Sam Dobbs stands on the cusp of one of the biggest leaps forward in his young career to date. Having signed with the BMC Development Team for 2016, Sam is now getting ready for something bigger, tougher and more advanced than anything he has experienced before. RoadCycling got to talk with him about the upcoming move.
There has been a lot to celebrate in Sam’s 2015 season. Success at home on a National level, across the water at an Australian level, and halfway around the world at a European level led to a World Championship call up and now a chance to race for one of the giants in U23 racing. But Sam has been sure to keep his feet firmly on the ground when it comes to reflecting on the year that was. “It’s not been a ‘breakthrough year’ but, I’ve still stepped up this year with training and everything. I’ve tried to be a bit more of an all-round athlete trying to take things a bit more seriously. I think until now it’s been a bit more fun and games but this year I’ve just had to start getting serious,” Sam said.
We asked Sam if his decision to really step into a new level of cycling was prompted by anything specific like an event; or was it something Sam had preempted as necessary before his season began? But as he talked we got the impression that it was more the latter. This being his last year as a junior rider I think it’s been that consciousness that U23 is knocking on the door that saw Sam approach this year with a greater degree of urgency. “As you get older, like I’m turning U23s next year, you can’t just wing it anymore; you have to do everything right if you want to make it. Obviously in a sport like this I have to make more sacrifices,” Sam explained.
Sam raced in Australia for health.com.au/search2retain where he gained valuable experience that he was able to take with him to Belgium, where he embarked on a successful campaign there. But interestingly the jump from NRS to Belgian Kermesse racing was one that Sam didn’t appear to struggle with at all; certainly not in terms of race-toughness required. “Racing in New Zealand to the NRS is a shock and then you adapt to it. Then going to Belgium it’s another ball game so it’s all just progression. The NRS and Belgium are similar in intensity but there’s a bit more desperation in Belgium. You’re racing 200 people and they all want to win,” he said.
But Sam often found himself at the top end of race results, winning, on the podium or in the top 10 on multiple occasions. And it didn’t take long for BMC Development to begin to show an interest. “They had people who came and watched me racing, and I had numerous testings in the lab to see if I ticked the boxes; and I didn’t really think I’d get something with them because BMC are such a good team but they obviously liked what they saw,” Sam told RoadCycling.
While this year has been a year of gradual progression, I think that even by Sam’s standards, signing up for BMC Development is more of a leap in his cycling career. “It’s pretty massive, you’re going from Junior on the NRS to the hardest U23 races in the world and you’ve got guys who are 5 years above you in their last year of U23 so it’s going to be a big jump,” Sam said. “BMC Racing is a World Tour team and this is their feeder team. It’s an U23 based team and it’s one of the best U23 development teams in the world, they send 2-5 guys into the World Tour each year. It’s pretty exciting, they’ve got a pretty good structure, they operate almost exactly like a World Tour team.”
Being in the baby brother team of BMC Racing is an exciting prospect, and he will be in a great environment to adapt and make it a successful adjustment to life as an U23 rider. “I’ll be working with them over the next few months and hopefully I’ll be able to adapt to it and start performing but it’s going to be a pretty long process, I’ll be working for the team for the next few seasons,” Sam said.
That journey with BMC Development will kick off after the National Road Championships in Napier, and will see him return to Europe for his first full on team encounter. “I’ll be building up to Nationals and then we have a training camp in February in Spain. That will be good, getting to know everyone over a nearly 3 week training camp. Then hopefully I’ll get to do the Herald Sun Tour in Australia and then head over to Belgium in May,” Sam revealed.
So at the end of one season we couldn’t finish our time talking to Sam without asking what success would look like for the next one. After pondering a while he said, “Being able to have a good New Zealand Championship, being able to have a few good races in Australia before I go over to Europe. But I don’t really know how I’ll react to racing in Europe, but if I can have some nice results and do some good work for the team, securing a contract for the next season, then that will be ideal. A smooth transition is the key for me, not finding myself way out of my depth. And then if I have a good season maybe the Worlds in Qatar.”
Here’s to a smooth transition and a big step forward in the career of Sam Dobbs.