Rietmu Banka-Riga have had a brilliant 2017 season, as the small Latvian team mixed it up with the big boys on several occasions. They produced two star riders, Maris Bogdanovics and Emils Liepins. Despite winning several races, the team has not been able to stay at Continental level for 2018 and they will return to club level in Latvia, leaving all but their two stars without pro contracts.
Deins Kanepejs is a young rider who had a great season in 2017, with 2nd on GC in the Tour of Estonia as well as winning a sprint in the Tour of Quangzhou Bay. However, he plays a key role in the leadout train and was a part of all off Bogdanovics’s sprint wins in 2017, as well as being his final leadout man for all but one of the wins. With his future up in the air, U23 Cycling Zone caught up with Deins to discuss the future.
“I think my 2017 season was good but my season started really badly. I got in an accident with car in Spain during training camp, then when I was in really good shape I crashed in a Nation’s Cup race in Belgium, but after that my year got better and better.”
Before delving deeper into 2017 and his awful contract situation, we asked Deins how he got into the sport, given there are not many Latvian pros, although the pros they have are strong and very talented.
“I was a cross-country skier beforehand. I started riding my bike in the summers and one summer I took part in some local races and there, a cycling coach saw me from there I preferred cycling to skiing.”
Deins then took some time to break down the Rietmu leadout train, which won five UCI ranked races overall. He relayed the keys to their success, profited n mostly by Maris Bogdanovics, He also spoke about doing a different job for his friend Emils, who is a climber and has joined One Pro Cycling in the UK. Bogdanovics has joined Amore e Vita in Italy for 2018.
“In the team, I worked a lot for Maris and Emils Liepins from the season’s start before Emils signed for the Marseille team. We are really good friends who know each other really well. Together, we are 6 riders who trust each other and know our lead-out train’s power. And I think we are really strong because when we are coming together for a group finish, all teams are looking for our team sprinter’s wheel. I think our sprinter trusts us, because we are always at least three last guys and all of us are more then 190cm tall and we are a really respected team. It’s really bad that it was last year for team Rietumu Bank Riga and only the sprinters can find a new team for 2018.”
Deins can still race for his current team in 2018, but given their status as a club team, he would no longer be a pro or have access to UCI races. Therefore, he explained how he intends to keep racing at a high level in 2018 and his hopes of securing a contract for 2019.
“I don’t know how it will work for next season but I’m training harder than ever for next year because I think it’s my big chance to do nice results for myself. I don’t have contract and dent know what to do, but I for sure will ride with the national team and make results while looking for a contract for 2019 because I know I can do it. Andris Vosekalns and Armands Becis are two other guys who did a big job for the team in leadouts and they also have no contract. The whole situation is sad.”
Deins thinks he has a great chance at getting results. His win in Quangzhou Bay proves he can actually win sprints and proves he is more than just a leadout man. However, he doesn’t think sprints are the only chance at taking success in the future.
“I think I can make some results as well as helping others. I think I can do it from breakaways, but as you can see in the last race I did, where we don’t have sprinters I take victory in a sprint finish. That’s our leadout power: we all are really fast and everyone can make at least a top 10 in finish, but we do our best for our sprinter and I know if I need help from them I will get it. This is how it was in Tour of Estonia, when Emils Liepins was all day with me to protect me and that was an amazing feeling.”
Despite coming from Eastern Europe, the 22 year old, fourth in the Latvian Road Race Championships this year, says the Belgian style of racing is his absolute favourite, although he can handle a climb too.
“I love racing in Belgium, my favourite races are in crosswinds and flat, fast, active races, but I don’t have opportunities to race there often. I like Spain also, but there are climbs, and that’s is not so good for me. But I started my season with a victory in a Spanish national race, so I don’t have problems racing there either.”
Deins is very proud to be Latvian, and when asked if he could win any pro race, he selected his choice based on the fact he would be winning for his country rather than part of a trade team.
“I hope I can win either the European or World Championships, because I want to show off the Latvian colours again for all world to see.”
U23 Cycling Zone would like to thank Deins for taking part in this interview. We wish him all the best for 2018 and sincerely hope he can secure a pro contract as soon as possible. You can follow his journey on Twitter at @Deins_Kanepejs. We also ask that this interview is retweeted as much as possible to try and raise awareness of Deins and his teammates’ situation. If just one rider can get a pro deal for 2018 and keep their dream alive, it would be great. We also ask that any team who has spots for 2018 considers Deins, especially given the really strong season he has. If anyone knows a team with spots open, please contact them about Deins. We thank you all in advance and, as always, thank you for reading!