What's Cool In Road Cycling

Roger Hammond: Part Deux

Last week we settled in for a pint and part 1 of our chat with Roger Hammond – who blasted onto the podium in Roubaix after narrowly missing the nailbiter finish to his good bud Magnus Maximus. Time to order another round, and talk Olympics, life in Belgium, and racing at the Tour of Britain…

PEZ: Another great race for you this year was the Olympics where you were seventh. Were you surprised to be up there given the heat?

RH: The advantage for me was that it was so hot that even people that are used to hot weather normally and probably don’t suffer at thirty-five degrees were even suffering!

You know I’m used to hot weather so to me it was just another day of hot riding. Okay, it was even hotter than normal but the symptoms are there and you learn to cope with it and I know that in hot weather whether I’m flying or creeping you feel terrible but you’ve just gotta remember that everyone around you is feeling bad. I went and talked to George (Hincapie) and asked him how he was and he said ‘god I feel rough.’ And that was enough for me to think ‘okay if George is suffering then I reckon that there’s gonna be a good half of this field suffering.’ And it was just enough motivation to think ‘try and hang on.’

Charly (Wegelius) crashed during the race so I went back to see where Charlie was and I saw how many riders had dropped out and I thought ‘blimey if all of them have gone already then most of the race is done – just try and get over that climb the last time.’ There was no way I could go with Bettini in that weather but I think he and the Portuguese guy where the only guys that didn’t seem to be suffering in the heat. So hats off to Bettini. You can almost understand the guy coming from Portugal given the heat but Bettini did one hell of a ride in that weather really.

PEZ: He seems to have the difference at the moment?

RH: Yeah, but last year he was winning here, there and everywhere but this year in the classics he’s been always there but not quite winning. Dunno whether it’s a super Rebellin or what it is that’s stopped him but all of a sudden he turned it on and he was unbeatable and now he seems to just ride away when he wants to. In Paris – Brussels he just attacked us really he went on the climbs and no one could follow him.

PEZ: Hunt was fourth, which was a good ride. (Jeremy Hunt is Roger’s Brit teammate at Mr.Bookmaker.com)

RH: Yeah, we chased down Bettini over the last climb, there were about twenty at the front. But we thought we had to go over the climb again. Three went away and we didn’t follow because we thought ‘if Bettini goes it’s gonna take all we’ve got to hold him.’ But there was only 3k to go and we turned in to the finish missing the climb and those three guys stayed away. I tried to close the gap but it was pretty fruitless really but Jeremy won the group sprint.

PEZ: And beat Bettini?!

RH: Yeah but to be fair Bettini had done a hell of a lot in the run in. Having said that Jeremy is quick, especially on a flat run in and it was a great ride.

PEZ: It’s great to hear that you’re both placing high but only winning will do?

RH: We got together and we’re really fighting to win. It’s not working out as we were thinking or planning but it’s good. We are friends on and off the bike and being team- mates as well. It’s working out well. We train together all the time and race together all the time. He’s sacrificed a lot of races for me in the past and I’m happy to return the favour, which is important if you want to win these big races.

The WORLDS IN VERONA: Too Tough after a Tough Year
PEZ: I saw that you weren’t doing the World Champs – are you easing off a bit now?

RH: Yeah, the thing is the world championships are way too hard for me to do this year because there’s a 285 m height difference every lap and 18 laps. So I would have had to be really flying just to get round it I think – or flying!

PEZ: It’s a while to carry the form over? (from the early season classics)

RH: And the thing is if we’d (Great Britain) had four spots I’d have taken a risk but the fact is we have only got two and we’ve got two motivated guys and I couldn’t justify taking a place really any more.

PEZ: So you’re currently based in Belgium. Where abouts and will you continue to do so next year?

RH: I will. I live in on the ring of Brussels and Jeremy (Hunt) lives about 15ks away.

PEZ: What do you guys do when you’re not racing or training?

RH: We meet up and go to coffee shops or go out for dinner quite a lot. But to be honest with you we do quite a lot of racing and I have a house to keep going so there’s hardly any time to do much.

PEZ: Do you speak the local lingo?

RH: I speak French and Flemish. But you can get away without speaking any languages except English – that’s the beauty of living in Belgium really! Television is in English with Dutch subtitles often. It’s a nice place to be.

PEZ: How hard do you think it is for British riders to make it on the continent?

RH: It’s certainly not difficult. The hardest thing it making that effort to get over, finding a place and getting established. Once you get used to the racing you improve to that level and it becomes normal. I think there is a difference mainly in the strength in depth. You go to a race in Belgium and there are forty or fifty guys that can win the race that makes the racing more hard fought and unpredictable. If you don’t know the riders you have to cover a lot more moves. Most people in Belgium know the style of racing.

PEZ: What about cyclo-cross? You’re the former Junior World Cyclo-Cross champ. Do you mix road and cross or have you de-emphasised the Cross given that most of your goals are on the road?

RH: To race at a high level all year long is very difficult. Cross used to be at a much lower level but now all the Belgians and French have taken it to a whole new level and you can’t even race locally in Belgium now without there being half a dozen of the World’s leading cross riders there. You’ve got to separate your mind from it and not get too disappointed and take away the emphasis of the results and just ride for the training of it and then mentally it’s easier. I don’t want to make a fool of myself but I don’t have to win and it’s all training for the road.

PEZ: Do you tailor your training towards Cross at all?

RH: No I don’t. I train far too much to be a Cross rider! A Cross rider starts tapering their week from Wednesday and will probably race on Saturday and Sunday. I can’t afford to lose the Wednesday. They’d do a long easy ride Wednesday where as I’d do a long hard ride on Wednesday and Thursday and if it’s not the Nationals or Worlds train hard on a Saturday as well.

PEZ: What’s hard? Can you give us an idea of the sessions?

RH: I’ll do two and a half hours on the road or two and a half hours off-road in the woods. But it depends how hard a week I want to do. I might do a double session and do two and a half hours on the road in the morning and two and a half hours off-road in the afternoon and then a gym session in the evening as well. Then Friday (this is the easyday!) I’ll do three to three and a half hours on the road and then a run. I run Monday, Wednesday and Friday not for long just half an hour a time.


PEZ: Turning to the Tour of Britain. When I saw you there you had a lot of well- wishers. It seemed that every other person was shaking your hand or giving you a hug. What was it like riding on home soil?

RH: It was amazing – really good. I just loved it. It was so different. Normally it’s my team mates that have people coming up and saying hello as we’re always racing in Belgium but the tides were turned there. I never realised that so many people were
involved and liked cycling. It was a lovely experience.

PEZ: Have you looked at the site?

RH: Not yet but I will!

PEZ: Thanks Roger

RH: Thanks

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