Roger Hammond, double British National Champion (Road and Cyclo Cross), would seem to be a rider ideally suited for the Belgium Classics. He has been riding professionally in Belgium since 1998 and his results have been steadily improving.
This year riding for Mr.Bookmaker.com-Palmans (along with another former British Road Champion, Jeremy Hunt), Roger and the team were delighted when they were informed of their selection for Paris Roubaix this year. However, first the team must show their mettle in the weekend's big races. Roger kindly gave the Daily Peloton his thoughts on Omloop, the weather, the season so far, and his hopes for the rest of 2004.
To keep up with Roger’s season please visit his excellent website here.
DP – What are your thoughts about Omloop and how do you see your race?
Roger Hammond - Omloop Het Volk is a really hard race to predict.
Most riders are unsure of their form anyway, then add the fact they are
expecting really bad weather at the weekend. Plus it is the first classic of
the season so it is the first time the big riders really fire up the engines
on full power! It is a great race for the adventurous though the hills
are in the 'middle' of the race so it can be hard to catch the breakaway if
there is a tailwind to the finish!
Personally I am not sure how I am going for the moment. I had a good winter but things have gone a bit wrong in February. We were not allowed to start in Liguria, then our replacement race in Turkey was also cancelled, so we had 2 weeks without a race. The first time this has happened to me since I turned pro. I stayed a week in Spain with Graham Baxter Sporting Tours and did a lot of Kms but it is a different build up......The final week of
training has also been hampered by snow.
Yesterday I trained 3 hours, by the time I got home, the snow was 2cms deep on my arms! I am writing this looking out in the garden at the snow which is now about 5cms deep! Not sure
what to do, I am thinking of getting my cross bike out and going to the
DP - What is the race you would most like to win?
Roger Hammond - Paris Roubaix is my main motivation for the classics. It is a special race
to me as it is a race I have dreamt about since I was a child. Last year
(my first attempt) just fortified those thoughts.
It was the greatest
feeling riding into the velodrome after such an epic long day in the saddle!
The atmosphere on the pave is more like that found at the world 'cross
champs than any other road race. I think the 'cross background is definitely
It is a way of riding the bike. Constantly processing the
ground in front of you, trying to pick the smoothest line, plus avoiding
punctures is second nature to me after the cross except it lasts a lot
longer in Paris-Roubaix!
The cobbles are also very slippery, even when dry
(due to the dust and gravel coating!) which once again is similar to sliding
around corners in a cross race. I won't be a captain for the race, rather a
rider that will be left alone to survive! We have a few riders that can be
good in Roubaix, Plankaert, Omloop.
The smaller budget does make it more difficult to compete. There are some
things we can't afford to do. For example, special bikes just for 1 day is
difficult to justify. Last year we didn't have enough warning from the
organisation to arrange bikes anyway so it wasn't an issue.
DP - Any young riders we should be watching out for in 2004?
Roger Hammond - Our new pro this year is Jens Renders. He was 4th in the world u/23 champs
last year. So he is a bright young star in Belgium, though he is more of a
climber than a P-R specialist!
DP - What are your thoughts about the Tour of Britain scheduled for September 1st to 5th?
Roger Hammond - I really hope the pro tour (Tour of Britain) goes ahead. It will be great for cycling in the
UK in general, but personally I have never ridden a stage race in the UK as
a senior let alone a pro. It is also well timed just after the Olympics, but
it is a place on the international calendar that is lacking in stage races
(if your team isn't starting in the Vuelta) so I think it will be popular
for the classics riders preparing for the second half of the year.
DP – Thanks very much Roger for your time and best of luck over the weekend. Remember to wrap up warm!
Photos courtesy Roger Hammond.