After coming second in the Redlands Bicycle Classic, James Oram was aiming for a high result in the Tour of California, but a crash on the third stage knocked him out of the race. Now recovered from a broken elbow and wrist, the New Zealander is ramping back up for the Tour of Utah, to which his Bissell Development Team was invited this week, and the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, where he hopes to show off his talents to WorldTour team recruiters.
Last year, as a 19-year-old, Oram finished the USA Pro Challenge in the top 20 overall standings, despite working for teammate Lawson Craddock. He saw the result was another step in the direction towards turning professional.
He first started believing in his talents in his final year in high school when he finished second in the junior world championships in the individual time trial in 2011. Being part of the professional peloton in Colorado though, was a good indicator of his future in the sport.
“That was officially another step up for me where I realised I can be competitive at this level, especially with the training going into that race,” he told Cyclingnews. “I pushed myself a lot further and did a lot more than I had in previous years. I think it’s one thing about being so young, you don’t quite know where your boundaries are so you keep pushing them. To push them in a race like Colorado is definitely a confidence builder.”
Oram is hoping to demonstrate his abilities in Tour of Utah and Colorado again this year, especially after a broken elbow and wrist sustained at this year’s Tour of California took him out of the race. He crashed along with teammate Ryan Eastman, who broke his collarbone. Possibly with the professional dream at the back of their minds, the two men completed the stage up to Mount Diablo in spite of their injuries.
“I’m obviously gutted about California," he said. "That was one that I was targeting. All the races I have done so far, I’ve either been consistent or got a result so I am definitely happy with how the form has been. I just need to get a few more results at the end of the year then I’ll be really happy.”
After being quizzed about finding motivation to return from injury he said, “I always want to be moving up or moving forward in whatever it is I'm doing. The next step for me, that I see, is ProTour. I definitely don’t just want to be content and happy at the level I am at now. I want to keep improving. It’s not an easy sport to do well in so if I can push myself to the best possible place, that would be great.”
The Bissell Development team (formerly Bontrager Livestrong) is well known for having one of the most successful graduation rates to the professional ranks. Taylor Phinney (BMC), Alex Dowsett (Movistar), Joe Dombrowski (Team Sky) and Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing) are just some of the riders who’ve made the successful transition.
“We’re such a young team and it’s always fun," he said. "It’s serious when it needs to be but when it doesn’t need to be we kick back and enjoy spending time together. That’s the great thing about this team, it’s more of a friendship than just a pure business relationship. I’m in contact with most of the guys who’ve stepped up to the pro level from the team and I definitely want to join them next year.”