Rider Interview: Ed Hood spoke to young Delko-Marseille Provence stagieire, Simon Carr, earlier this week, now he turns his eye to a rider in his second year with the French team; Australian Criterium Champion – Brenton Jones. The fast finishing Aussie is no ‘Young Gun’ with experience all around the Globe.
We originally tried to catch up with 27 year-old Victorian, Brenton Jones (Delko-Marseille Provence) when he won the Aussie Elite Criterium Championships back in January but somehow we never managed to connect. However, when we saw he’d won a stage in Asia’s biggest stage race, The Tour of Qinghai Lake in China – which, unfortunately in terms of global recognition, runs concurrently with the Tour de France – we thought we’d better try again to, ‘have a word.’
We finally caught up with him at his home in Marseille.
Here’s what he had to say. . .
PEZ: Those sprints in Qinghai always look pretty wild?
Brenton Jones: Absolutely, they’re pretty mad and messy – there’s a lot of luck involved in winning, to be honest. The roads are so wide and relatively speaking the sprint stages are pretty easy with the last five or 10 K not too tough so you get a lot of riders involved who you wouldn’t see at the finish in a European race. Folks say it’s ‘easy’ to win in Asia but I’d dispute that!
PEZ: You’ve had good results in Asia, that’s your second stage win at Qinghai and you’ve won in Hainan, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan.
A lot of that is down to persistence and confidence that I can do well in these races – and good team backing, of course.
PEZ: The Australian Elite Criterium Championships was a nice win for you – but you don’t get much chance to wear that nice jersey?
I’ve been trying to win it for six or seven years – it means a lot to me, I’ve been on the podium three or four rimes with second and third spots but it’s tough to win against guys like Caleb Ewan and Steele van Hoff. To win the crit champs isn’t a big deal to Europeans but for Aussies and Brits it means a lot. It’s just a pity I didn’t win it when I rode for JLT Condor in 2017, with all those UK crits we rode I could have been wearing it a lot. I had hoped to get rides in post-Tour de France crits this season but they never materialised but I’m hoping to get the opportunity to ride in it once I get home to Australia after my European season finishes.
PEZ: You ‘broke through’ in 2014 with Avanti Racing with a dozen wins in Australia and New Zealand.
My best two years on the bike so far have been 2014 and 2017 and ’14 was definitely the year that got me noticed with wins at home and in Asia – those led to Drapac signing me for 2015/6.
PEZ: How was your time with Drapac?
It was tough but I gained a lot of experience racing in Europe – Coppi Bartali, Turkey, the Route Adelie de Vitre, Circuit de la Sarthe, Castilla y Leon, Tour of Norway, Limousin, Fjords. . . All hard races.
PEZ: Then you moved to the UK with JLT Condor, how did that move come about?
It was announced that Drapac were going to merge with Cannondale for season 2017 so I was looking for a ride. Tom Southam was one of the managers at Drapac – he’s still with EF – and he put me in touch with John Herety of JLT Condor, however I wasn’t sure about it. But when John contacted me in November, when I still didn’t have a ride, I decided to go with him.
PEZ: And 2017 turned out to be a good year – you even had a win in Scotland and rode ‘The Rutland.’
Yeah – I won in Motherwell; that was a tough little crit circuit. I loved riding all those ‘Tour Series’ crits, I won a fair few of them but The Rutland is one of my favourite races, I got third that year behind a breakaway of two. My absolute favourite race is Paris-Roubaix, I’ve ridden it twice but haven’t finished it due to crashes and mechanicals – but after Paris-Roubaix, The Rutland is my favourite race with all those dirt roads and gravel sectors.
PEZ: When JLT Condor folded you went to Delko – how did you get that ride for 2018?
I didn’t have a manager at that time and John Herety suggested I get one and he connected me with Jorge Quintana of Velofutur Management – he also takes care of Hugh Carthy and Matt Gibson.
He placed me with Delko Marseille for the following season around May/June and I flew to France to sign the contract around June/July time. They’ve given me great opportunities and it’s been a great experience.
PEZ: Where’s home for you?
Just outside Marseille, the weather is great here but the city is a bit hectic – it’s the second-largest city in France – so I tend not to venture in too much. My French is coming along albeit my comprehension is better than my expression, obviously it helps being around the French guys in the team.
PEZ: The team’s race programme looks very good.
It’s very good, the team was in the Ride London race, I was supposed to ride but I’ve been a little sick since I came back from China – I was pretty devastated by that, I’d love to have ridden. We were in Paris-Nice and Paris-Roubaix and have the Arctic Race of Norway coming up and then Poitou Charentes.
PEZ: Do you get much freedom to ride for yourself?
Yeah, that stage I won in Qinghai they said to me that the team was riding for me that day.
But we have Eduard Michael Grosu the former Romanian National Champion on the team; he won two stages and the overall points classification at Qinghai and the Ronde van Limburg earlier in the year so I can be on lead out duties for him. The team is obviously French but we have guys from Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Spain so it’s pretty multi-cultural.
PEZ: What’s next?
As I said, we have the Arctic Race then Poitou Charentes – I had a top five behind Demare there last year so that’s one where I’d like to do well. After that I have a bit of time off then I may have one day races in France or Belgium? I was thinking about going back to Australia in September but I may be included in the Asian races in October/November – I’ve ridden Hainan before but not Taihu Lake so that would be an experience.
I’m not too sure, the team have said that they may not be retaining me but that was before I won the stage in Qinghai – and I did some good lead out work there too. I’d like to stay with Delko, it’s such a big upheaval changing teams; I know how it all works here so I’d like to stay and ride the races I like and know. . .
# The harsh realities of Pro Conti racing – a national championship and a stage win in the biggest stage race in Asia and there’s still uncertainty. We wish Brenton well for 2020. #
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,700 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.