Katusha’s Sergey Lagutin Gets PEZ’d!
Rider Interview: Sergey Lagutin is in his thirteenth year as a professional cyclist and in that time he has ridden for more than a handful of top teams, been Uzbekistan National champion six times and took World U23 championships in 2003. We caught up with him at the Katusha training camp just before Christmas.
Sergey is 35, but he still talks like a young rider in his first season, with his experience all over the World he is still as keen as mustard. What started out as an interview ended with Sergey asking the questions; Twitter, Facebook, cycling web sites, what’s that all about?
PEZ: You have ridden for Landbouwkrediet–Colnago, Navigators, Collstrop, Vacansoleil, RusVelo and now Katusha.
Sergey Lagutin: The longest was with the Dutch team, Vacansoleil (2009 to 2013).
PEZ: When Vacansoleil stopped, did you feel like you were taking a step down going to RusVelo?
No, not at all. It’s a good team, very well organized. We didn’t do WorldTours, well we did ride the Tour of Poland, actually. It was very interesting, you can see all the Russian teams, the projects, growing and I was happy and proud to go to this new team, a change, and It was different from a Dutch team. The Russians wanted to have more control over everything, at Vacansoleil you could feel free, you could do what you want, the most important thing was to be strong in your legs and so that was simple.
PEZ: Of all the teams you have ridden for, would you say that Katusha was the best, are you happiest here?
Vacansoleil was also a very well organized team, but here the main goals are bigger. In Vacansoleil we didn’t have a big champion, a big rider, so everyone had a chance of his own in the Classics and in some stage races. Here we have Joaquin Rodriguez and Alexander Kristoff, so when you go to a big race we have a leader and all you have to do is support them. You change your mentality, you change your goals, you have to be good to support them.
PEZ: Is that a big difference?
Not a big difference. Over the years it’s why they pay you, to do your job. I’m happy.
PEZ: What is your job?
To support the leaders, but if you are in good shape, you can get your own chance. Last year there were a lot of opportunities, if you go in a break you can win a stage, if you are good enough.
PEZ: Where do you live now?
In Italy, I moved back to Italy from here (Spain). Yes, Tuscany.
PEZ: It seems to be either Tuscany or Monaco these days.
It’s too expensive, Monaco.
PEZ: When do you go home from this training camp?
First I go to Brazil to look at the Olympic circuit, for a week. Then from Brazil I go to the US for Christmas and then on January the 1st I’ll be in Italy and then I fly to Australia for the Tour Down Under. There is going to be a lot of flying for me, a lot of traveling in three weeks. Spain to Brazil to US to Europe, then Australia and back to Europe, it’s maybe too much. In Brazil it will be summer, but I go to US were it is Zero, winter and then I go back to the summer again.
PEZ: Do You know your calendar for this year?
Approximately, yes. Possibly we might change something, in a good way, but it all depends on how I start the season. My first race is the Tour Down Under, then Algarve and then I will do some of the cobblestone Classics with Alexander Kristoff and Sanremo. I’m really looking forward to being good, especially for the spring Classics.
PEZ: Do you think you will ride the Tour?
I would like to, but right now it’s the Giro. I hope to get a spot on the Russian Olympic team, we will see.
PEZ: A lot of riders are saying that the Tour de France will be the best preparation for the Olympics.
That depends on how you ride it. If you work for someone every day for three weeks, you are going to be so tired and maybe not good enough for a one day race. If you groupetto every day, you don’t stress yourself, but for sure I go there with Alex or Rodriguez, it’s not like I can go there just for training for myself, for the Olympic games.
PEZ: What is your favorite race?
I love Belgian races; cobble stones, the wind. You never know what’s going to happen, the profile looks easy and everyone thinks it’s going to be a bunch sprint, but then there is a break away. Year by year I get the feeling that Belgium is my land, with my type of racing. You can attack, you get people who are aggressive and want to attack. If you are in Spain or somewhere and if you attack in the final, people will say: “Where do you go? Are you stupid, we are going to catch you, five teams are going to start pulling now.” But in Belgium with teams like TopSport Vlaanderen and the others, there are so many riders who just want to attack. So I like Belgium, the more up and down races; the Tour of Wallonie, the Tour of Belgium and yeah, I like the Belgian Classics.
PEZ: As you have raced all over the World, how does racing in the US compare?
It was easy. I would say really easy, some races you would do felt like you were in the kindergarten, to be honest. If you race in Belgium and Holland with all the stress, narrow roads, left, right and then a round-a-bout, fighting for position. You go to America and there are big wide roads, straight, so it was kind of simple. The level at that time was quite high, UnitedHealthcare had strong riders, I’m still in touch with a lot of the riders and they have said the level has gone down a lot. It was nice, but if you want to be a cyclist you have to race in Europe. If you have a big goal, a big dream, forget about it, the US is not the place to race. There are really good races, California, the US Pro Challenge and they have strong teams, but that’s different, the local races are not so hard.
PEZ: What about your future?
Next year I’m 35, but I’m really hoping to race till I’m 40. I’m not ready to stop and I would like to race at the WorldTour level till I’m 40. Riders like Jens Voigt, Rebellin and Chris Horner, to win the Vuelta at the age of 40, eh! I’m still motivated and I train hard and I try to do my job, but with the wife and the kids you don’t see them, but I’m not ready to give up.
PEZ: And after?
I would like to stay in cycling as long as I can, but in a sports directors job you must stay here also, the same as a rider. So we will see.
PEZ: What do you think about disk brakes?
I would like to try them, they look interesting, especially when it’s raining. When carbon wheels get wet you have to look in the distance to brake early, a long time before. In the Giro sometimes it was very stressful, you brake and the bunch goes straight on and then when you have cleared the wheel (of water) it stops and you slide and crash.
PEZ: You can lock-up the wheels with disk brakes.
I guess you would have to get used to it, you have to feel it. At the Tour this year there were a lot of crashes, it starts raining… everyone. I would like to try them.
PEZ: What about the new SRAM eTap you have on the team Canyon?
It’s interesting, it works well, but you have to get used to it, you always have to use two hands. With Shimano and Campag it was easy, this hand for the front up and down and the other for the rear, now you need to use two hands. In training it’s easy, we will see how it is in a race when you are stressed, that’s when you find out. But it works well.
PEZ: Are you happy with the team bike?
Yes, the bikes are excellent, the wheels are so stiff, everything is very strong, you couldn’t ask for more.
PEZ: Some riders just ride their bike, they just take the bike and wouldn’t even know if it is the right one.
That’s what happened to me the first day here, I took the wrong bike. It looked like mine, I started to ride and was wondering why the saddle felt too high. Basically I did a couple kilometers and then I saw the name Jurgen Van den Broeck. I thought “what have I done?”
PEZ: At least you noticed.
Yeah. I don’t know if it’s true, but one of my ex-teammates told me about Jan Ulrich, he took one of his teammates bikes and started a race and it wasn’t until the middle of the race that he realized he had the wrong bike.
PEZ: What do you think of cycling web-sites and social media?
Well, I used to follow a certain web site in English, it was interesting, but now all they talk about is Sky and doping. Once I read an interview with an ex-teammate and I called him to ask if this was true. He said he didn’t say any of these things. It depends where you are from, there is a Russian cycling web site, everybody reads it, the Italian tuttobiciweb and the Spanish biciciclismo. I kind of look at all of them, your web site or Russian or whatever. I like to see the presentations of new teams, which bikes and components they use, what riders are going to which races.
Do you think social media is important for teams to have a web site, Twitter and FaceBook, do they have a lot of people following them? Because I see more and more teams have someone who does the web site, Facebook and Twitter with photos and news. Some put up things that are not so special; “look, we had pasta after the race” or “the protein shake after the hard stage” with the picture everywhere.
PEZ: Yes I think you need Facebook and Twitter.
Sometimes it’s nice to read what the riders have to say after a race, if the rider has been on fire, say on an uphill finish and you have riders attacking and the rider can say what his goal was or what he was doing. What his plan from the beginning was, or what the sprinters say after the stage finish, what was wrong or what happened. That’s what I prefer to read, especially in the big races.
Does every single team have a web site, Facebook and Twitter?
PEZ: Yes, I think they all have them. Facebook, Twitter, even the smaller teams, maybe even more so with the smaller teams.
We just had a meeting recently, a couple of days ago, about how important it is to have a Twitter account and Facebook. I’m not on any of them. Sometimes I look at a riders posting. “Look, I’ve done 7 hours today!” And a photo of his SRM. Okay, good for him. I’m not really into showing what I’m doing or what I’m eating with my wife or what I do with my kids. I think Jens Voigt was the worst for that.
Since the interview Sergey has had a top ten stage finish in the Tour Down Under and is now on Twitter @sergey812003, Facebook next?