Interview with Sam Horgan, winner of the 2013 Melbourne to Warrnambool

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We spoke with Sam Horgan of Team Budget Forklifts the morning after he won the Melbourne to Warrnambool. Here’s what he had to say.

Going into the race on Saturday morning, what was the plan for Team Budget Forklifts? I’m guessing you didn’t plan to go 1-2-3?!

Not at all. We were confident that any one of the guys could have won the race. It was our intention to have someone in every move and hopefully have strength in numbers at the end of the race. We really thought that the key point in the race was going to come after the Camperdown climb, in the last 60km [where] the fatigue really sets in and the strongest guys come to the front.

How did the race unfold from your point of view?

The race actually got away very quick with that breakaway early on with a strong Drapac presence and a couple from Genesys. We had two guys there but eventually it whittled down and we only one rider up the road — it was a pretty dangerous move and it certainly led to the first 100km of the race being pretty quick. Luckily Euride missed that and they brought it back. So that was the first key section.

The second was when we had the Camperdown climb. Actually that’s not true — there was another key point where a breakaway went up the road with Joe Cooper. Jake Kaufmann, my teammate, Tom Palmer (Drapac) and I think Harry Carpenter was there from Euride and they motored out and got a huge gap straight away. But what happened was we had a tail-crosswind section after that and the pace went on and really did some damage to the bunch. That was a really really hard section of the race.

That was before Camperdown — they got caught quite shortly before the climb and then the climb up to Camperdown was hard. Then that group snuck away at the front and for our team that was real panic stations because me, Michael Vink and Jake Kaufmann were there but we were outnumbered in the bunch and there was the group up the road. Michael in particular did a heap of work to hold that group, to not let them get too far up the road.

The group had Lapthorne and Haig and they launched up the climb. That was really dangerous and a bit of a key point for our team. It came back a wee bit but that’s when Goesinnen and Haig stayed away and at that stage we were at a pretty big disadvantage.

We know the calibre of rider Floris Goesinnen is — it must have been panic stations at that point?

Yeah, him and Jack Haig. With them up the road there were strong guys from Drapac and from Genesys just sitting up in the bunch so it was a wee bit stressful to be honest but Jack unfortunately had a hard day and he got dropped which took the pressure off because Genesys suddenly had to do the work. In the end Jack managed to spur a lead group to bridge across to that front group and suddenly we were back in the race.

At what point did you guys think “Ok, we’re in with a chance of winning this?

When Jack and managed to get across to the front group. It was just as we turned right onto the main road until Warrnambool. By that stage the fatigue had well and truly set in in what was left of the peloton — everyone was looking tired. The groups had split up and rejoined, split up and rejoined, guys were getting shelled from the front group. I think the front group split into two — it was quite unreal.

With about 3km to go you and Jack Beckinsale got across to the lead group of three. What happened from there?

Just as we were catching them I noticed the group in front of us spread out across the road, all sort of playing cat and mouse, and I noticed a lull in pace so as soon I caught them I dived up the left-hand side 3km out and got a good gap straight away. Then I just put my head down and went for it.

There was a climb at 2km to go, the last wee climb, and I turned around and Jack Anderson was coming across right behind me. So I eased up a wee bit, got him there, and then just gave it another big pull up the climb. At that point we had Alex Ray literally only 10 metres behind us, chasing desperately so me and Jack gave a couple of big turns to make sure we stayed away from him. But once we had that last climb he sort of faded back and the win was ours.

I didn’t realise that Jake had made it across to the front group until we crossed the line and I turned around and saw him come in for third — it was unbelievable.

The morale must have been amazing in the team last night?

Yeah, the guys were stoked. The team had never won the race which had been a bit of a sore point I guess. We really, really wanted to win the race and to go 1-2-3 is actually quite unbelievable.

How did you and Jack Anderson decide who was going to take the win?

He just said “you can have it”. He’s just a great teammate and a real gentleman — I couldn’t ask for a better teammate to be honest. I have no doubt he’s going to go on to bigger and better things with Drapac — he’s a very very good rider and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. He’s been working full time whilst riding NRS so I think he’s going to be a real great cyclist once he puts his mind to it and works full time.

You won the Tour of the Great South Coast earlier this year in the same part of the world. Is there something you like about riding in the wind?

Certainly. I feel strong in the wind. I enjoy strong crosswind sections. I don’t know if it’s a combination of being a little bit heavier and having a bit of extra power makes it a little bit easier for me but I certainly feel much more comfortable than a lot of the guys I’m around. I really like that sort of rolling terrain as well — I’m not a climber by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t mind a bit of grotty weather either.

We didn’t have that with the Warrny, but the Tour of the Great South Coast was miserable and I thrived in those conditions as well.

I spoke with Jason Spencer who was in that breakaway with Jack Haig and Floris Goesinnen and he said one of the things that really sets you apart in the wind is that you’re able to keep your head really well — you know where to be a.

I just feel comfortable in the crosswind. I’ve grown up with it – I’m from Palmerston in New Zealand which is one of the windier regions so as a junior I had to go training in gale-force winds. I’m pretty used to it.

It was your first time riding the Warrny. What had you heard about it and how did it match up to expectations?

It was actually the first time for all three of us: me, Jack and Jake were all first-time riders. Obviously I’d heard how prestigious the race is. I also heard that it’s a long, long day and that by the end of the race it becomes a real race of attrition.

I’d heard that it suits the riders that had done the work and training — you can’t bluff your way to a win at Warrnambool. With that in mind I trained pretty hard for it in the lead up. I’d heard about the conditions as well and the crosswind sections with made me pretty motivated.

At the start of the year I highlighted the Warrny as one of the races I wanted to do well at, just because on paper it seemed like one that would suit me really well.

The winds were definitely a real feature of the race. Having never done a race that long I was pretty green in terms of nutrition, pacing myself and knowing how well I’d back up at the end of the race. I was probably a bit more conservative than I had to be, but that probably led to me having pretty good legs at the finish.

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