What's Cool In Road Cycling

Roger Hammond Gets Pez’d Pt. 1

Belgium based Brit Roger Hammond has been racing on the continent for a decade and next year will line up alongside Lance after signing for Discovery for 2005. In Part 1 of our Pez interview, Roger talks about his new team and that oh-so-close Roubaix finish.

Belgium based Brit Roger Hammond has been racing on the continent for a decade and next year will line up alongside Lance after signing for Discovery for 2005. Roger has had a great season, finishing on the podium in Paris-Roubaix and seventh in the Olympic Road Race. In Part 1 of our Pez interview, Roger talks about his new team and that oh-so-close Roubaix finish.

Discovery A Dream Come True
PEZ: So you signed for Discovery in 2005. Is it a dream come true to ride for the number one ranked team and alongside Lance Armstrong?

Roger Hammond: Yeah, there are some fantastic opportunities there. Just to ride with Lance Armstrong is a massive, massive step in my career. To ride with one of the best riders in the world and also for me the team is the most professional team in the world. It can only be an advantage to me in that it will teach me a little bit more about how to be a professional bike rider. It’s going to be a challenge for me but it’s all good.

PEZ: What are some of the differences between riding for a smaller team setup (Mr.Bookmaker.com/Collstrop) versus a top-budget team like Discovery?

RH: Yeah. It’s just things that happen where I don’t have to be involved really which is great. The more things that I don’t have to be involved with that are done for me behind my back means less hassle and stress. Like the measurements of my (new) bike. I went to my mechanic to check my measurements for a new bike and he said you don’t need it as the (US Postal) mechanics had already come and measured up my bikes for next year and I hadn’t even known it had gone on! Someone’s already talking to me about clothing for next year and usually I’m having this type of conversation at the end of January! They’ve got a much bigger budget. Not anything against the team I’m in
(Mr.Bookmaker.com) but they (USPS/Discovery) have got a bigger budget and they can afford to employ more people to get these things sorted out.

PEZ: Do you have a specific role within the team?

RH: That’s yet to be completed but the main reason that they’ve hired me is for the classics mainly. I’ll have to do a major tour but it’s not decided yet which one. Those sorts of things are going to become a little bit clearer once I’ve done the first training camp and the plans for the Pro Tour are finalised. It’s all new for the teams as well you see as there’s only a provisional list of races out there and how it’s going to work. That’s another reason why it’s nice to go to a well established team because at least that bit of it is all under control already. Now it’s just trying to settle in to the Pro-Tour as quickly as possible, which will be easier, done with a team that’s well established.

Riding a Big Tour – Not a Major Ambition

PEZ: Have you ridden one of the big tours before?

RH: No.

PEZ: So, are you excited at the prospect?

RH: There’s part of me that’s excited in that it’s something in cycling I haven’t done but it’s not a major ambition of mine. So I’m excited in a different way to the way I see some riders who are excited because that’s what they really want to do and they’ve looked forward to it the whole of their life. But for me it’s three weeks of stage racing and it’s hard work! You’ve really got to be motivated to do something in them. Maybe that will change when they come around and I’ve got specific goals but at the moment in my team now we never go to a stage race now with a specific goal. It’s hard enough to ride a three week tour but if you go to it moseying around thinking I’ll just see what I get out of this, I’ll just see what happens, it’s very difficult to do. I’m pretty sure if you went with US Postal there will be specific jobs to do and it will be more motivating to do it but so far I’ve concentrated on single day races as stage races don’t suit me.

PEZ: Even going for stage wins? Maybe taking it easy for a couple of days and then going for it?

RH: Maybe, but you know the way I look at it is it’s very nice to win a stage of a major tour but I’d much prefer to take it easy for a week at home and then go all out to win Paris – Brussels or something like that, one of the classics or one of the semi- classics in Belgium. To win a stage of the Tour is just as hard as winning a classic but you win a classic and you’re remembered for the whole year long. I’m not really sure I can remember single stage winners of the tour this year – I just remember the guys that won three or four. But if you ask who won the classics, you can always remember who won them all, well, for me anyway but maybe that’s just my mentality?


PEZ: Definitely, and we all remember the podiums of the classics, like who was on it in Paris -Roubaix this year….

RH: Yeah (laughs)

PEZ: How was riding that?

RH: It was just amazing. That’s one of the races that’s been a childhood dream to ride and hopefully one year to win. It was just an amazing experience turning in to the velodrome in the front group knowing that you had the chance to win, what is for me, the biggest classic in the world…it’s just a pity I didn’t win it but all the emotion was there crossing the line.

PEZ: What does one have to do to win Paris – Roubaix? Can you have a plan for a race like that?

RH: No, I mean, that’s the beauty of it as well. You can be the strongest and come away with nothing. Museeuw was up there and within 10k of the finish it was all over for him. I think that’s why it’s still got that charm and beauty because the race is always in suspense until the finish. But it’s one of the hardest races that you have to do because the racing begins at the first section of cobbles and then from then on it’s just intervals all the way to the finish. You can save a lot by being skilful on each section of cobbles and hopefully that’s the advantage I’ve got and helped me to get in to the front group this year.

It’s difficult to say. I was so close this year. What was the difference between me winning and coming third? Well, it was probably that I didn’t come down and shut the door on Magnus. If I’d done that I’d have only had to come round Cancellara which I did anyway – the long way around. It’s just a heat of the moment decision that I made that’s only wrong in hindsight.

I’m still learning from the race. The first year I went I didn’t ride the final I was just hanging on in the final. It’s a very different experience following in the second group to riding a classic race in the final. I also learnt in the second year about where I can save more energy – basically these World Cups are all about saving energy and expending energy when you need to and the person that makes one silly mistake and wastes energy is probably the person that’s gonna pay for it in the final. I look back at Roubaix and I saw a few places where I just got carried away with the occasion and
wasted energy. It all looks great on TV but it’s energy wasted.

PEZ: It’s probably hard not to?

RH: That’s the thing. Suddenly there I was in my favourite race of the season in the front. You’ve got thousands of screaming fans and helicopters and atmosphere and its just hard not carried to get away, it’s true.

PEZ: I bet – I find it hard not to get carried away at Eastway (local cycling circuit in London)

RH: Yeah! (laughs)

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview next week with Roger, where he talks about the Olympics, battling with Bettini, Cyclocross, and life as a Belgian-based pro.

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