PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : Evo Pro Racing’s Morgan Fox And Wauter Wippert Get PEZ’d

Evo Pro Racing’s Morgan Fox And Wauter Wippert Get PEZ’d
Interview: Ed Hood wanted a chat with ex-Euro Pro, ex-Irish National champion and Evo Pro Racing DS Morgan Fox, but there was a surprise 2-for-1 offer on. In the car with Fox was new team signing; Wauter Wippert, Ed wasn't going to miss the chance of a double interview scoop.

PEZ has been trying to catch up with Irish ex-pro Morgan Fox for a while; National Champion in 1997, he was the first Irish pro to race on the continent post the Kelly/Roche era, competing for Belgian ‘no frills’ outfit, Tönnisteiner.

‘Interesting chap’ we thought to ourselves but somehow we never caught up with the man. Until now that is; Fox will be head sports director with the new Irish, Evo Pro Racing continental team and whilst he’d let us know he’d signed a very ‘handy name’ to front the team we didn’t actually know who it was.

We rang him in his car (hands free, of course) when he was en route Dublin airport to fly to the sunnier climes of Portugal and the team’s first training camp - the conversation went like this:

PEZ: Hi, Morgan, thanks for taking the time to chat to us.
Morgan Fox:
No problem, I have someone here to talk to you...

PEZ: Oh, right, who am I talking to now?
Other guy:
Hi, it’s Wouter.

PEZ: Wouter?
Other guy:
Wouter Wippert, you know, I was with Roompot, this year...

PEZ: Ah! Right!

A talented junior, Wippert won a stage in the Tour of Slovakia in 2010 and was top 10 in the u23 2011 Worlds in Copenhagen; in 2012 he repeated the feat at the Valkenburg u23 Worlds. That autumn he moved up to the Lotto World Tour team as a stagiaire from their u23 squad but for 2013 was with Team 3M and there was a raft of placings including a stage win in the Tour of Namur. The next two seasons saw him with Aussie outfit, Drapac Racing with the wins coming fast and furious in the Tours of Wellington, Taiwan, Japan, Kumano, China, Hainan, Korea and Down Under, as well as the lucrative OCBC Singapore Criterium.

The following two years, 2016/17 saw him with World Tour team Cannondale and winning in Belgium, The Netherlands and two stages in the Tour of Alberta. Last season he was with Dutch Pro Continental ‘punchers above their weight’ Roompot with a host of top placings including podiums in the Four Days of Dunkirk and Tour of Belgium, not to mention a win in the UCI 1.1 Omloop Mandel-Leie-Schelde. No question - a major signing then for Fox’s team.

When we asked Wippert how he came to be a Dutchman on an Irish squad, all he would say is:
Wauter Wippert:
It’s a long story.

We asked the Girona-based speedster about the Portuguese training camp, was it just a ‘get to know you’ gig?
No, we’re kicking off our programme in New Zealand with The Sun Tour in a month so no, it’s a proper camp, lots of hard work including intervals. It’s been a tough year for riders looking for a team but we have put together a strong formation, we’re gonna be a serious team. We’ll also have a squad in the early season races in Majorca. After that it depends on invites when you’re a Continental team. I’m very happy with things – a new opportunity – a great adventure.

Morgan came back on the line.
Morgan Fox:
I sat down with Wouter in Girona and we agreed we’d build a team around him; he won’t be on his own in the last few kilometres. We have 15 riders; Irish, Kiwis, Aussies, Italians, a Brit, an Albanian and a Spaniard. There are so many guys looking for a ride; it’s been difficult turning guys down - especially if they’re quality riders and maybe better than the guys you’ve already signed. But if you’ve made a commitment to riders than that’s it; but some days I’m getting five or six guys getting in touch with me – Aqua Blue, OnePro, JLT, US teams, Colombian teams, so many have folded.

We asked Fox how he was managing to launch a team at such a poor time for cycling.
I don’t think it is a bad time, it’s just a lull in sponsorship, if you look at the race scene in most of Europe, Asia, China Japan it’s very healthy. I think the lull is just as a result of a series of coincidences and it means you have a great choice of riders.

He continued:
And from an Irish perspective there are good riders out there who don’t have a team, Mark Downie and Matthew Teggart were both with the Wiggins but haven’t reached their true potential, what were they going to do next? They’ll have their opportunity with us.

We asked if there were ambitions to take the team further?
We have a budget of around 1,000,000 Euros with potential other sponsors who could add to that. We only fully decided to commit to the project at the end of August after the Tour of Qinghai Lake, we’ve been flat out since then, there’s still a list as long as your arm of things to do but all of the UCI red tape stuff is complete. Our first year will be Continental; you need a year behind you and you have to make your mark but longer term we have Pro Continental ambitions – I believe we have the fighting spirit that’s required. Like I say, you must remember that your first year is so important for getting you invites for your second year.

And what of his own pro days back in 1999/2000?
I was with Tönissteiner-RDM-Colnago, there was good and bad to it but I probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to turn professional - at the height of the EPO era. I was this naïve Irish kid and suddenly I’m in the spring classics, the Dunkirk Four Day, the Tour de Suisse and very tired. It turns out I had glandular fever. It was a few years since the Kelly/Roche era, I’d won a lot of amateur races in Belgium and thought I was gonna move up through the pro ranks but soon realised that there was something not right about the way a lot of guys were riding.

When the team found out I was sick there was no thought of helping me get better, they found a loophole in my contract and got rid of me. I quit the bike for three years after that, I didn’t even look at a bike race result. But in 2006 when the Irish economy was booming the Murphy & Gun team approached me about getting involved on the management side. I said I would help but didn’t want to get involved – the next thing I was riding for them but that was for fun more than results by that time.

Fox began riding at 13 years-of-age and is now 44, we asked what he thought were the major changes he witnessed in the sport.
Globalisation, the sport is healthy world-wide especially in Asia and Far East, Japan and China. Mind you, China is where I rode my last race, Qinghai Lakes in 2008; I’d just avoided a crash but the guy behind me rode into the back of me; I ended up with nine broken ribs, a punctured lung and deaf because they gave me too many anti-biotics in the hospital in China. I can hear now because of a cochlea implant I received here in Dublin, I think I must be the only DS who’s had that operation in a job where communication is so very important.

Our final word was to ask about the team’s goals for 2019, the answer was quick and concise:
We want 10 UCI wins in 2019, it’s a challenge but we have a good squad, we’ve bonded well and while it’s a demanding target I know we have determination to make our mark in UCI 1.1 and 1.2 races and establish ourselves.

# PEZ will be keeping our eye on those first Evo Pro results from The Antipodes and throughout the 2019 season. #

More about the Evo Pro Racing team at their website HERE.

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he's covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,680 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself - many years and kilograms ago - and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site where more of his musings on our sport can be found.


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