We last spoke to Erick Rowsell back at the start of last season, since then he’s produced some notable results – a stage win in the Tour de Normandie; a stage win in Doon Hame and top placings in UCI Euro stage races.
Most recently Rowsell is one of eight Endura riders (and just five Britons) to survive the inevitable cull which occurred when the team merged with German Pro Continental squad, Netapp for season 2013.
Netapp punched above their weight during season 2012 with strong performances all over Europe – notably the Giro, where they refused to lay down to the World Tour squadra.
Rowsell has been around a while, despite the fact that he’s only 22 years-old.
In 2007 he took bronze in the British Junior Road Race Championship and Individual Pursuit Champs as well as gold in the Junior Time Trial Champs.
The following season saw him with strong placings in continental road events; win the junior Tour of Wales and the British Junior Road Race Championship – whilst on the track he took two junior European silver medals, in the individual and team pursuit.
The following two seasons the medal tally slowed down, but in 2011 he was in the GB teams which came third in the team pursuit in the Beijing World Cup and second at the U23 European Championships.
On the road he took third in the U23 Tour of Berlin and 11th in the U23 Het Nieuwsblad.
We asked what his ambitions for 2012 were;
“It’s something completely new, a chance to carry on developing, learn about different races, help my team get results – and it would be nice to get some results myself.”
And get results he did.
His stage in the tough Tour de Normandie was against opposition which included Rabobank Continental, Bretagne Schuller, Lotto-Belisol, Itera-Katusha and Leopard-Trek.
And Doon Hame stages are never easy to win.
However, his season was compromised by a crash in the European U23 Road Race Championship in The Netherlands.
We spoke to him as he prepared for his first Netapp-Endura training camp – we opened by asking him how recovery from his crash was going?
“It’s all OK now and I’m back on the bike.
“I broke my collar bone in five places; the operation to put it right took three hours – the surgeons said that the bone resembled a jigsaw!
“There’s a plate in there, but they’ll take it out, eventually.”
And congratulations on two good wins, Erick – have you surprised yourself?
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised, I knew I had good form and knew I was capable of results like these.”
Tell us about Normandy, stage five.
“It was a really hard day – that suits me, I find I can keep it going in rough conditions.
“It was windy so the pace was full gas from the start.
“There were finishing circuits – which I knew from riding the race in 2011 – and I took my chances with about six kilometres to go and held on by nine seconds.”
And Doon Hame?
“There was a big break went early on, we had a few guys in it, but it split and we were almost getting caught – the gap was down to 20-30 seconds – so I decided to go, taking two guys with me.
“Again the weather was rough and the roads were grippy – so that suited me – and I took the win.”
A little disappointed not to win on GC at Doon Hame?
“A little, but second on GC to a team-mate and friend isn’t so bad.”
And you rode Castilla y Leon.
“Words can’t describe the conditions in that race – it made Doon Hame look like a summer day!
“I’ll never complain about rain in a race again.
“The standard of opposition was very high with World Tour teams there.
“Stage one was very windy, stage two was windy with rain and stage three was rain, hail and snow – proper snow.
“There was a bit of a rider protest because it was almost too dangerous to race – but they sent the snow ploughs out over the roads and the race went on.
“That has to be the hardest race I’ve ridden so far.”
And you did Murcia, earlier in the year.
“We did a lot of work for Jonathan Tiernan Locke on the first stage – it was pretty mountainous and he was third on the day.
“There were only two stages – next day was a time trial and he moved up to finish second overall.”
I noticed you were fifth in the Perfs Pedal Race – you’ll be well marked in races like that?
“I tend to go better in bigger races but it’s hard to try and win a race like that because if you’re from a big team then riders tend to follow you.
“But I don’t find it hard to motivate myself to race in the UK.
“The standard of the Premier Calendars is good – it’s not like I think to myself; “oh no, I don’t want to ride this!”
“The home programme is just as important to the team as the international one.”
Has not having to do track training helped your road legs?
“Definitely, I’ve changed a few things about my training with the focus on the road and that’s been beneficial.
“But I learned so much from my track involvement.”
Have you found it a big jumps from U23 to full blown UCI races?
“Yes, some of the races I rode last year, like Normandy and Brittany and I did ride a lot of U23 races in 2011; when you go to the likes of Murcia and Castilla Leon the level is much higher.
“It’s good for me – it makes me push myself that bit more.
“The main thing I notice is the amount of travelling you have to do – early flights, late flights, there’s just so much travel and transfers.
“It makes getting proper rest all the more important – especially getting home and resting there, that’s precious.”
And is the pro life as you imagined?
“Yeah, it’s pretty much as I imagined it would be.
“I’m really happy with it, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than making my living from being a pro bike rider.”
Have any of the more experienced riders on the squad adopted a mentor’s role?
“Not so much anyone in particular but when you’re away with established riders you learn so much – I’ve been rooming with Russell Downing and he’s just so experienced.”
You came close to another stage win in the Tour de Bretagne.
“Yeah, the parcours there were similar to Normandy; they suit me with the short sharp climbs – I was seventh on GC.
“I clipped off the front for that second place on stage three – but unfortunately not on my own!
“I did the same again on stage five but there were three up the road and I got a fourth place.”
And a strong ride in the Tour Alsace.
“I was pleased with the ride I did in the time trial where I was fourth – I beat most of the GC guys.
“I finished sixth on GC, which I was pleased with too – we did a lot of work to ensure that Jonathan Tiernan Locke won the race overall.
“That was one of my favourite races of the year; the whole team rode so well.
“The way I rode there, along with my stage win in Normandie, were the high lights of my season.”
It’s going to be quite a step up, Continental to Pro Continental?
“It’s obviously a jump, but our programme this year means we rode a lot of races against Pro Continental teams – however, this year we’ll against Pro Tour guys.
“Really, it means there will be no ‘smaller’ races in 2013; most of the programme will be UCI races against Pro Continental and Pro Tour guys.
“My own programme hasn’t been discussed; we’ll do that at our first training camp in Almeria.”
Have you met your new team mates, yet?
“I met some of them at the Endura factory in Livingston when we were there to get clothing organised.
“There are some really good guys on the squad – we have strength for single day races and stage races.
“There are a lot of guys there I can learn from – Jan Barta was second on a Giro stage, won the Rond um Koln and Coppi e Bartali.
“And Leo Konig was the rider that Jonathan Tiernan Locke was away with in the Tour of Britain – and who won stage six.”
Have you got the new toys, yet?
“Not yet, I’m still riding my Giant; we’re on Fuji Altamiras for 2013.”
Have you started work for 2013, yet?
“Yes, I used the first part of the winter to recover but I’ve been doing long hours of base miles, recently.
“I spent time training in Lanzarote with my sister, Jo; that was good – and we hooked up with the Sigma Sport guys out there.”
Do you have a coach for this season?
“At the moment I do my own programmes, but I’ve been getting input from Julian Winn, our team manager at Endura.
“That aspect is something we’ll discuss more at our first camp.”
Where will base camp be for 2013?
“At the moment I’m going to remain based in the UK but will rent places where and when need to, for a month at a time – particularly when I’m training for big races.”
What goals have you set for 2013?
“I haven’t really set myself any.
“The main thing is to fit in with the team and do what management ask me to do – basically try to have a good year.”
Doping, is something you’ve had to confront?
“No, not so far.
“I know what I have to do in order to perform, that aspect is something which has never affected me.
“Off the top of my head, I think I’ve been tested seven times – mostly on UCI stage races.
“I think the Lance Armstrong situation is very bad for the sport in the short term – but long term it allows us to move on.”