By Shane Stokes in Portugal
British Classic specialist Roger Hammond has a good feeling about the new Cervèlo Test Team, saying that the different approach taken by the project makes it of big interest to him.
"Things are good, really good. It is a really good setup," he told Cyclingnews on Friday. "It is a new team but they really seem to have jumped right in…they seem to have missed about 14 years of a learning curve, so they have done pretty well. I am really pleased. I really feel very happy here."
"There is a bit of a novelty factor, but you feel the underlying values of the team are different. That is very good. By that, I mean that all the sponsors are very, very welcome and all the partners involved with the team are really encouraged to get involved with the riders, to get our feedback. They seem genuinely interested in that feedback and any comments you make seem to be taken, dealt with and implemented, or at least some sort of response is given."
The squad is currently at its training camp at the Club Robinson Quinta dal Ria, near the border between Portugal and Spain. One of the ideas behind the team is to enable riders and suppliers to have a constant two-way discussion about the bikes and equipment used.
Hammond sees a clear benefit. "To have such a hands on approach means that you really feel like you are doing something extra than just winning bike races for them. That gives you an extra feel-good factor. And then the general feeling that everything is revolving around making us go fast is great, really. Sometimes I think that is lost [in modern cycling].
"I don't think they are going to reinvent the bike, but all the way along there will be little modifications, little advances in technology. Bike racing is no longer about winning by ten minutes, so the little things are what is important."
The 34 year old Briton was third in the 2004 Paris-Roubaix and second in Het Volk two years ago. Those big one-day races will remain his focus in 2009, and he's putting every bit of thought into having a good ride then.
"For me, the Classics are the big goals. They are really always my dream. I think it is also important for all of the partners involved in this team that we go well at that point. From there, as I always do every year, I will start mapping out my second campaign after that. I don't like to get involved in thinking about the Tour or the Vuelta or anything after that [until the Classics are over].
Hammond said that he is feeling strong. Providing things continue this way, he is relatively confident of a good showing in those events.
"I feel healthy, touch wood. Last year I missed so much of the winter due to illness, injuries or problems. That showed in the Classics, I was just that little bit short. Whereas touch wood, so far it has been a good winter. I can count the number of days I missed on one hand, so that is good…no excuses!!"