Q & A: Sam Watson (GB Under 23 Academy)

After spending January & February winning events in the Manchester Premier Track League, Sam Watson upped a gear for the road season in 2019 and won the Belgium Junior classic, Guido Reybrouck Classic, was 3rd in the Junior Gent Wevelgem, won the Junior CiCLE Classic & there was much more!

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Q & A: Sam Watson (GB Under 23 Academy)

Whilst the stream of riders heading to the European peloton shows the strength of the riders in Britain these days, more are on the pathway to the European peloton. One of them may well be Sam Watson who’s palmeres from 2019 alone is pretty damn special.

After spending January & February winning events in the Manchester Premier Track League, Sam Watson upped a gear for the road season in 2019 and won the Belgium Junior classic, Guido Reybrouck Classic, was 3rd in the Junior Gent Wevelgem, won the Junior CiCLE Classic & there was much more!

He was part of the GB team which won the European Junior Men’s Team Pursuit, podiumed in the Keizer Der Juniores stage race, was second on two stages and won another in the Junior Tour of Wales and was second overall in the Trophee Centre Morbihan Nations Cup stage race. And to show he can race with the seniors, he was 4th in a round of the Tour Series at Birkenhead. Not bad eh!

Sam is one of a number of talented riders to make the Great Britain Academy in 2020 and we asked him a few questions ….

– Getting a spot on the GB Academy – was that a major goal?
Sam: Getting a spot on Academy was definitely a goal as I knew this was the best place to be as an Under 23 for me. Both the support you get and the environment made it really attractive. It’s something I didn’t consciously think about throughout the season though, as in I wasn’t racing to get a spot. I was thinking more about getting results and with those results hopefully there would be a spot for me on the academy.

Photo: https://twitter.com/samuel_wats0n

– Who would you like to thank for helping you achieve getting a place on the academy?
Sam: I would definitely like to thank my parents of course for financially supporting me and being really supportive since I started racing. I’d also like to thank Sonja and Giles for getting me into cycling and also supporting me massively from being very young to running the team I was in.
Also Neil and Nicky for their support as a first year junior after something like 16 years of helping many youth and junior riders like me. And Paul Milnes bike shop for giving me quality bikes and their endless help throughout two years! And also Stuart Blunt my coach who I don’t think could have done a better job.

Sam (right)  on the podium with Lewis Askey in Gent Wevelgem. Photo: https://twitter.com/samuel_wats0n

– How do you see your time on the academy going race wise – concentrating on road or road and track?
Sam: We will be doing a lot of track throughout winter whilst doing road and then a lot of road in the summer whilst touching on the track. I will have goals on the road and the track so I guess I will be focusing on both, which is possible.

– How has life change going from the team with Giles to the Academy? Do the coaches keep you busy all the week?
Sam: It’s quite different living away from home now. I didn’t quite appreciate how much my mum did for me at home ;) I’m a full time athlete now so I guess I am a bit more busy riding now with the added volume of training and time in the gym but at the same time we almost have more time to chill out as it’s near enough all we do.

– When I was with GB, the Academy was more than just riding a bike – is that the same now and what other things do they have you doing?
Sam: Yes it’s still the same. We have workshops learning useful stuff such as nutrition and so on. We are also all doing a level 1 coaching course which could be a good skill to have one day.

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– You raced a lot of big events as a junior, are you hoping to do the same as an Under 23 in 2020?
Sam: Yes, of course. I’ve done two world championships and one European championship already and with the calendar we have planned, it includes that level of racing throughout the year, such as nations cups.

– You have had success as a junior in Belgium – are they races they suit you?
Sam: It’s hard to tell as I’m still young but I do favour the classic style races. I like a hard day out on the bike without any mountains! The Belgium races are raced pretty hard all day, not too hilly, but the wind, cobbles and bergs make the race. That’s what I seem to like.

– Being from Yorkshire, was riding a home worlds something that just can’t be topped?
Sam: The home worlds in Yorkshire was just amazing. A race I will never forget as potentially it could be a once in a lifetime experience racing on the exact roads I’ve always ridden on. The support out on the roads was definitely the highlight. It’s not something you get every race!

– Looking back at the Worlds race in Yorkshire, did you go into that confident?
Sam: My world ranking (5th in Pro Cycling Stats) obviously gave me a bit of confidence that I was alright but I always went into every race with the right frame of mind. I never looked at other riders and got intimidated because you have to race with confidence, believing you can win before and during the race. Racing abroad it’s easy to look at other nations and riders and think woah they look big and strong but I never seemed to do that.

– Besides the Yorkshire Worlds, what were the highlights of the 2019 season for you?
Sam: My other highlights are definitely Guido Reybrouk as that was my first fairly big win abroad which going into that race that’s all I wanted. Then Euros Team Pursuit as that’s something so rewarding for us as that’s the hard work not many people see. We had one opportunity from basically two years of training team pursuit and we pulled it off.

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– What was the toughest race in 2019 and why outside of the worlds?
Sam: The toughest race this year was probably LVM Saarland Trofeo Nations cup stage race. It’s a super hilly race and the first day I got a battering just holding on all day on my limit. I thought I’m not having this, so next day rode across to the break which then split to pieces and I got back like two minutes to get me like 6th on GC. I remember riding up the final climb thinking my legs could cramp any minute.

– Was there one thing you learned in 2019 that stands out?
Sam: One thing I learnt in 2019 was you can’t always be going well! There was one period in the season where every race I did I just felt rubbish coming back from my crash at Roubaix. I think it’s important not to panic and just be patient doing what you were doing before.

One of Sam’s highlights – team pursuit win at the Euros – Photo: https://twitter.com/samuel_wats0n

– Has the serious training begun already this winter in the academy?
Sam: We are already racing on the track right now so yeah I guess the ‘serious’ training has started. A lot of it is track focused at the moment, but after all the track racing is finished we’re having a rest before the training for the road season starts out in Girona.
All our training is set day to day exactly what we are doing. 90% of the time we are all doing this together as a group. Our coaches are Ben Greenwood and Matt Brammeier so yeah we are coached within the academy. My junior academy coach was Stuart Blunt.

– Is there an effort in training that you dread having to do?
Sam: There’s not really a specific effort I dread in training. You just know some days are going to be hard which you then just get on with. I enjoy riding my bike so it’s never that bad even when your are suffering as it’s quite rewarding as you know hopefully it will just make you better.

Finally, what races in 2020 are ones you really want to work towards being part of.
Sam: I’m looking forward to get stuck into the early season classics. Potentially track euros too then obviously Baby Giro and Tour de l’Avenir where the team had a lot of success last year.

Thanks to Sam for the insight into his racing in 2019 and looking ahead to 2020 

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