Matt Brammeier Interview: “I need to try to keep a good level all year, stay aggressive, take my chances”
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Friday, November 29, 2013

Matt Brammeier Interview: “I need to try to keep a good level all year, stay aggressive, take my chances”

by Shane Stokes at 8:10 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Multiple Irish road race champion speaks about move to Synergy Baku team and more

Matt BrammeierMatt Brammeier has shown his ability for the past four years running, taking an unprecedented collection of Irish national road race titles. In doing so, he has beaten WorldTour riders Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin, plus the 2009 Vuelta a España stage winner Philip Deignan.

Now 28 years of age, he’s hoping that 2014 will be the season where he translates those showings into winning performances on the international stage. He’s motivated to achieve strong results in the months ahead, both as a goal in itself and also to ensure he’s got the best contract options at the end of the year.

Things have been stressful for Brammeier in recent weeks; he learned that his Champion System team would not be continuing in 2014, and had to look around for a different setup.

He had hoped to move back to the WorldTour anyway, a level he raced at in the past with HTC Highroad and Omega Pharma Quick Step, but although he was told there was a possibility of something with Team Sky and with Saxo Tinkoff, neither materialised.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that he would be competing in 2014 with the Synegy Baku team, an Continental squad based in Azerbaijan but with an Irish element. It is managed by David McQuaid, directed by David McCann [who works with the Briton Jeremy Hunt – ed.] and features fellow Irish rider Connor McConvey.

Brammeier should be one of the biggest guns in the squad and anticipates getting opportunities in key events.

He went close on several occasions in 2013, going on long range attacks but being hauled up in the finale. The most frustrating was on stage four of the Tour of California, where he took the ideal line around a roundabout, opened a gap on the peloton but was reeled near the line. He was also tenth on the final stage of that race.

He knows that he’s banging on the door, and with a little more luck he could make a breakthrough.

“I just need to keep racing as I always race, aggressively,” he told VeloNation. “To keep taking chances and one day I will get a bit of luck and pull something off.”

Brammeier’s race programme is yet to be finalised but the Liverpool-born, Irish-declared rider thinks he will likely start in the Tour of the Mediterranean and then go on to the Tour de Langkawi. He’ll ideally pick up a win early on, and then use that as momentum for the rest of the year.

“I always try to start the season as best as I can. I think I have learned to train pretty good and prepare for the races well without racing. So it is kind of my strong point, being in good shape at the start of the year.

“I have always tried to be in good shape for the Classics early on.”

In the interview below Brammeier speaks about his contract search and the difficulties riders faced because of the 2013 team shutdowns, his thoughts on the season just past, his plans for the weeks ahead and his targets.

Matt BrammeierVeloNation: Matt, you were searching for a team for 2014 and have now been confirmed as signing for the Synergy Baku team. Is it a relief to have a slot after so many teams stopped?

Matt Brammeier: Well, I was never too worried because I always kind of had this as an opportunity. I was pushing the last few weeks for a WorldTour team. It was looking pretty good, actually, and I thought it would work out. But at the last minute it kind of came to a bit of a halt and fell through last week. I was lucky to have this as a fall-back.

VN: What team had you been speaking to?

MB: It was Saxo Bank.

VN: What happened in the end – was it due to the budget uncertainties with the team, or did they take someone else?

MB: They ultimately said they were not going to take any more riders, they were going to stay with 28 riders. Initially they were looking for another guy for the Classics, but it wasn’t 100 percent if they would or not. If they did, it would have been me. Unfortunately they decided to stick with 28 for some reason, budget or otherwise.

VN: What do you think the odds are that Oleg Tinkoff will get involved?

MB: Well, that is why it was taking so long when I was talking to them. They were working on this Tinkoff thing day in, day out. Every time I spoke to them they couldn't really give me any more information, as basically they hadn’t been thinking about it too much. I think they were full-on trying to sort this out.

I am not sure whether it is going to happen or not, I don’t know. I know they are definitely talking to him.

VN: I heard suggestions that earlier this year that you have had talks with Sky?

MB: Yeah, I’ve long been talking with Sky. Obviously they wanted to pick up an Irish guy, but they ended up taking Philip Deignan. I spoke to him a little bit but I think they just said they needed one Irish rider, and it ended up being Philip.

There have also been a few other teams I was speaking with. I was talking to Kenda quite a lot over in China and Japan, they were really interested. But they didn’t have the budget to take any more riders. I just think it is really difficult know as there are a lot of guys riding for free.

When you are up against people who are offering themselves for free, it is pretty difficult. And not just people who are going to ride for nothing…there are a lot of guys who have been in teams like Vacansoleil, Euskaltel, Champion Systems who have a contract for next year, so those will be honoured.

It means that they can go to a team and say ‘listen, you don’t need to pay me anything, as I am going to get something from my previous team.’ All that stuff makes it even more difficult.

I just have to try to stay positive and stay motivated next year, and hopefully move back up, whether it will be with this team or another team.

Matt BrammeierVN: If you look at the guys you have beaten in the national championships, you have got the better of Nicolas Roche, Dan Martin and Philip Deignan in past editions of the race. You have also been close to big wins in races, being caught in the last few kilometres having been in big breaks. Do you feel that you are on the verge of some big international results and therefore next year is important to deliver on that?

MB: Yeah, hopefully. I just need to keep racing as I always race, aggressively. To keep taking chances and one day I will get a bit of luck and pull something off.

I just need to try to keep myself in the spotlight as much as I can, so these directors are not going to forget about me. Hopefully they won’t. Most of them know me and I am in contact with them for most of the year, so I just need to try to stay on the radar and hopefully get back there.

VN: Do you have particular races that you want to do well in?

MB: Well, at the minute we have not had too detailed talks about next year, but I think I think I am going to start in the Tour of the Med and then Langkawi. That’s my plan. I spoke with Jez [Jeremy Hunt] this morning and that is where he wants me.

That will be where I start but after that I really don’t know. I think I just need to try and have a really solid, consistent year. A lot of these races are going to be new to me, I am not going to know them. I just need to try to keep on a good level all year, take my chances and hopefully pull something off.

VN: Presumably if you can get a win early on, that is going to be important. For example Langkawi – it has the Genting stage which decides the GC, but the rest of the stages are flat or fairly flat. If you could pick up a breakaway win, that would be big for morale…

MB: Yeah, I always try to start the season as best as I can. I think I have learned to train pretty good and prepare for the races well without racing. So it is kind of my strong points, being in good shape at the start of the year. I have always been trying to be in good shape for the Classics early on. It is what I have learned to do, training hard and getting into good shape without needing to race.

VN: What do you feel were your closest calls this year, in terms of results that nearly happened but you were caught close to the line?

MB: Probably the stage in California. That was pretty close…

VN: You have lived in Belgium for several years, but have been spending time this season in Girona, What is the situation– how will you split your time between the two places?

Matt BrammeierMB: Well, honestly it just depends on the race programme and stuff. But I will probably spend as much time in Girona as I can. I just love to be here…it is not just when I am on the bike, it is off the bike as well. With the climate and everything else, I enjoy being here.

I will just flip back to Belgium when I have got a few easy days or whatever. I will spend the time between both places, but most of the training will be done here.

VN: Will your girlfriend Nikki Harris also be in Girona or will she be based in Belgium?

MB: Well, she kind of gets over and back a bit but she is obviously going to be more in Belgium. She will be out here for two weeks at a time. She will go back on a Thursday or Friday, do the race and fly back again. It is pretty good like that…where we are, there are quite a few airports that fly to Girona. There are three airports within an hour from where we live.

They are all RyanAir as well, so it is pretty cheap.

VN: What do you do – do you rent a place there?

MB: Yeah, we just rent…we know a few people from coming here for a few years, so we just rent short term.

VN: How long will you stay in Girona now?

MB: I think I will be here until Christmas. The team has a training camp in Calpe in a couple of weeks so I’ll go there from here.

VN: Do you think you will have more personal freedom and more team backing next year than you did this year? Will it change much in terms of the support you get?

MB: Hopefully, yeah. Last year, there were other guys who wanted to be leaders, but I think in a smaller team everyone is always hungry for success. I think everyone kind of deserves a chance. Everyone wants to get the results and get that bigger contract.

Of course everyone is going to want to do something for themselves, but hopefully we can start off well, get a good team spirit going and everyone gets stuck in for whomever is best on the day. If I am on the best, I will gladly take the role. If I am not, I will be pulling for the other guys if they are better than me.

VN: Is there anything in particular that you want to change next year in comparison to what you have been doing in the last few years?

MB: Not really, no. I think everything has been going good. I have been getting a lot out of myself. I am training well, I am racing well. If I would have been coming to the season, if I called a few directors up and they told me no straight away, they are not interested, then I would have been a bit worried. But without all these teams stopping, I’m pretty sure I could have found a good contract somewhere. So I don’t think I need to change much.

VN: You had a big accident a few years ago and had several operations to help you recover. Then two years ago you had the metal taken out of your leg – do you feel that it has helped you since then?

MB: To be honest, I didn’t really feel like I gained anything having that taken out. I think I lost more with the operation. Some of the doctors were split – half of them said leave it in, half of them said take it out, that it is dangerous if you crash again.

It was more that, really, just the risk.

Even last year, I had some knee surgery. In the last three or four years I have been in hospital for some type of surgery. So hopefully this winter, fingers crossed there will be no stays in hospital.

Matt BrammeierVN: You said before that one leg was stronger than the other… Do you feel the imbalances are finally getting sorted out?

MB: Well, I have had a lot of tests done and most of them come back pretty much equal. I think a lot of it is just neurological, and it just feels a little bit different. I have got to try really hard to get used to [the different sensations]. It sounds stupid but I just have to forget about it at times, try not to think to much about it. Just get on with things.

VN: Looking to 2014, do you see yourself doing the An Post Rás in Ireland? The team did it this year…

MB: I am not sure, to be honest. We haven’t looked at the programme, so we’ll see what races I do.

VN: But presumably the national championships is a big goal for you again?

MB: Yeah, definitely. I want to try to keep the jersey again. As always it is just another race. I will just get there in the best shape that I can and just race like I always do and we will see what happens.

It is a pretty straightforward race every year. It is not really too tactical. It is just bloody hard. The strongest guy normally wins. Hopefully it will be the same again and I can get another one.


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