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Now over health issues which hampered his form earlier this season and with strong showings to his credit in recent months, Matt Brammeier is hoping to return to some of the world’s biggest events next year.
The four-time Irish road race champion has been competing this year with the Synergy Baku team and while he describes his experiences there in a positive light, he is hoping to be able to step back up from the Continental level.
“Obviously I want to move up again. I am trying hard and I want to look at every option that is out there,” he told CyclingTips. “It is a bit difficult as always. This year with some teams going and new teams not materialising, it is kind of the same deal as last year. I am staying positive and I am just hoping that the things I am working on might pull off.
“I am racing well now and it is a time when, hopefully, team managers are looking at riders. I will just cross my fingers and keep turning out results.”
Brammeier’s form was off for a period of this season but he has bounced back in recent weeks. He finished sixth overall in the 2.1 Tour of China I and is riding aggressively in the Tour of China II, being caught with three kilometres to go on Friday’s stage. He is currently 13th overall there and hopes to move up further before the end of the race.
He said the key to his turnaround was identifying and resolving a dental issue. “I don’t even know how long I had it, but I had this big infection in my tooth for at least a month, six weeks. I previously had a root canal on it before but it failed for some reason.
“I had no nerves in it and so I didn’t know it was there. It got really bad and the infection started coming out of my gum.
“To cut a long story short, because it was in there so long, it was in the blood and was messing me up. I just felt terrible for a good part of two months. I just didn’t have any form. I didn’t really know what was up with me. I was having tests for malaria, glandular fever…I just didn’t know what it was. It turned out it was this infection and we had to pull a couple of teeth out, have a couple of root canals and stuff.”
Brammeier said he felt rough for a couple of weeks after the procedure, but then things turned around. “I just feel so much better recently. Even in myself, off the bike and in general. I feel healthy and alive again. It was a weird feeling.”
Brammeier has been working with former pro Marco Pinotti, who has been giving him coaching guidance. He feels confident that he is back to a strong level of form and, having raced in the past for teams such as HTC Highroad and Omega Pharma QuickStep, he wants to return to big teams and working for strong sprinters.
“WorldTour would be ideal, but to be honest it wouldn’t really bother me to be in another [Pro Continental] team,” he said. “Doing the big races again. It is not even the fact of doing the races, it is being in a team where there is someone to work for.
“That is what I do, what I have always done. It is where most of my value is. Yeah, I can probably get some results for myself but it’s nothing worth a huge big salary to go win all these smaller races. I am not really that kind of rider.
“I might pick up a few results and kind of always do every season, pick up a few results here and there, but I think I am better in a big team, helping out guys and getting stuck into leadouts and things like that. That is also what I enjoy doing. I want to be back there doing that and just kind of show myself. I feel stronger than I felt before, especially on the climbs. I have lost a lot of weight this year.”
Given his work before with HTC Highroad and Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Brammeier has experience of being part of the long-range chase of breakaway moves and also in the leadout in the buildup to sprints. He wants to get back to that kind of role in cycling’s top races, and sees one team which has been making a lot of sprint-specific signings lately as the kind of setup he’d like to be part of.
“I have been in contact with most teams, to be honest,” he said. “MTN-Qhubeka is probably one of the teams I would like to ride for, with the kind of guys they have got there and the structure they have got. It is an up-and-coming new team, it seems pretty exciting to me with the African side of it.
“I was in contact with them a few years ago. When I left HTC, I was pretty close to signing there. I was going to go there with Gerald Ciolek, but I ended up going to QuickStep which, in hindsight, was stupid.
“I am trying there and I am trying a few other teams as well at that level. I will just have to see how that pans out, really.”
Brammeier said that he doesn’t use an agent at this point in time. He has contacted teams himself and said that most sport directors know him and his qualities. His aim is to chase good results to show he is back in form after his health issues this year, and try to secure a deal that way.
Currently close to the end of the Tour of China II, he is hoping for several more races prior to the end of the year. He was vying for a place on the Irish team for the world road race championships but, at this point in time, the team comprises Dan Martin, Nicolas Roche and Philip Deignan, with Sam Bennett as the reserve. The latter has been ill at the Tour of Britain; it remains to be seen if there will be any change to that fourth slot or if the NetApp Endura rider will remain the backup.
Either way, his plan is to race hard until the season ends and to show team managers that he is ready to step up if required.
The 29 year old’s situation is typical of many riders who were squeezed when several teams shut down at the end of last year. He had been with the Champion System setup but that was one of the squads to fold. Left without a ride, he worked out a deal at the eleventh hour with the Azerbaijan-based Synergy Baku team.
It is managed by David McQuaid and Brammeier had been on the radar due to his strong showings in the Irish championships plus other events.
The team has a higher budget and more professional setup than many other Continental squads. Even if he’d ideally like to be part of a WorldTour or Pro Continental team, he said that he would be open to staying put if needs be.
“As long as I am doing the big races and I am in a proper team, I will be happy. But on the other hands as well, if you take a step down you learn to appreciate it. I would see this team as being good this year. I have had a good programme and they are good guys.
“We have done some pretty good races. If it came down to it, I would be happy to stay here as well. The project for next year looks pretty good, I think the team is going to grow.
“So it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I stayed here and did a few more years with this team because, at the end of the day, I have enjoyed it this year. We’ll see what happens.”