The flying quarterback ready to tackle the WorldTour

Q&A with neo-pro Charlie Quarterman

Charlie Quarterman joined Trek-Segafredo as a stagiaire in August 2019, and after a successful few months, he put pen to paper on a two-year contract with the team. Last year the 21-year-old Brit landed some standout results in the U23 Giro d’Italia, taking a podium on the 7th stage and afterward went on to win the U23 National Championships Time Trial title.


After two years in the continental team Leopard Cycling and some solid formative years under the wing of ex-pro Flavio Zappi, “Quarterback” – nicknamed in reference to his sturdy build by his new teammates – is ready to hit the ground running in the big league.

TFS: After a positive showing as a stagiaire last season, you penned a two-year deal with Trek-Segafredo. What are your expectations for your first season as a Neo-pro?


CQ: Obviously, it’s a little bit difficult to know what to expect. There will be such big changes in all the races I do. I want to make some good progression throughout the year, and hopefully, by the end, I’ll be able to make a bigger impact at the tail end of races.


TFS: Apart from speed and the longer distances, what other challenges do you expect to face in your first year racing with the elites?


CQ: In the peloton, I think there are maybe 200 riders of the top level, and the bike handling skills of everyone is so high. The peloton is so tightly packed, it’ll just be a constant fight for the whole race, especially in the Classics. Last year, I already got to grips with it, but I think the constant fighting for positioning will be one of the biggest challenges this season.


TFS: 80 km into a classic, where are we most likely to spot you?


CQ: I think this year I’ll either be working on the front of the peloton, pulling back a breakaway or on bottle duty. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll be fighting for position in the bunch and getting ready for the key moments of races, but this year I’m expecting, and I’m prepared to do a lot of hard work for my teammates.


TFS: What’s the achievement you’re most proud of in your career so far?


CQ: The way I won the U23 Time-Trial National Champion title this year. So much detail went into the preparation, and especially doing the U23 Giro just before it, I think I took a bit of a risk with my physical condition. It was the longest stage race I ever did, and there was a lot of pressure on my team to perform there. But in the end, I turn up in great shape for the Nationals and, from my perspective, did the perfect ride.

TFS: You went to worlds in Yorkshire as the reigning UK U23 Time trial champion and notched 14th in the U23 men’s time trial. Describe your emotions that day and how you felt about the outcome.


CQ: The Worlds were the cherry on top of the cake to finish off the best season I ever had. I was a little bit worn out from the race days I’d done and trying to be on form for most of the year, but I was really excited and also a little bit nervous going into it. I didn’t know how I’d end up, especially with the course being so hilly. I’m not one of the lightest guys in the peloton, that’s for sure, so that and also the pressure of the home crowd I was maybe a little too concerned with making sure I was able to finish off a decent ride rather than risk it all on the corners and try to win it. In the end, I was a little bit disappointed to come away without a massive performance physically, but I’ll take that over crashing in the puddles like some of the other guys. 


TFS: How did your journey in cycling start, and who got you interested in the sport?


CQ: I don’t really come from a cycling family. My dad used to race in America at an amateur level in his 20’s and 30’s, but then he stopped riding his bike. It was not until 2012 with the Olympics and the Tour de France that I got truly interested in cycling. I was always into sports and had grown up playing football, rugby, hockey or cricket, but then I got involved with the local cycling club in Oxford. They were very supportive and taught me to love the sport. 


TFS: For many years you were coached by celebrated ex-pro Magnus Bäckstedt who’s the father of one of your teammates at Trek-Segafredo, Elynor Bäckstedt. What’s the best advice he ever gave you?


CQ: It was just after I finished school in 2017, he told me to be a professional cyclist is to be a part-time couch potato. It just means that when you’re a full-time rider, you only really need to prioritize the recovery. And in the end, sitting around on the sofa is hard work.


TFS: Describe a typical training week for you.


CQ: I now go to the gym twice a week to do strength training exercises like squats and leg curls. I also do it quite a bit of stretching and yoga outside of the normal training. On the bike, I will do three to four long training days that range between four to five hours. It can be endurance or a bit more structured with efforts towards the end of the session, and then I typically have one or two rest days.

TFS: What race are you most looking for to taking part this season, and what do you expect will be your role?


CQ: If I’m lucky enough to get selected for the Tour of Flanders, then I think that would be the most special day on the bike, really. If I go, I’ll just be there to help some of the main guys but just to have the opportunity to be on the start-line and be able to take on some of these really famous climbs and ride through all those crowds will be amazing.


TFS: You’ll be riding your first year as a neo-pro and as a teammate to the World Champion. How does that make you feel?


CQ: It’s a bit surreal, to be honest. All this time, I’ve been trying to play it cool, but it’s quite amazing. I think there’s a bit of pressure that comes with it, more so for Mads, but also for the team as a whole. Hopefully, we can live up to the expectations and pick up where we left off at the end of the last season. 


TFS: What model of Trek bike will you be riding most throughout 2020, and what are your favorite features about it?


CQ: I will be riding mostly the Madone. It just feels so fast, like a rocket-ship. It’s so easy and smooth. You never feel out of control and you have the confidence to always go faster. I’m really looking forward to seeing how responsive the disc-breaks will be in competition.


TFS: The best day you have had on a bike so far?


CQ: It was probably the day before I pulled out of the “Baby Giro” last year. It was stage 7, but for some reason, I was feeling amazing, like the strongest guy in the world. Even if there were a few tough moments during the day, obviously there was a mountain in there, I was riding comfortably, even more comfortable than some of the Colombians, which was quite shocking. In the end, there was this breakaway that seemed to be staying away with about a minute and a half gap. I actually managed to bridge across solo and ended up coming third on the stage.

TFS: If you could design your ideal parcours, a race that would really play into your abilities to seize a top result, what would it look like?

 CQ: It would be over 200km by a fair bit. A bit undulating, a few short hills but nothing too long, and I’d probably throw a few cobbles in there as well. Finally, I would have a nice tough, windy finish, perfect for someone to breakaway on.


Rapid-fire questions:

Sports idol growing up?

I never actually have many sports idols, but in 2012 and 2013, Bradley Wiggins was definitely someone I looked up to.

When you’re not training, what are you happiest doing?

Apart from sleeping, I love to play music. I play the guitar and the piano.

Favorite cheat meal?

Fish and chips.

Name three of your best strengths on the bike?

My ability to time-trial and my ability to suffer for a long period of time. And finally, my ability to ride in the rain and the cold.

If you could win any race in the World Tour, which would it be?

Tour of Flanders.