Saturday, July 24, 2021
HomeInterviewsJames Spragg - "this year has just been so much hassle"

James Spragg – “this year has just been so much hassle”


It was back in April when we last spoke to ‘Our Man in Oudenaarde,’ we said; ‘It seems as if English pro James Spragg’s luck has finally turned.’

It looks as if we got that wrong – it’s been another frustrating season for Spragg, one of British Cycling’s ‘forgotten men.’

You’re either on British Cycling’s radar, or you’re not.

After a crash blighted 2011 and the all too typical broken pledges regarding a contract for 2012, Spragg finally put pen to paper for Algerian/Belgian Continental team, Geofco Ville D’Alger.

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

James Spragg
James finishes the Championship of Flanders a couple of years ago.

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.

James Spragg
James in action in Belgium.

Back in April, Spragg had dental problems, we opened by asking if these had been sorted out;

“It’s all sorted – it took a while, there was root canal work and nasty stuff like that…”

How has Geofco-Ville d’Alger been?

“A wee bit of a shambles, to be honest.

“The organisation was good for the first month, but then it fell away.

“It wasn’t a total shambles; we rode some nice races like Veenendal-Veenendal, The Dutch Food Valley Classic.

“But when my frame broke with six weeks of the season to go, they wouldn’t give me another.

“I guess you get problems with new teams…”

Are you with them for 2013?

“No, I have nothing lined up for next season.

“Originally they said they wanted me for 2013 but then they said they’d given my place top someone else. I was talking to another team who said they wanted me; the owner said he’d meet me at my next race to; ‘make an offer,’

“But he didn’t show up and then didn’t respond to emails, calls or texts.

“At my last race with Geofco the DS told me that I couldn’t take my bike home because they’d heard I’d signed for someone else – which of course wasn’t true.

“When I got home, there was an email from the team’s other DS saying that he wanted me to race in France, the next day!

“It doesn’t look like I’ll be racing on the road, next year – this year has just been so much hassle.

“It’s tough enough without having to fight against your own team.”

James Spragg
James will be in different kit this season, but we don’t know yet which one.

How were the palmares in 2012?

“Not great, it wasn’t a great season – I missed so much time with the dental problems and didn’t get stated until April. I could get top 20 in an UCI 1.2 but that was it.

“The other problem was that the team couldn’t get rides in most of the Top Competition races in Belgium because it was registered in Algeria. My last race was Putte Kapellen; I got round fine, but bunch sprints aren’t really my thing.

“At the level I’m racing at in Belgium it’s either tightly controlled and there’s a bunch sprint or it’s very selective.Guys like Gilbert turn up, the best guys in the world but even they’re up against it with the sprint trains. The Pro Tour guys start so early at Qatar and the like and are in such good shape at the start of the season.

“I was at the start of the Samyn – that was my second race – it was Bobby Traksel’s 22nd start of the season. I only managed 40-odd race days – of those, only 10 or 12 were road races, the rest were kermises.”

Didn’t the ‘African programme’ materialise?

“I thought we were going to ride a number of Tours in Africa, but the team only rode the Tour of Morocco – and that was when I was out with the dental hassles.

“But that was it; I never even saw the six Algerian guys in the team.”

You’re coaching now, though – for Dan Fleeman’s Forme Coaching?

“Yes, it’s really good; I’ve picked up clients, some of whom are full time riders.

“I’m a qualified coach but I can pass on my experiences as a pro, and also explain to riders why they’re doing the programmes that they are.”

And you’re spending the winter in Flanders?

“I was here last winter, too.

“My girlfriend is Danish, Margriet Kloppenburg; she rides cyclo-cross for BMC Concept Store – World Cups and Super Prestige.

“I’m at the races with here, helping with the bikes.”

James Spragg
James helps Margriet with a bike change.

Can Sven Nys win the Worlds, this season?

“I don’t know, I don’t see much of the men’s races, us pit guys leave after the ladies’ race.

“You can see that at some of the events the organisers don’t really want ladies – the Elite men are on at 15:00 and they put the girls on at 10:00.”

And, I have to ask – Lance?

“When it all came out, it was what we expected.

“But what really pissed me off is the guys like Danielson and Leipheimer who stole rides from clean guys – it’s shocking.

“And now we have Danielson trying to profit on the back of his indiscretion – what about the riders who gave up at 18 years of age because they weren’t kitted and couldn’t break in?”

Do you have a ‘Plan B’ for 2013?

“I don’t know, it’s up in the air – I’ve been out on the bike with my girlfriend, but not doing as much as I normally would. I might go back to the mountain bike.

“Cyclo-cross is an option, but there’s so much skill to learn – you’re starting right back at the bottom of the ladder, again.

“One of the problems in Belgium just now – and even the locals are talking about it – is guys paying to get rides with teams.

“Maybe a rich relative or businessman friend pays their salary and even puts some money into the team – but it serves to devalue everyone and makes riders worthless . . .

It’s not all ice cream and fairies in the Flatlands.

We’ll keep you abreast of which direction James takes in 2013, as the year progresses.

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

Toby Perry – Four Wins in Spain, and Counting…

When Jos Ryan of the David Rayner Fund gets in touch then we know it’s not just to ask how we are. ‘Have you been keeping up with our rider, Toby Perry’s performances in Spain, he’s just had his second win?’ Fortunately for us, we could reply in the affirmative.

Ben Swift – Team Ineos Stalwart is National Road Champion 2019

Ben Swift launched a monster kick, leaving Scot, John Archibald to the bronze then zooming past teammate Ian Stannard on his blindside in the streets of Norwich to arrive at the line in solitary splendour and unleash a mighty roar of triumph and relief. We caught up with him at his Isle of Man home on the Tuesday after his win...

Gary Coltman – ‘Head of Performance’ with Scottish Cycling

With the recent appointment of Gary Coltman as Head of Performance at Scottish Cycling, VeloVeritas thought it would be interesting to learn about the man and his plans – here’s what he had to say to us:

Wayne Bennington – Looking back at his Pro Teams; System-U and ‘Z’

With all the recent exposure Philippa York has had we recently came upon a mention of a man who trained and raced with York in his days as Robert Millar. Wayne Bennington is the man; he rode for Systeme-U and ‘Z’ – both big players in the day who didn’t dispense contracts to just ‘any’ rider. We spoke to Wayne a year or two ago but this piece has never before run on Velo Veritas, here’s his story.

Scott Thwaites – “My 2014 goal is that elusive first Pro win”

The last time we spoke to NetApp-Endura’s Scott Thwaites was in the spring of 2013, just after he’d finished in fifth place in the Handzame Classic and seventh spot in le Samyn – both hard races in brutal conditions. For 2014 he’s already back in the groove again with a podium place on stage one of the Three Days of West Flanders.

Dave Akam – “With Gis I was chucked straight into two Grand Tours!”

Dave Akam is best remembered as the first man to crack the 30 mph barrier for a 10 mile time trial, recording 19:50 on the Portsmouth Road in 1980 in the colours of the Gemini BC. But there’s a wee bit more to the man than that, like wins in the British Pursuit Championship, the amateur Trofeo Baracchi in Italy; French chrono classics the Grand Prix de France and Chrono de Herbiers, not to mention the prestigious GP Timmermans time trial in the Netherlands and a shed load of road wins in France and The Netherlands.

At Random

The AIGCP complain to the Giro organisers

The AIGCP (Association Internationnale des Groupes Cyclistes Professionnels), headed by Patrick Lefevere, formally complained to the Giro organisers today, regarding the hassle that pretty much everyone had in getting away from Sardinia, as Ed aluded to in his diary.

The Aitana today…

Today the 204.7km eighth stage from Azlira to Alto de Aitana tackles seven rated climbs before the finish-line summit at the Aitana climb, rated 'especial' in the Vuelta as a stage ending atop a climb.

Volta a Portugal 2012 – Stage Seven: Gouveia-Sabugal

185.3 km, 2520m ascent today in the La Volta a Portugal 2012. The first stage after the rest day is a bit tough. The rest day can do more harm than good and I for one like to just keep on going, to get it over and done with.

Raymond Delisle

Here at VeloVeritas we were saddened to hear of the recent loss of one of the names from our youth. Former French professional champion and Tour de France ace Raymond Delisle died recently at the age of 70. One of those super cool Peugeot riders from the late 60's and early 70's with names like Pingeon, Thevenet, Danguillaume, Ovion - and Delisle, they even sounded classy.

Il Giro d’Italia 2014 – Stage 10; Modela – Salsomaggiore, 184 km. Third for Nacer Bouhanni

Bouhanni is impressive; he was on the limit to get over the little rise on the run in – where Sky did a lot of damage to a lot of people, unfortunately including their own sprinter, Ben Swift who just scraped in to the top ten – but the wiry French fast man was right where he had to be for the finale.

Le Tour de France 2012 – Stage 10: Mâcon – Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, 194 km.

Bonjour! Today was our first outing on the Tour parcours, in the mountains it’s sometimes difficult to get on to race route, because just as in the Highlands of Scotland, there aren’t that many roads. We set the satnav for Ambronay, which was 73 kilometres into the stage but within easy reach of the autoroute and guided by Brian Blessed’s foghorn voice slipped along a network of tiny roads into the village, after we’d paid our last toll charge.