Take 22 year-old American Joshua Berry, it’s a long way from his home town of Ketchum, Idaho to the French Mediterranean coast – but that’s where he’s riding, for La Pomme Marseille. It’s a famous club, formed in 1974 which has had the likes of Daryl Impey, Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin on the books at one time or another.
The club is now registered as an UCI Continental team and got season 2013 off to a flying start with Justin Jules winning the hotly contested UCI 1.1 GP d’Ouverture Marseille against many of the World Tour teams. With it’s illustrious history the team rides a programme of the highest calibre, up to and including Paris-Tours.
After an injury blighted start to the year Berry really found his autumnal feet – and as the leaves fell so his form rose. He talked us through his late season results shortly after his season ended in Paris-Tours.
PEZ: The Tour of the Jura and you got 20th spot – sounds like a tough one . . .
I guess you could compare it to a mini Liege-Bastogne-Liege; it’s 190 kilometres, UCI 1.2. It was a pretty good race for me because we had a rider in the break – Yoann Paillot so I was only blocking. The finish was very fast downhill then a little drag so it was hard to move up and I just kinda rolled in for 20th spot. Matthias Brandle (IAM & Austria) won it with Yoann fourth and our Julien Antomarchi in 12th spot – so it wasn’t a bad day for the team.
PEZ: Then you moved up to 15th in the GP La Somme.
That was UCI 1.1 over 202 K – it was a good day for me, even though I started at the back I was able to work my way up and got to the front just as the split came. We worked hard to stay away and even though I had mechanicals – losing brake pads and punctures – it was a good day for me because as well as getting 15th place I won the sprints jersey.
That part of France is pretty flat but they always seem to manage to come up with steep, tough little climbs to include on the finishing circuit – 800 metres in the Somme. Topsport Vlaanderen’s Belgian rider Preben Van Hecke won that day.
On the podium at the Gp La Somme.
PEZ: GP Isbergues and 55th spot – that’s a savage race.
Yeah, another 1.1 over 200 K – it’s tough and I wasn’t feeling so good, in fact I was sick right after the race. Maybe I’m stubborn but I like to finish every race which I start. The French sprinter Arnaud Demare won that one for F des J.
PEZ: Then off to Kazakhstan for the Tour of Amaty and 10th spot.
I was really excited about that; I raced against the Kazakh national squad as an Espoir and know that they have a really attacking spirit. The race was UCI 1.2 over 155 K on really big roads – not like in Europe – and with long climbs which dragged on but weren’t steep. There were four Kazakh national squads in the race plus Astana but we managed to get Julien Antomarchi in the break.
The home rider Maxim Iglinskiy eventually won on his own for Astana and there was a sprint for the placings 30 seconds behind him. The team looked after me in the sprint and despite not having the best position I got 10th place – the line came 20 metres too late for me!
PEZ: What’s Kazakhstan like?
I’ve been to China and liked it there; Kazakhstan is like that but cleaner with big beautiful mountain ranges, glaciers and peaks. In the cities there are so many shiny new buildings – the oil revenues certainly show, you can see that the country is developing rapidly. The only thing is that it’s a long flight there and back – you have to fly via Turkey so it’s a 10 hour journey.
PEZ: Paris-Bourges next, that’s a big race on the French calendar and you were 15th.
It was a good race and I was on a good day; it’s another UCI 1.1 over 190 K with John Degenkolb (Argos & Germany) running out winner. I talked with the team before it and no one else was really up for it so I had my freedom. I had good position in the sprint but got pushed out in the wind for 500 metres with two kilometres to go and then I lost a few places in the corners but I kept fighting.
After it I was smiling because I know now that I could win one of these, I had a bad luck, made a positional error but still got 15th spot. When I think back to my first French cup race of the year, I was amazed how hard it was – but now that I’m prepared properly there’s such a difference.
PEZ: Paris-Tours next.
Degenkolb won that too, that’s UCI 1 HC over 235 kilometres. My DS said that if I rode well in Kazakhstan then he’d include me in the team for the race; I was really pleased to get in the squad for a race like that. There was a constant cross wind and if you’re positioning is bad you can end up doing a lot more work than you need to – I did a lot of learning that day.
I was very focused for the finish but ran out of gas on the last climb – but at 235 K that’s the longest race I’ve ever ridden. In a lot of races you ride not everyone is focused but it’s different in Paris-Tours – everyone wants to do well. The speed really ramped up into the cotes at the end – but I guess you’d expect that in a race of that stature. I finished in a group at 1:54 down on Degenkolb and that was my last race of the season.
PEZ: How did you feel on the Monday?
We had to drive back to Marseille after the race and I couldn’t sleep on the journey; we have a bus but not like the Pro Tour guys- for Paris-Tours we used a sprinter van and the team cars. I just hung out the next day, mostly getting ready to fly home to the States.
It’s been a long year and mentally tough so I’m looking forward to spending time with my coach in Tuscon to talk about next year.
Josh in the mix at the Grand Prix de Plumelec in May this year.
I don’t have an answer yet, it would be nice to know but I’m waiting on word of a possible extension. The 2014 budget for La Pomme is maxed out so I don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s a stressful time to be in the peloton – there’s gonna be a lot of highly motivated guys racing in 2014.
PEZ: Lessons from 2013?
A good question – I’ve been thinking about that all day. I’m glad the season ended the way it did; I demonstrated that I have potential and that’s motivated me for next year. I think the most important lesson is that when you’re off the bike injured or had bad luck it’s not time lost, it’s time to focus your determination on fighting back . . .