Petr Vakoč: “My future is in the Ardennes”
In recent years, more and more riders kept emerging from Central Europe, and one of these is the Czech Petr Vakoč, who had a superb season in 2013, winning the U23 Vuelta a la Comunidad de Madrid, the Grand Prix Kralovehradeckeho kraje, the Okolo Slovenska, a stage in the Czech Tour, as well as finishing second in the European Championships that took place in his home country.
Now, Petr Vakoč is embarking on a new adventure, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step, that has offered him a pro contract after the results he had with its feeder team, Etixx-Ihned. What lies ahead of him and what does he hope to get over the years? You can find out by reading the following interview, for which Petr made some time this week, during his training camp in Spain.
– Petr, what’s your story with cycling, how did you came up to this sport?
I started riding a bike when I was really young. My parents were active and so I have done a lot of sports with them when I was a small kid. I have always liked cycling a lot and I was also quite competitive. When I was six years old I did my first race and I loved it. Since then I started to race from time to time and when I was ten years old I started to ride for a local bike club. But at the time I was still swimming, playing football, tennis and trying other sports. When I was fifteen, I moved to Dukla Prague, where we started to take cycling more seriously. That was also the time when I started to focus on road rather than MTB.
– You raced for three amateur teams: Dukla Prague, CC Etupes and Etixx-Ihned. How important were these teams in your development?
All of the teams were really important for me. At Dukla I learned how the race on the road and also on the track and it played a huge role in my development and growing passion for cycling. I also spent a few months as a Junior and almost the whole first U23 season in the World Cycling Centre team run by the UCI, which was another great experience. The following year I got the opportunity to ride for CC Etupes and that was a big step for me. I had a great time there and learned a lot, but finally, it was this year’s team, Etixx-Ihned, which probably had the biggest impact on me. It was a huge motivation being in the feeder team of my dream team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Our team was successful in almost every race and when I saw my teammates winning, it gave me another boost, because I started to believe I can win too.
– In 2013, you were second in the European Championships. What were your feelings after that result?
I was very, very happy! Being on the podium there had been my dream since I knew the European Championships would be held in my country. Staying on the podium in front of my fans was really emotional. Of course I had some regrets, as the stars jersey was really close, but those regrets disappeared fast and now I feel just happy for the accomplished dream!
– Were you disappointed not to ride the Tour de l’Avenir and the World Championships?
Yes, I really was. Especially for not riding Tour de l’Avenir. I had been training hard for it and then realized that our national team will not ride because of some mistake in the application process. That was really hard to accept. I was looking forward to that race. Not riding the Worlds was another disappointment, as the circuit would had suited me well. But instead of being bitter, I choose to focus on the coming season, as I had already signed for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Then I was a commentator of the U23 race for the Czech TV and I enjoyed it, although I still definitely prefer to race than to be a commentator.
– What’s your best memory as an U23 rider?
I was thinking a lot about this question, as I had a lot of great memories. I think it was staying on the podium at the European Championships.
– What are the goals for your first World Tour season?
I know it will be a huge step, so for me it will be very important to gain experience and get used to a different style of racing. I want to be a good part of the team and help my teammates. And I want to be ready when there is an opportunity for me to grab it!
– Did you get to talk to the team about the races you will do?
Yes, I already know my racing programme for the Spring. Most of the races will be new for me, but I know some from TV already.
– You are good on short climbs, so will the Ardennes Classics and the Italian one-day races be your objectives in the future?
I am pretty much an all-rounder, but it is true that short climbs suit me most. I really like the Ardennes type of races, I have even had an opportunity to ride the U23 Liège–Bastogne–Liège and I loved it. In the future I would definitely like to perform well in the Ardennes Classics.