'Chasing Cats' by notinthepeloton
Monday 12th August 2019
It was back on The One v2.0 that we crossed paths with Sam Hodges. Drenched in Pearsons Cycles kit sporting a mid-afro poking through his helmet vents, he already had the build of a hyperactive sprinter. It turned out he was local to us too along with Chris Detsicas, cue the next few years of KOM stealing! Sam had been racing for Pearsons but jumped over to Lky7 Saddledrunk Racing and it's safe to say he has bounced on in the right direction. He has moved up the Cats and is now racing at Cat2 level, his journey has been a joy to watch and we thought an interview was in order to influence the next batch of wannabe Sam Hodges'!...
It’s been quite a journey in your racing career so far and we’ve been privileged to witness the development you have taken from being a Cat 4 rider into a now fearless Cat 2 racer. Was progressing through the ranks always your goal or was it just an itch you had to scratch from your racing days in go-karting?
I guess I’ve always enjoyed sporting competition since my karting days when I was much younger but I never got into cycling with the intention to compete. I bought my first road bike just over 3 years ago because I needed something to take my mind off a recent break up. Things quickly escalated as I started to enjoy seeing the fitness progression in myself and being able to ride a bit faster and longer week after week. It wasn’t long before I was taking my training quite seriously and working towards racing.
It has to be asked. How far do you think you can go and how far do you want to go?
Getting my Cat 1 licence next year is a realistic target. Beyond that I really don’t know. I’m someone that wants to always progress in whatever I’m doing. To be competitive beyond a certain level there is so much sacrifice, risk and expense involved that you have to really want it. I know a few people that target a Cat 1 upgrade and then either ‘retire’ or just slip back down the categories because the training and racing is all so intense. We’ll see how I go...
You put a lot of effort in over Winter 2018 (often trying to chase you down on Zwift but to no avail!). Was motivation an issue in those dark cold months trying to envisage your goals for 2019 or did you approach each training session with the same level of commitment?
Motivation is always an issue. I always say that you can’t rely on motivation before doing something. Discipline is what matters and where the gains are made.
You probably will agree that your new level of fitness has come through your diet and nutrition as a vegan. Can you explain the benefits that has brought you on and off the bike?
I wouldn’t want to say that I’ve got where I am now because I’m vegan. There are 1000s of stronger cyclists out there who aren’t vegan. And I know I could be doing what I’m doing now if I wasn’t vegan. I don’t eat a plant based diet for performance gains, I eat it for long term health, ethics and environmental reasons. All I’d say is that when my diet is really focused around whole plant foods I feel better in every aspect of my health and performance, physical and mental. (Maybe he doesn’t agree then!)
Favourite post vegan meal chef?
Scrambled tofu with some veggie sausages, spinach, baked beans and a bagel does the job and is easy to put together.
You’re currently top of the Bovingdon Championship that you didn’t realise you were part of! Has this come as a welcomed short-term goal or have you had to adjust your racing plans to fit around winning that impressive title?
I’ve really enjoyed racing at Bovingdon this year! Someone recommended the series to me on Twitter when I was moaning that most crit circuits we race on aren't very technical. Bovingdon suits me because there’s a couple of tight corners which you can gain a lot of time on / save energy though if you are a decent bike handler. Being quite small, I’ve never had big raw power like a lot of riders I race against, so anything that levels the playing field a bit for me is great! So far I’ve had a 4th, 2nd, 3rd and 2 wins in the series which puts me a few points ahead at the top of the championship with 1 round to go. Since I realised there was a championship to fight for I’ve adjusted my training slightly just so that I don’t carry too much fatigue into the Bovingdon races. (NB: Sam won the Bovingdon Championship!)
Again, we had the privilege of watching you in the warm-up race for the Tour Series at Brooklands and your commitment through the corners were a joy to watch although frightening at the same time seeing how many riders came down on the tight hairpins. Having that circuit experience through go karting in your younger days, would you recommend other ambitious racers dabble in a bit of motor racing too to understand racing lines etc.?
It probably helps a little to understand what the best racing line is through a corner. I’m also not afraid to leave the braking until the last second which is something I learned as a kid growing up karting. Aside from that though, taking a bike through a corner at speed is completely different to a kart or car where you can play with the grip a lot more. On a bike the grip is either there or it isnt so you have to make an educated guess at how much the tyres can take and then get as close to it as you dare. I’ve crossed that line and crashed a few times, which is all part of the learning.
You used to race for Pearson Cycles but then was snapped up by the Lyky7 Saddledrunk Racing Team. What has been the main differences in the ways the 2 teams are run?
Pearsons was a larger social club. They were such a good club for me to make new friends in the cycling community, learn new routes, etiquette and understand how to ride in groups. They weren't very well represented in local races though so I was keen to join a dedicated race time like Lky7 SD Racing when I could.
Safe to say from your progress through the Cats that you must have earnt the respect from your team mates, we would like to know what team mates have you looked to the most for racing/training advice?
The first person in the team that really impressed me from the team was James Norris. I first met him on a team training ride. He came across as a natural leader and had such a pro riding style on the bike; James is a classy rider. The whole team are great though and I’ve learnt through everyone.
So what’s your main goals for the 2nd half of 2019 or you looking to wind down early in prep’ for next year?
Only goal now is to win the Bovingdon series (Boom!). After that I’ll continue to race until October but there aren’t any major targets. I’ll take a few days off in October and then the long winter grind to prep for 2020 begins.
Breaking news: NITP have offered you a contract for 2020, free homemade vegan energy bar per win plus the team owner will index your gears for free whenever you want, interested?!
Yeah let’s do it, I’m in!