The recently concluded season was the best of Hincapie Sports Development since the inception of the team, the US Continental team scoring four wins in the UCI America Tour. Three of these victories were brought by Toms Skujiņš, the 23-year-old Latvian rider who had a strong season, in which, besides his results, he discovered the States, adapting himself to the US lifestyle and races.
If last year you got to know more about Toms Skujiņš thanks to this interview, I know invite you to find out what he thinks of his first year in the US and what goals he has for 2015.
– Toms, how’s the holiday?
I’m enjoying my holiday and trying to stay away from the internet world more. Of course, I have some other stuff I’m doing, just to keep me busy.
– Any good book you’ve read recently?
I’ve been meaning to start a book, but haven’t gotten around to it, because I’ve got some not that interesting books that I have to read, learn and replicate.
– Did you had time to reflect on your season?
Well I’ve already been looking back at the season after I left the States, because the Worlds for me was definitely just going to be a race to get the feel for, not really go for a result there. Of course I wanted to do good, but I wasn’t going to get a result that would change the team I was riding for in 2015.
– For the first time in your career, you’ve raced a full season in the US. What were the main differences compared to Europe?
I get this question asked a lot. I still think that the biggest difference is made by how the wide roads affect riding styles. Almost at any moment you can get to the front, so you don’t have to worry too much about being far back. Still, some racing is less predictable and even in the big races it’s pretty exciting. A lot of the races are spectator friendly with city circuits and big loops you do over and over again and I really like that, because it’s always more fun to ride when there’s people cheering you on.
– You’ve changed countries, continents, mentalities. Was it difficult to cope with this?
Always it’s a bit difficult to go to a new team in a different country and even in a different part of the world, but I could have never have asked for a better team to arrive in, because they’ve made the transition so much easier. I’ve always been with fun people around me and they’ve always kept things bright, so it’s definitely been a lot easier then I thought it would be.
– How would you describe the Hincapie Sportswear Development team?
It’s an amazing group of people. The riders are so welcoming and fun to be with, but it’s not just the riders and the staff that’s the most caring one I’ve encountered in a team. It’s also the people behind the scenes, the people you don’t see at races. We’ve got an amazing group of people working at the Hincapie offices in Greenville. They help us out a lot and every win we get is also part theirs.
– Your best race was the Tour de Beauce, where you won the GC and two stages. How was it?
The week in Quebec when we were riding Beauce was amazing. It was a massive win for the team and me. It’s just amazing how we managed to win almost everything. Two stages, overall, points and young rider jersey, but most satisfying was that we won the team GC as well. It’s pretty amazing the boys managed to do that even though they had to ride the front to keep everyone in check for so long. It just showed how strong we are as a team. Plus standing on the podium alone is no fun, it’s always so much more fun to have everyone up there.
– You’ve also raced Utah, Colorado and Alberta against many World Tour teams. What memories do you have from these races?
Well most of those races I was just suffering, surviving and helping my team as much as I could. The only day I got a result was on stage two in Utah, when I sprinted to a sweet 5th place. But from then it just all went downhill, because my body just hates altitude. I’m hoping it will have adapted next year and that second time’s a charm. At least in Alberta when we went back to almost sea level racing I was back on track. I could ride at the front hard and long. On the last stage, when on the last lap we hit the final climb full gas, it was just me, Serghei (ed. Tvetcov) and six guys from World Tour teams left, so that gave me a big confidence boost. I knew I couldn’t win if I waited and I just went for it 5 km out. It was a risky move, and I knew I had little chance if no one went with me, but it was better then having no chance at the GC at all.
– Do you have any regrets after this year?
Regrets? Don’t think so. There’s always room for improvement, but regrets… Nah.
– How did this US experience helped you become a better rider?
It’s always nice to learn something new in training, racing, nutrition and just taking care of yourself. I’ve learnt a few new tricks, so that’ll help me a lot in the coming years. Training in the US is a bit more scientific, so it’s a big change to the Russian system in which I grew up in. Now I’m trying to combine both and make a system of my own.
– With what thoughts will you start the 2015 season?
2015 will be bigger, better and faster. I love that Worlds is going to be in the states, that’ll give me an advantage being there already, hopefully seeing the track before. I’m also looking at collecting as many UCI points as I can for Latvia, so that we’ve got as many riders as we can get at the Olympics in 2016. It’s a year I was looking forward to even before the season had ended. I’m having a break now, but looking forward to training hard for the upcoming season already next week.
– Any particular goals in terms of results, but also improvements?
I’m looking forward to racing the Tour of California, because I didn’t get to do it this year and I think we’ve proved we belong there. Also the team is planning to do some races in Australia in order to prepare for the season in the States, but we’ll see if that happens, because we have to hope the Aussies are looking at some races we’ve done over in the States and give us an invitation. I’m really looking forward to my new team mates, because I’ve heard we have made some good signing over the winter. I’m super happy for Joey Rosskopf and his move to BMC, but we’ll miss him on the Hincapie squad.