Interview: Joe Sutton heading to France

Heading to France in 2021 to race for a DN1 French team with a link to Warren Barguil is Vitus Pro  Cycling p/b Brother UK rider Joe Sutton – We chat …

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Interview: Joe Sutton heading to France

Vitus Pro Cycling p/b Brother UK rider in 2020, Joe Sutton, took the step up to a UCI team for the 2020 season which was a big goal for him. “When I was a first year Under 23, I set out with the ambition of reaching a professional team, which I have now achieved” he said in an interview at the end of 2019.

Sadly, for Joe and a lot of other riders, the pandemic ruined his team’s big plans for the year and so, with Vitus Pro Cycling folding at the end of the year, Joe is heading to Brittany in France and a DN1 team called WB Fybolia Locminé.

“It’s pretty cool” says Joe. “It is something my coach has wanted me to do for a few seasons. I did spend two years in Belgium but he wanted me to head to France as he thought the terrain there would suit me better. I am really looking forward to it. Brittany is lumpy and I have raced there before and they race like they do in Belgium”.

“The parcour is much more attrittional though than racing around a church (Belgium) so I think it will suit me down to the ground. I am so looking forward to giving it a try”.

Joe has been racing for five years, counting this season where he didn’t get to race. Talking about his aims and aspirations, he says of the trip to France, “everyone goes there with the hope of improving, getting results and moving up in the sport. I personally think it’s imperative to be looking to improve yourself in whatever way.”

“For me, I would love to have a career in cycling. At the moment I do have that but I am not getting any money for it. I am lucky to have supportive parents to help me during this intermediate phase but I’d love to take a step up.”

“Growing up is about the experiences you have in life and I can say I have lived in Belgium for two years, lived in France, met people from all around the globe and made new friends and connections. I think post cycling, that will be so valuable. A lot of people have degrees now but haven’t lived in this country and that country and done this and done that. It’s all about learning; learning languages which is important for me and it is the learning that is what motivates me in going abroad”.

The WB in the team name is related to pro Warren Barguil. It was a Division 2 team says Joe but is now stepping up to Division 1 and will be looking to make a big impact. “I have had the calendar through and it’s exciting” says Joe. “I know the Under 23s in the team will be doing Paris Roubaix (u23) and races of that level and there are some tours in the Pyrenees that I think we’ll be doing. So it’s exciting and different to what I have been doing”.

A lot of young riders will be wondering how someone like Joe finds a team in a foreign country? In Joe’s case, it came about through someone, Tony Mills, who has a very long history in the sport going back to the days in helping a certain Sean Yates into a French team as a rider way back when.

“My coach is very good friends with the Mills family and when I was riding for Richardsons-Trek, we went over to Brittany to do a few races, and both Tony’s came across to watch and help support us. He’s a really helpful and nice guy and I’ll be living close by so I am looking forward to seeing them and sure they will help me with my French. I am having weekly French lessons on Skype but I think I will learn it quicker when I am there.”

Joe will be staying with two French riders and fellow Brit, Theo Modell who is also riding for the team. “I was teammates with Theo at Richardsons so it will be nice to have a familiar face in the team and he also speaks a lot of French so that will help me.”

Having raced there, I asked Joe for an insight into the racing in France. “The racing is more like World Tour racing, team orientated but it does depend on the race. An Elite national event is very team orientated in my experience but some of the lower category races, I have heard, are raced like a kermesse with some big hills in them. So it’s a mixture of racing”.

Joe then explained how when he was racing kermesses, it was similar to Britain in that he’d be racing the same riders week in, week out. In France, he adds, that will be very different so it will be a whole new experience and learning curve for him.

Joe helps fund his racing with work in a bike shop and how much work he does in the new year will depend on the commitments he has with his new team. “I’ll discuss what days I can work as the winter progresses and as training gets harder. It helps keep some cash flow coming through”.

Having lived abroad, I asked Joe is it a case of ‘eating, living and breathing’ cycling whilst out there? “It depends on how you integrate” says Joe. “I was forced to eat and live cycling in Belgium because I lived with American, a Kiwi and three English guys who were just as committed and straight edge as me. That meant we didn’t eat out and we did everything 100 per cent for cycling”.

“But now I have spent more time in Belgium, I have made friends and one of the best friends used to ride for Cofidis and he’s introduced me to some crazy people. It was his 30th birthday this year and Yves Lampert turned up to his flat and that was a cool experience.”

“He’s a bit of a mentor and I lived with him in Belgium this year and I remember him telling me how when he was a younger rider like me, he did his best work on a bike when he relaxed a little bit and allowed himself to go out on the odd night out every few weeks and have a drink or have a burger and not live by the book every day of his life.”

“So I have adopted a little bit of that and I feel more relaxed”.

Finally, with no racing in 2020, how did Joe fare during a tough year for those used to racing their bikes? “The year had its ups and down and I had to learn to train to train rather than train to race. It had to be combined with socialising too which is part of the reason I went to Belgium. If I had stayed in England the whole year, I would have been training on my own the whole year but in Belgium there were some days when I didn’t want to train at all but was living with some other riders and we’d all go out”. I think the drive to race is greater now than it would be after a normal winter”.

Asked did he also go to Belgium to race, Joe replied “One of the reasons I went there was to see friends and ride with friends, and secondly, there was calendar of pro kermesses I’d signed up for and got into four of them and was waiting to hear back on the others. Then one got cancelled and another went ahead as an interclub so I couldn’t do that as I didn’t have a Belgian licence. As always, Belgium taught me a lot more off the bike than on the bike”.

Finally, how is the winter looking for Joe training wise? “It’s quite scary. I’m back into training as normal but I’m actually doing less than I was last year in terms of volume but doing a lot more intensity. I feel just as fit as I did last year doing around 13 hours right now where as last year I was doing 16 or 17 hours at this time of the year”.

My thanks to Joe for his time and the chat and good luck in France and look forward to getting more insights from him when he’s based there and racing French events.


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