One of the breaththrough elite riders of the domestic season has been Richardsons-Trek rider Joe Sutton.
The 22-year-old moved to the British elite team Richardsons-Trek this year after two seasons in Belgium riding for Goma Dakwerken-VDB Steenhouwerij, supported by the Dave Rayner Fund. A two-year diet of tough Belgian kermesse racing certainly seems to have paid dividends for his switch back to UK racing this season.
He first turned our heads with 14th place in the UK’s one-day ‘monument’, the Lincoln Grand Prix; a top result for a young elite-level rider. He then followed that up with two National Road Series top 10s: 6th in the Stockton Grand Prix and 5th on stage 3 on the Manx International. Sprinkle in a win in the South East Regional Championships, 12th in the national circuit championships despite a mechanical and the a stage win in the Totnes Vires National B race and Joe’s results suggest he’s a rider ready to step up a level.
I would consider the season as a breakthrough year for me
We were keen to find out more about Joe, his background, his successful season and where he sees himself heading in the future. Here’s what we found out…
For readers not familiar with you, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have always been into sport. I took every sporting opportunity when I was younger and eventually found cycling. Away from the bike, I enjoy other hobbies like climbing, skating and my second passion photography.
How did you get into cycling?
Like most serious sports women and men, their pursuit in competition usually begins with a hobby. Mine began when I was four years old during a family holiday in Scotland. One day my Dad suggested we ride a 10 mile stretch along the Caledonian canal, which I seemed to breeze. I then rode back 10 miles too! So my cycling adventures began with a 20 mile round trip at the age of four. Over the last 4 years my hobby has become my profession.
And how would you describe yourself as a rider?
It has taken me a few seasons to work out my strengths. Because I live in Kent, I enjoy punchy climbs but can also deliver a good sprint. It’s only this season that I have developed the confidence in the bunch sprints. So combining punchy riding and sprinting, I enjoy attritional races where I can sprint from a small group.
You seem to have had particular success in bunch sprints – the Stockton GP and stage 3 of the Manx International stand out for example. Do you see yourself as a sprinter?
As of this year I do enjoy bunch sprints but I can also climb. I wouldn’t class myself as a pure sprinter though.
For any rider thinking of racing abroad, go for it! There is valuable life experience to gain as well as racing knowledge.
You spent a couple of years riding for a Belgian team (Goma Dakwerken). What was that experience like?
What I learnt while racing on the continent for two years is so valuable, on and off the bike. The quality of racing I competed in across Belgium, France and Holland has massively improved me as a rider. Returning to the UK and racing is where I particularly noticed my improvement in race craft and positioning. Having done lots of very windy races in Belgium I have really noticed how much easier I have found crosswind sections during the National Road Series.
Going abroad was not possible without the Dave Rayner Fund. I am very thankful for their support! For any rider thinking of racing abroad, go for it! There is valuable life experience to gain as well as racing knowledge.
Why did you move to Richardsons-Trek this season?
I got some good results in Belgium and could have potentially moved to another team there. However I fancied trying some hillier racing in the UK, particularly the National Road Series. I have been close to the team for a few seasons through my coach, Steve Skuse, who is one of the managers. Having guested for the team in past years, I knew the managers and other riders well and really enjoyed being part of their team, so it was an obvious step for me and I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time and racing with everyone.
And tell us about your season so far. How’s it been going, what are the highlights?
I would consider the season as a breakthrough year for me. I had a strong first half of the season, taking two National B wins, a podium in Belgium, 22nd at the Klondike GP and 14th at Lincoln GP. The second half has only got better for me. I have taken two top tens in National Road Series – 6th at Stockton GP and 5th on stage 3 of the Manx International – and then 12th at the National Circuit Champs. Two particular highlights for me were winning the South East regional championships and having the National Crit Championships in my home town Rochester.
How has racing a domestic calendar compared with your seasons in Belgium?
The variety of racing on the continent is far better than that of the UK. National Road Series races tend to hold the same racing format. Especially as the Continental teams’ main aim is gaining Tour of Britain qualifying points. However, I prefer the course profiles of UK racing and loved competing in the National Circuit Series series.
I think a step up is possible for next season … I haven’t made any choices yet and am keeping my options open
Do you have any more objectives this season, now that the National Road Series is (pretty much) over?
I have been chasing a win in Belgium for three seasons now! I have been on the podium multiple times, but never made the top step. This is something I would like to crack by the end of this season.
Have you begun to think yet about where you might end up next season? Is a step up realistic?
I think a step up is possible for next season, however cycling is a very competitive market! Made even harder when teams like Madison Genisis are folding. I haven’t made any choices yet and am keeping my options open.
Where do you see yourself as a rider in five years’ time?
I am in this sport to be the best I can be. My ultimate goal is to ride the Tour De France but that may not be physiologically possible for me. But that doesn’t mean I am not going to give it my best shot!
Featured photo: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com. HSBC UK National Road Series – Cycle 360 Manx International Stage 2 – Joe Sutton of Richardsons-Trek RT