Tour de l'Eure et Loire winner ready for the next challenge
Despite having only just made his first appearance for Australia at under 23 level, Sam Spokes should count himself as being very unlucky to have missed a spot for the national team for the UCI Road World Championships.
"I'm pretty disappointed not to get a spot, but that is what cycling is all about," the 20-year-old told Cyclingnews following news of his non-selection. "I just roll with the punches and take it how it comes."
Selectors instead went with a line-up of Nick Aitken, Rohan Dennis, Michael Freiberg, Damien Howson, Jay McCarthy (Team Jayco AIS) and Adam Phelan (Drapac Professional Cycling).
Spokes, who rides for EFC Omega Pharma QuickStep, was already focusing on his next challenge with an eye to finishing off the season and adding to his already-impressive palmares. The Tamworth rider has just finished eighth overall at the Tour de Moselle.
With so many of Australia's riders coming through the AIS program, Spokes is indeed in a minority but it's a path that he's made work. Spokes' dad Alan rode in Europe; won a stage of the Sun Tour and in 1973 rode the fastest time in Grafton to Inverell. Given the family connection within the sport, he's been bike races for as long as he can remember. Racing locally in Tamworth from the age of six eventually landed Spokes a spot with Johan Museeuw Test Team and in 2011, with EFC Omega Pharma QuickStep.
"I wanted to do a full season in Europe after juniors and at the time Jayco was only offering three or four months so I went to Belgium at the end of junior year for two months and raced with a Belgian team [Johan Museeuw Test Team]," Spokes explained.
Racing and winning the overall at Liège-La Gleize with the national team as a junior in 2010, Spokes came to the attention of EFC Omega Pharma QuickStep.
"I just had a really good day on the last stage and wasn't the leader of the team, Jay [McCarthy] and Damien [Howson] were and I went at the right time. I had good legs in the last 20 kilometres and managed to put the right effort in and ended up winning the tour which, still to this day is one of the best experiences that I've had in cycling."
Spokes is unsure of his next move but is really pleased with his time riding with the outfit.
"I'm trying to move a step forward, maybe go to a bigger team," he explained. "I've achieved what I wanted to achieve in the two years and either way I'll be leaving on good terms or staying for another year.
"I've enjoyed every minute of it. It's been a good stepping stone."
Spokes' season began with a sixth-place finish at Liège - Bastogne - Liège, U23 before claiming a stage win on the way to overall victory at Tour de l'Eure et Loire, following in the footsteps of Romain Feillu.
"I thought I'd give it a good crack and just see what happens," Spokes said. "It just turned out that I got in the right breakaway and I had pretty good legs so winning that stage was my first individual victory as an under 23 which was a big weight off the shoulders.
"It was the first win for the team for the year as well which was pretty exciting and it was a big morale boost."
Spokes' form continued with a win at the Belgian interclub race, Zillebeke - Westouter - Zillebeke before joining the national team for Tour de l'Avenir where he was riding in support of McCarthy.
Despite the obvious disappointment of missing out on a worlds berth, Spokes is self-assured.
"In my eyes I'm only 20 so I hope to be at many more worlds in the future," he explained.
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