Features Interviews Riders

To the World Tour and beyond: Charlie Quarterman interview

New Trek-Segafredo signing is keeping his feet firmly on the ground as he heads to the World Tour

Charlie Quarterman is on his way to the World Tour in 2020 with Trek-Segafredo. The team have just annoucned a neo-pro deal with the British U23 time trial champion, who also joins the team as stagiaire for the rest of 2019. The announcement comes on the verge of his 21st birthday – 6th Sept – and he’ll dive straight into his first race with the team the day after his big day at the Brussels Cycling Classic.

One of our British U23 riders to watch in 2019, we’ve followed Charlie’s year closely here at The British Continental. He was a Baby Giro diarist for us in June, a race where he had career-best performances, taking 4th in the opening prologue and then 3rd on stage 7. Then at the end of June – up against Britain’s brightest young stars including Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock – he won the U23 National Road Championships time trial crown in convincing fashion, 44 seconds ahead of Hayter.

We spoke to Charlie just after he had signed on Trek’s dotted line…

I know the hard work is only just starting…

Charlie Quarterman in the green jersey on stage 1 of the 2019 U23 Giro d’Italia
Photo: Andrew Peat / espoirs.world

You had a whirlwind few weeks since you kept your diary for us from the Baby Giro. You headed straight back to the UK for the national road race championships. The U23 TT was a big goal for you. How confident of a result were you before the race?

It’s amazing how things took off for me in June. I was having a tough time in training in May, just struggling to balance revision for some exams and the hard preparation on the bike. But once I was on the other side of it, I felt like I was flying. 

With a TT you never really have any idea how you’ll stack up against the others. I knew the numbers coming out of the wind tunnel were good, and that if I did a similar performance to stage 7 of the Giro, then I’d be going fast, but I also knew how well Ethan was going, so I wasn’t too confident going in. Fortunately, I had recovered enough before the day, and from the start of my warm up I knew I was on for a big one. I even recalibrated my power meter just to check I wasn’t making unrealistic expectations!

And the ride itself. Talk us through your win…

It wasn’t an easy one to pace with so many undulations in the course, and the strong wind put another layer of complexity on top of that. So although I had a plan to basically go above my limit on the way out and hang on in there for the return, I wasn’t certain I would be able to keep it going fast enough on the way back. I turned out to be feeling better than expected on the bike though, so I was comfortable coming home, and I think I could’ve gone even faster on the way out to be honest. I’m still learning!

Emotionally speaking, it was the one that I had always wanted

How does that result rank in your palmares? Is that your best result yet?

It’s a funny one really. Emotionally speaking, it was the one that I had always wanted, and after coming 2nd last year, it had been on my mind a lot since then, so it was a massive relief for me. The Giro was such a big event though, and taking a 3rd and a 4th there made more of an impact for me getting noticed I think. That was just because I was against some of the best U23 riders in the world rather than just the UK. But I’m not sure. Actually, forget that, I took a win in a Thursday night race at Castle Combe in 2017 – that’s at the top of the CV!

Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com – 27/06/2019 – Cycling HSBC UK National Time Trial Championships U23 Men – Sandringham ,Norfolk Charlie Quarterman Zappi Racing Team wins

And the road race. How did that go?

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed with the road race. I committed a bit too much early on as I expected crosswinds and the usual pattern of early break then elite group, but that didn’t happen for a long time, and when it did, I was too late to the party and ended up making a big effort in a bridging move just to finish in the first larger group. After the success in the TT, I was expecting more, but it’s a bit of a lottery for that sort of thing I think. 

When my chain came off in a fast tailwind section … I was devastated

Not long after you represented GB in the U23 European Championships time trial, where you finished 16th. How did that go?

That was a bit of a disaster for me really. It felt like the first big opportunity to show what I’ve got on the TT bike on the international stage since I started the real work on in the position. So when my chain came off in a fast tailwind section, forcing me to lose around 40 seconds on a day that I was already struggling with power-wise, I was devastated.

With the legs I had on the day, I wouldn’t have won without the mechanical, but I wouldn’t have been a long way off. Furthermore, if I was riding the same way as in the National Road Championships or at the Giro, I think it could’ve been a very different story. The sport is also a mechanical one though, and this sort of thing happens, so I just have to accept it for now unfortunately, and that’s how it is!

The news came on a cold, wet morning after coming home from a holiday in France, as I was lying in bed, waking up to go to the dentist

How did the contract with Trek come about?

I got some attention from agents after my results came in June, and that includes A&L All Sports from Italy, who were connected with Zappi before. They got to work straight away in the Tour for me and were brilliant in the way they made quick progress but always kept me in the loop and let me make decisions about the direction I was heading. The news then came on a cold, wet morning after coming home from a holiday in France as I was lying in bed, waking up to go to the dentist. It was a strange day to say the least.

Picture by Zac Williams/SWpix.com – 27/06/2019 – Cycling HSBC UK National Time Trial Championships U23 Men Sandringham, Norfolk, England – Tom PIdcock & Charlie Quarterman .

I understand you’ll be doing a stagiaire spot with them this season too. Have you got any idea about the races you’ll be doing with them?

Yes, it looks like I’ll be starting the Brussels Cycling Classic [1.HC, 7 Sep] and GP Fourmies [1.HC, 8 Sep] for now. The aim is just to give me a bit of experience on the top level before I start off next year as well as preparing me for the World Championships. The idea is that racing in races as hard as these will push me on a bit physically, which would just give me that little edge heading into the TT. Maybe there will be an opportunity after that, but we will have to wait and see!

I think the time trialling will become more of a focus, as there is a lot more to come with getting the power going on the bike, along with pacing and bike handling

Have you spoken to Trek yet about how they see you developing as a rider? Will time trials continue to be a focus? Are the classics something you’ve got your eye on?

We haven’t really gone into this yet. I think while we’re still a way from the end of the season, it’s just a case of getting the line-up sorted for next season for the managers. I think the time trialling will become more of a focus, as there is a lot more to come with getting the power going on the bike, along with pacing and bike handling. So I’m hoping to do some damage with that! If I’m also able to get into some classics and start the learning process at the top level, then I would be very happy, but that isn’t my top skill at the moment.

And outside of Trek this season, do you have any other goals? Are the world championships a possibility?

Although next year is sorted, I’m definitely not relaxing. Quite the opposite actually. Not having to desperately fight for results in road races gives me the freedom to chase the World Championships and other TTs, and I’m taking that opportunity to also continue all the lessons I’ve been learning this season, just to make the next step as straight-forward as possible. As excited as I am to be making this move up to the top level, I know the hard work is only just starting…

Featured photo: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com. 27/06/2019 – Cycling HSBC UK National Time Trial Championships U23 Men – Sandringham ,Norfolk
Charlie Quarterman Zappi Racing Team wins