Saturday, June 19, 2021
HomeInterviewsSam Watson - Seventh in the GP della Liberazione

Sam Watson – Seventh in the GP della Liberazione

"I’m someone who can do a bit of everything without being a bunch sprinter or a pure climber."

-

VeloVeritas spoke recently to Paul Double after his excellent podium finish in the Giro di Romagna – but he’s not the only Englishman going well in Bella Italia, arguably the toughest u23 school on the planet. The 2021 GP della Liberazione, won by 22 year-old, Michele Gazzoli of the Colpack Ballan squad – few top u23 races in Italy don’t have a Colpack man on the podium – saw ‘Brit’ Sam Watson in seventh spot behind the Italian.

‘He’d be a good lad to catch up with,’ we thought to ourselves…

Sam Watson
Sam Watson loves racing in Italy. Photo©supplied

How did you get into cycling, Sam?

“I’ve always enjoyed riding a bike and playing about on it, but I got into cycling properly through the Pidcock family. 

“I lived around the corner and went to the same school as Joe and Tom since nursery. 

“Around 10 years old, I was a swimmer at the time, they said I should do a Go-Ride session with them which was run by Chris Young. 

“I absolutely loved it and they started taking me to basically everywhere they went to do with cycling. 

“I still did other sports but gradually stopped those and started taking cycling more seriously.”   

So, you’re a contemporary of Tom Pidcock, do you still keep in touch?

“Yes, I’m good friends with Tom and I’d say I’m close to his family too. 

“I’ve spent a lot of time at his house when I was younger playing about on bikes, scooters, etc.; anything with wheels, really.

“It’s rare we are in the same place at the same time now, but when we are we see each other. 

“We are two lads into the same things, so yes I’m still in contact.” 

Sam Watson
Sam Watson (2nd in line) on the cobbles in Paris-Roubaix Juniors. Photo©supplied

You were eighth in the junior Paris-Roubaix in 2018, tell us about that

“I was a first year junior and I hadn’t raced abroad much at all at this point. 

“I won the sprint out of the remaining main group and for me that felt like a win. 

“Then I came into the track centre and found out that my team mate Lewis Askey had won, that was pretty special. 

“Stuart Blunt, our junior academy coach, obviously knew what to say to us before the race with GB also winning the year before with Tom Pidcock. 

“It’s a dream to win the pro race one day.” 

Season 2019 was a great one for you; what would you class as the highlights?

“To be honest the start of 2019 was the highlight for me. 

“Like you said, I came eighth at Roubaix in 2018 but never really won a race outside the UK. 

“I wanted to start 2019 with a ‘bang’ and prove I could do that. 

“I won my first race abroad, the Guido Reybrouck Classic in Belgium, then the following week I came third at Gent Wevelgem behind Quinn Simmons, who went on to win the Worlds.  

“I was so happy that everything paid off; then obviously finishing the season with a home Worlds was class.” 

Sam Watson
Sam Watson (leading) during the 2019 World Championships. Photo©supplied

The Yorkshire Worlds, your memories?

“This race was in my mind all year, really motivating me. 

“I remember coming into Harrogate and that’s when it really hit how good the crowds were. 

“I was pretty disappointed not to do as well as I hoped for, whatever the reason, but I almost forgot about that at the time. 

“The fact I was riding a home Worlds on the roads I’ve always trained on was pretty special.” 

Did you get much racing in last year, with lockdown?

“I raced the Dorpenomloop Ruchpen UCI race right at the start of the year but then, a week later got sent home from Belgium because Covid was worsening. 

“At the time I didn’t really know too much about it so was naive and thought we would be back out racing in a week’s time. 

“Little did I know I’d only do one more race at the back end of the season, the European Champs. 

“So not really – I had two race days.” 

Sam Watson
Sam Watson has had few U23 Classics to compete in over the last two seasons. Photo©supplied

How did you handle lockdown?

“In the first lockdown I snapped my collarbone into three pieces six weeks before L’Avenir which was still on at the time. 

“I worked extremely hard to get back for that, but the race cancelled not long before it was due to take place. 

“This winter I had a knee injury which took about three months to fix on and off the bike. 

“Both of these misfortunes gave me something to aim for I guess. 

“But in-between all that I’ve just thought that there’s no point in wasting this time which I may never get again, so I just really focussed on making myself a better athlete. 

“I guess the hard work has paid off because I believe I’m better than I’ve ever been before.” 

Sam Watson
Sam Watson loved racing around home roads at the 2019 Worlds in Yorkshire. Photo©Sean Rowe

Which of the BC programs are you on and where are you based?

“The U23 Endurance Academy so we do both road and track. 

“For me mainly the track is in the winter and road in the summer. 

“I am based in Manchester not far away from the Peak District, so it’s pretty good for riding. 

“It’s just a shame about the weather which I guess you could say toughens you up a bit!” 

That top 10 in the GP della Liberazione, a nice result.

“Yes, although at the time I was a bit disappointed I didn’t win, but looking back I’m actually happy with seventh. 

“It’s been a long time of no racing and just training so to be up there going for the win already in my second race this season is a positive I guess. 

“I lacked a little bit in the final 200 metres but that should come with more racing.” 

Sam Watson
Sam Watson (blue shorts), 7th in the 2021 GP della Liberazione. Photo©supplied

How would you describe yourself as a bike rider?

“I’d say I’m someone who can do a bit of everything without being a bunch sprinter or a pure climber. 

“I wouldn’t limit myself to one type of race.” 

What’s your favourite kind of race?

“I’ve always liked racing the classics as a junior. 

“There’s been no classics for u23’s the last two years due to Covid, so I guess I’d just say a hard race that’s not mountainous.” 

Sam Watson
Sam Watson (GB) racing in Italy earlier this year. Photo©Valentina Barzi

Is there any rider in particular you admire and would like to emulate?

“I wouldn’t say there’s just one guy I look up and want to emulate. 

“At the moment there are two generations of British riders to be inspired by. 

“I think with some of these guys only being around three years older, doing what they are doing really makes you believe it’s possible that you can be there. 

“They have set the bar high but I guess that’s more inspiring and motivating.” 

You’ve had some success on the track, tell us about that; and is it a direction you would like to follow?

“Yeah I guess, I’ve won two national titles on the boards and a European title as a junior; that was the team pursuit with Alfie George, Max Rushby and Leo Hayter in 2019. 

“I enjoy racing the track, but I’m not sure I’m quite built for team pursuit anymore with the speeds they’re going. 

“It’s still certainly good training through the winter, getting you quicker and stronger, but I want my future to be on the road long term.” 

Sam Watson
Sam Watson (2nd r) and team mates celebrate winning the Junior European Team Pursuit Championship. Photo©supplied

Your ambitions for 2021?

“This is practically my first U23 season of racing and even then the racing is limited to what’s left of the second half of the season. 

“My legs were good in Italy so I’d like to do the two biggest races of the year, l’Avenir and the World Champs. 

“For now I just need to race as much as possible to learn and of course I’d like to try and get the hands up in the air.” 

If you could win just one race? 

“I think that would have to be Roubaix if I had to pick just one!”

Sam Watson
Sam Watson (l) sprinting on the famous Roubaix track. Photo©Katrien Quartier
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

Paolo Bettini – World Road Champion

Some times it's difficult to get an interview, especially if your target is World Road Race Champion, Paolo Bettini. He has a Quick Step entourage with him and he's testing his new Specialized road bike for 2007. But us VeloVeritas guys are persistent, and after stalking him all afternoon I was granted just five minutes of his precious time.

The Colin Sturgess Story – Part Two

We left Colin Sturgess in Part One telling us about his time as a teenager racing in the Commonwealth Games and in the Olympics, and turning pro for the Belgian team ADR.

Iljo Keisse – Putting the Worst Time of His Life Behind Him

The cheer from the cabin next door to ours - below the Grenoble velodrome - told us that the result Flanders had been holding it's breath for, had arrived. Belgium's number one Six Day man, Iljo Keisse's 'positif' in the 2008 Gent six day race has been dismissed on the grounds of 'insufficient evidence.' "Cathine was not found in the 'B' sample and HCT was there in quantities so small as to have no effect on performance."

Peter Murphy – the Kingsnorth Wheelers; Belgian Kermis Kings

The World Tour, the pinnacle; but unless you're a super talent nurtured from your junior years a la Taylor Phinney or Bradley Wiggins, how do you take the first step up the mountain where only the Super Teams can breathe the rarefied air? Well, you could do a lot worse that speak to a certain Peter Murphy - Jack Bauer did and the rest is history. Peter is one of the men behind Kingsnorth Wheelers - the Flandrian team with the English name.

David Harmon – “The Rotterdam Six has rekindled my enthusiasm for the sport”

The phone rings – it’s Viktor, VeloVeritas’ resident sage, critic and general cycling Nostradamus. I steel myself; ‘Happy New Year’ I say. ‘Aye, Happy New Year to you, too – here, have you been watching the live stream from Rotterdam, it’s brilliant!’ and that’s how I came to be speaking to Mr. David Harmon...

Star of the Future: Calum Anderton – The GHS ’10’ Winner’s Move to Belgium

The GHS ‘10’ – as in George Herbert Stancer (OBE, 1878 – 1962), racer, journalist, cycling administrator and the man who lends his name to the British juvenile ten mile championship. Stancer was a champion of the race against the watch and the event was first organised to honour his memory and encourage youngsters to ride in time trials. On many occasions the winner has gone on to win the junior BBAR and then ...