had prepared for it and was fifth in my last race before it was due to start.”

James Spragg
Racing at Westrozebeke on one of the few outings over the season.

Tell us a little about the new team.

“Geofco comes from ex-pro Geoffrey Coupe who has bike shops in Wallonia under the Geofco banner and also does custom clothing.

“Ville D’Alger is obviously the capital city of Algeria and the plan is for the young Algerian athletes to be introduced to European racing through the team.

“I got the ride through contact with Luc Assez of the Flanders bike shop in Oudenaarde, which where I have an apartment in Belgium.”

Did you consider an English team for 2012?

“Yes and no – I was speaking to an English team but so were a lot of other riders.

“I would only have considered riding for an English team with a good continental programme.

“You have to be across the channel to flower properly as a rider – look at Jonathan Tiernan Locke, how he’s blossomed in the European theatre.”

It must have been a depressing winter for you.

“I was starting to think it was the end of the line – I was talking to teams all winter but all you get, is maybe, maybe, maybe.

“There are so many guys on the market – and good guy at that, who can win races.

“At the top end of the scene the riders on big money are unaffected and a lot of guys on the continental scene ride for free, anyway – supported by family or private sponsors.

“It’s the riders ‘in the middle,’ who have a mortgage to pay and/or a family to support who have suffered.

“Despite all of the uncertainty I kept training and my weight is good, although I’m a little behind with my fitness due to the problems with the tooth.”

James Spragg
James finishes the Championship of Flanders for Qin.

Who’s on the team with you?

“The best known riders will be Bert Scheirlinckx who won the Pino Cerami for Landbouwkrediet last year and the former Estonian champion, Janek Tombak.”

How does the programme look?

“Diverse!

“With the Algerian connection we’ll be riding African races like the Tours of Gabon and Morocco – but also a strong Euro programme with races like Nokere Koerse, the Tro Bro Leon and Tour de Finisterre.

“I’ll also ride the pro kermises in Belgium, they start in April.”

And when’s your first race?

“Unfortunately I have an infection in my tooth for which I’ve been taking antibiotics and have to let my dentist monitor it.

“I can’t start racing until that’s cleared up but the team understand the situation and there’s no problem.

“One race I’m really looking forward to is the Pino Cerami; Bert’s really keen to defend his title. (Unfortunately Bert could only manage 27th in the mass charge at the end of this year’s Cerami which was won by Lotto’s Belgian neo pro Gaetan Bille, ed.)

“I’m just looking forward to putting all the hassle behind me and getting back to racing.”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Ian Whitehead – Gone Native in Belgium

I knew that Ian Whitehead had finally gone native when I received the email to inform me that his mail address no longer ended in "dot uk" but in "dot be"-that was the last link with the 'old country' gone. However, English Christmas pudding was consumed on the 25th-so there are still links to the 'old ways,' despite what he says. Ian is one of the men behind Kingsnorth Wheelers, the Belgian Team with an English name that's been home to so many good Commonwealth riders over the years...

Aldo Ino Ilešič – on UHC’s Cosmopolitan Race Schedule

Last year Aldo again played the team role but for United Healthcare, after TT1 decided their future lay with a team where all the athletes were diabetic. Despite all the hard work for others he managed a big wing along the way in the USA’s longest – and one of the most prestigious – criteriums; the US Air Force Clarendon Cup. His 2014 season started in the desert and we thought it would be good to hear ‘from the horse’s mouth’ what the Tours of Qatar and Oman are really like – and how he copes with UHC’s cosmopolitan race schedule.

Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2011

Kuurne Brussels Kuurne 2011 used to be the 'revenge match' for Gent-Gent (Het Nieuwsblad); after poor showings in Saturday's race, QuickStep usually rode on Sunday with great panache to salvage the weekend-they did this with Nuyens in '06, Boonen in '07 & '09 and brilliantly with de Jongh in '08.

A Weekend in the Flatlands; Het Nieuwsblad 2013 and a Cancelled KBK

VeloVeritas and chums were over at the Belgian season opening Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne Brussels Kuurne semi-classics. Unfortunately the latter was cancelled but we still snapped away – here’s a selection of our favourite images from the weekend.

KBC Driedaagse van De Panne – Koksijde 2007 – Day 1

Viktor has barred us from attending any races which are patronised by Graham Baxter Tours, this means that the Tour of Flanders is out. The next-best thing therefore, is Driedaagse van De Panne. It covers many of the roads that Flanders does, the 'Flanders fever' is in full flow but the security is non-existent so you can skek bikes and annoy mechanics to your heart's content.

Erick Rowsell – On To Something Completely New

Erick Rowsell is a name which seems to have been around for a long time; maybe because he was winning British medals five years ago-in 2007 he took bronze in the junior road race and individual pursuit as well as gold in the junior time trial.

At Random

Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007 – Day 5

I've arrived; Matt Gilmore said "hello" to me today here at the Lotto Zesdaagse van Hasselt 2007 - wow! It's the Chocolate Jacques team presentation during the six tonight and Matt is here as part of that gig. "Rambo" is here too - Niko Eeckhout, last June in Antwerp at the Belgian elite champs he was in the break with Boonen; the Tomeke fans had their man as a cert to win.

Billy Warnock Memorial Road Race 2015 – Ben Hetherington Takes the Win

Ben Hetherington of Achieve attacked into the final drag maintaining a slender lead all the way to the line to take a strong victory with Jack Rees also of Achieve winning the bunch sprint.

This Sunday: the Scottish Road Race Championships 2011

Balfron in Stirlingshire will host Vortex RT's promotion of the 2011 Scottish Cycling Road Race Championships on Sunday 22nd May. This year's event will be based on a challenging circuit of approx 11km, which will have a race run on it for the first time. As tradition demands, the ladies go first, and their race will be 67km long, six full laps of the circuit starting at 9:30am.

Le Tour de France 2017 – Rest Day 1: Dordogne. Moules, frites, turbos, and interviews

The deal is that they have four static bikes on rollers hooked up to a magnetic ‘cycle track’ – Scalextrix style - with little ‘Lego figures’ on tiny bikes on the track. The harder you pedal, the faster your little figure goes. Scottish honour was upheld by VeloVeritas with Martin posting fastest heat against Berteld Van de Velde, "the Moules Guy" at time of leaving...

Marcin Bialoblocki – New British Record, 50 Miles in 90 Minutes!

Here at VeloVeritas we like to keep abreast of those competition records, down south and up here in Bonnie Scotland, for example the CTT British 50 mile time trial record, recently broken; how does 50 miles in 90 minutes sound? That’s the ride big Polish ‘chronoman’ Marcin Bialoblocki (NOPINZ) produced: 1:30:31. 

A Wander Through Robert Millar’s Palmarès

Drew Wilson’s ‘Robert Millar Appreciation Group’ has generated a lot of interest on FaceBook, with 1,185 members - by now everyone must know he was Britain’s greatest stage race rider until Team Sky and their marginal gains came along – we had another name for that ‘back in the day’...