PEZ: Congratulations on the contract and thank you for taking the time to speak to Pez – how come we’ve not heard of you, Tom?
Tom: I’m new to it all, I’ve never raced in the UK; I came into cycling late, at 18 after a year in triathlon.
PEZ: Why Spain?
Tom: I went on a Graham Baxter training camp to Murcia when I was 18. When I was out there, we ran into Spanish amateurs and pros; one day we met Valverde and Sanchez, I stayed with them in the hills – everyone else was dropped – and they encouraged me to race over there. It was really hard to start with, I didn’t speak any Spanish and I drove to races on my own, in my car, which I’d brought over from England. I stayed in Graham Baxter’s house in Murcia for a while, then I rented an apartment, there.
PEZ: You rode for the Camargo team, this year?
Tom: I rode for Fuenlabrada in 2008 and went to Camargo for 2009. It’s a good set up, ranked fifth in Spain, the manager is very knowledgeable and there’s a family, friendly feel to it.
Tom, hard at work on his favorite type of road: uphill.
Tom: In the first two years, I didn’t ride a lot of races, it was hard to enter races and get to them. But in ’08 I started to find my legs and had around 70 race days – including 10 Tours. This year was my breakthrough, I was 8th in the Vuelta Madrid, which is one of the biggest under 23 races in Spain. I had a lot top six places and three wins – the U23 Championship of Asturias, the Elite U23 GP Orgario and an elite U23 in Cantabria.
PEZ: Did you ever consider the GB “performance plan” as an option?
Tom: I didn’t bother to start with because I didn’t have results but in April or May, I rang Rod Ellingworth at British Cycling. He hadn’t heard of me and didn’t know much about the Spanish scene – so that came to nothing.
PEZ: Do you have an agent?
Tom: No, the contract for Footon-Servetto was set up between my Camargo team boss and Matxin the DS at Servetto. I’ve only spoken to Matxin a couple of times, but it was he who spotted the results I was getting. I’ve spoken to Mauro Gianetti, the boss, and he’s been very friendly.
PEZ: Was there one ride in particular that clinched the deal?
Tom: In the Vuelta Palencia, I was second in the time trial, just 30 seconds behind the Spanish champion. It was my first time trial so I wasn’t sure how I would go and I didn’t give it 100%. I beat the time trial specialists in my own team by two minutes – it was that ride which Matxin really noticed. I’m a climber, really, 68 kilos, tall and thin, I don’t have big muscle mass, I was surprised how I went in that time trial.
PEZ: How’s the Spanish; do you have the swear words?
Tom: I’m pretty much fluent now, the first two years were very hard, I couldn’t even ring up my team manager to talk to him about where we were racing. And yes, I have all the swear words!
PEZ: Are you nervous about the jump to Pro Tour?
Tom: Yes, but looking forward to it too, I have a team mate with me, so that will make things a bit easier, but I really want to learn what it’s all about.
PEZ: Do you have your programme, yet?
Tom: We have a team meet on November 28 in Santander, we’ll be getting our bikes then – I’m pretty sure it’ll be Fujis – and talking about my programme. They’ll decide if I’m riding San Luis in Argentina or the Tour Down Under.
PEZ: Have you started training, yet?
Tom: I’ve had five weeks off and am just back in the gym and on the bike.
PEZ: Goals for 2010?
Tom: I’m not targeting any specific race, or anything like that, I really just want to learn a lot and adapt. I want to stay with the pace, not be in the gruppetto.
There you have it, like Jimmy Cliff says; “you can get it if you really want!”