Ian Melvin talks to Tom Southam about his life as a pro with Team Amore e Vita. Tom is a new diarist for Roadcycling.com. Stay tuned for diary entries from a young British pro in a small Italian team. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
IM: Can you give us a brief history of what you?ve been doing the past few years as an amateur? How did you find yourself here in the pro peloton?
TS: I first started racing as a juvenile back in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
UK at the age of 12. After four years banging my head against the wall there, I decided that to really make it I'd have to go abroad. I took the opportunity at 16 to spend several months living and racing in
Holland. This turned out to be a great experience and for the next two years I divided my time between studying at college in the
UK and racing over in
Finally when I turned senior in 2000 I was offered a place on the World Class Performance plan. In the first season we were based in the
UK but traveled to
Europe to race for 2 or three week spells, concentrating mostly on the U23 world cup scene. The following season things changed again and we were placed in a French amateur team,
Nantes 44. Things for me didn't go so well there on a personal level so I decided to go back to what I knew best and returned to
Holland finding a place in the amateur team of Jelle Nijdam for 2002. That season turned out much better, the highlight of which was probably second at the elite national r.r. where I was offered a contract to race for a pro team Jelle was putting together for the 2003 season. However with another year left as an under 23 I decided to remain amateur so I could have another chance at the world championships and perhaps find a bigger team or 2004. In the end I went back to
Nantes 44 under the guidance of Jean-Francios Quenet who'd taken over as president of the club. The environment there was a lot better this time round and I had a really solid year. Unfortunately despite 25 or so top 10's I only won once so finding a G.S. 1 was practically impossible.
Added to that it was a really bad year to try and turn pro, but in the end I got lucky and happened across Amore e Vita at the Brandenberg Rundfahrt in
Germany. I rode really well there, made contact through Jamie (Burrow - the team?s other British rider) and in a really surprisingly short amount of time it was all done and dusted. I think I only did one more amateur race and finished the season in Amore colors at the Giro di Lucca.
IM: Was there ever a time when you thought that elusive pro contract wasn?t going to find its way to you?
TS: Yes For a period in 2001 I really stopped believing it was