We know you take your racing pretty seriously Sam, but inevitably there are some funny moments. Anything come to mind just recently?
If I wrote down all the stories and laughs I’ve had this year we’d be here all day. There was one pretty funny time though when I was riding with my team mate in mid-winter. At the time it was the worst day of our lives. It would have been early March with the temperature around 5 degrees. My teammate had only arrived the day before from a humid hot country. I’ll keep his name out of it for obvious reasons. After just 8min of riding he started to complain about a stomach pain. He started to get more and more agitated until he finally shouted “nahh bro, we’ve got to stop”. So we pulled over on a small narrow dirt side road. He sprinted off unbelievably fast and disappeared for about 10min. He returned with only one toe cover and a very sunken expression on his face. I asked him where his toe cover had gone to and the only reply he gave me was “Its gone bro. You don’t want to Know”. It took a while for me to finally realise what actually happened and why the toe cover would never be retrieved, but once it clicked I probably spent an hour laughing. This was then followed by a double puncture 30km from home with no tube and none of our phones were working. It also started to snow. Wasn’t great at the time but looking back, it’s hard not to laugh now.
You’ve have had some amazing experiences in life already. Do you ever wake up and pinch yourself about what’s happening in your life these days compared to life in Armidale just a short time ago?
I never really wake up and pinch myself because when training and racing you get a kind of tunnel vision. I’m so focused on the task at hand that I completely miss the amazing scenery right in front of me. Mind you, the other day I was riding up a mountain in Switzerland with an unreal view over Lake Lugano. I made a quick pitstop and checked the time on my phone. I realised that the only issue I had was that the supermarket was going to close for siesta and I’d need to wait 2-3hrs before being able to eat lunch. That’s a very different situation to this time 3 years ago when I was stressing about taking my Final HSC exams. Pretty funny how much smaller things can still bother you even when there’s nothing to worry about at all.
I imagine you spend a lot of time on the road, living out of bags, trying to find your toothbrush. Does that get tiring after a while? Do you go through a lot of toothbrushes?
Yeah, I’ve learnt the hard way that sometimes your roommate might have the same colour or type of toothbrush which they could mistake as their own. It only takes one occasion for you to learn its best to carry a spare. But over the last couple years I’ve mastered the art of packing and have pretty much anything you could think of packed away in my suitcase. Also learnt the best method of not losing anything is to be neat and tidy.
What’s the toughest thing you have to deal with when travelling so much?
One of the hardest thing about traveling is probably the boredom. I’m unable to sleep in cars or planes so when I’m traveling I’ll be awake the entirety of the trip. This means sometimes I’m spending 24hrs+ awake sitting in one spot with nothing much to do. You know you’re bored when the only thing the pass time is the inflight service meals.
Who does your washing? Do you take turns, have a roster?
I do all my washing. It’s easier and quicker that way and I prefer to just knock it over and get it done. When we are away at a race there will be a truck that has a washing machine which means the staff will be in charge of it, but then when racing in China you pick up the knack of the old hand wash in the sink quite quickly.
Do you really just eat steamed fish and plain rice for dinner? Who sneaks in the odd Toblerone? How good are Dutch frites and mayonnaise!
It all depends on the time of year really. If I’m going for a race and training really hard for something it will be a very plain and healthy diet trying to get as light and lean as possible. But after a race or during my off season I might indulge just a little bit. My favourite treat is probably a good Italian pizza followed by a trip to the local gelato shop, and yes, the old frites and mayo goes down a treat, especially after an amateur local kermisse where you’ve just had your legs ripped off by some local professionals. The beer around that part of the world is quite good as well but you really do need to watch that after a race as its also twice the strength and catches up with you pretty quickly.
Tell us about the racing. What’s the best moment you’ve had in the last year or so? How good does it feel on a day when you really do have the legs?
Although its cliché, the racing is a whole new level in Europe compared to Australia. It’s not only about the physical fitness needed in order to compete, it’s also to do with just how technical the racing is. Handling descents and your positioning in the bunch is so much more important when you get to Europe. You can see it when Aussies come over here for the first time and are way down on the results sheet. People just underestimate how crazy things get over here.
The best moment in the past two years was definitely my Aussie Nationals win. Although I haven’t managed to achieve the actual results I’ve wanted, and my ProCycling Stats page isn’t too impressive, I have proven to myself that I’m capable of making it in this sport and proven that I’m able to climb and time trial with the best. I think the Baby Giro gave me a good insight into what my potential is and what I believe I can achieve in the following years. If you’re on a good day you really know it, the legs are twitching from the gun and you’re just tapping away in the bunch like its a recovery day. You look down and see you doing close to threshold nose breathing while everyone around you is suffering – it doesn’t happen very often but when it does, and it’s just great to see other people suffering when I’m not.
People pay tens of thousands of dollars to get to see some of the scenery you’ve been racing through. Did you manage to soak any of it up?
During a race I don’t take in any sites in as I’m too focused and most of the time in a lot of pain. But during training and when we’re doing the recon I get some good opportunities to take in some unbelievable views. I live within striking distance of Lake Maggiore and Lake Como and the views there, especially from the climbs around them, are incredible. If anyone is ever looking for a nice relaxed get away I would highly recommend the area…..Its unreal!
You’ve had a couple of crashes which of course are how things go in bike racing. You seem to come good again pretty quickly, is that just something you have to contend with or does it play on your mind?
It is something that can set you back, not only because of physical injury but also the psychological side of it. To me that’s the worst part of a crash. Two years ago, I had a nasty crash in Ireland where I went around a blind corner with too much speed and came to a pile of bodies laying in the road. There was also some genius parked beside the pile trying help his riders. He was oblivious to the fact that he’d blocked the entire road for the rest of the bunch chasing behind. I had no choice but to go into the riders and ended up flying head first into a fence pole. Although it was two years ago I’m still not fully confident in descending and will take a few more years until I’m back to where I was.
We hear a lot about rider nutrition, but what do you typically eat during a big stage?
Breakfast is usually yoghurt, fruit salad, either oats, white rice or plain pasta (depending on where the race is) and some rice cakes with jam or Nutella. I might even throw in an omelette if the day is over 180km. but as a smaller rider I you’d be surprised how much you really need as your body becomes very efficient. I definitely don’t eat 6000-8000 calories like all the stories say, I would doubt many of the pros would either.
What are your plans for next year? Any signs of new deals you can speak about?
At the moment I’m still searching for a contract for 2019 and hoping that ill be able to find something this late in the season. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the opportunities I wanted and at times when I did have an opportunity it just didn’t click and couldn’t prove myself. So its an unbelievably stressful time at the moment and things are a bit in the balance. Fingers crossed a team will share some love and help me out.
Thanks Sam and Good luck for 2019!