CORRINGHAM professional road racer Danny Patten is packing his bag to compete in warmer climes.
The 26-year-old has signed a contract for an American team and he will be escaping the cold weather to jet off to the southern state of Georgia in a couple of weeks to meet up with fellow team members.
Patten has spent years on the professional racing circuit and last season competed in Belgium and France for the Soenens Construkyglas team.
But now he has decided to make the jump to a US team — Team Smart Stop/Mountain Khakis — as a way of furthering his cycling career.
He said: “It’s an opportunity to show what else I can do.
“There are relatively few Britons racing in the USA at present, compared to the Brits on the crowded European scene, so I’m hoping that will bring in extra media interest in the USA.
“American racing is a bit different from European racing in that they have a wide range of terrain and also like both long road races, criteriums, city centre racing and mountain stages.
“I’m somebody who likes a challenge and have always felt that my strength was being enough of an allrounder to do well,” said the former Gable Hall School head boy.
In Europe last season Patten clocked up three wins, established one overall win and scooped three other podium places against top European teams.
“It was quite nice that, when I told them I wanted to go to the USA, the team bosses said that I was always welcome to come back and race for their team. So I feel that I have been a good servant to the Soenens team.”
But now Patten, a former Thurrock Harrier who only got into cycling to recover from a bad injury, believes he has another chance to reach his goals.
And although his new team is not one of the major outfits on the domestic USA circuit, his team’s early season results may qualify them for some of the country’s top races which have wild card places up for grabs.
The domestic Smart Stop season will take in the Redlands Cycling Classic in California, the USA Cycling Pro nationals, the Nature Valley Grand Prix in New Mexico and the Harlem Skyscraper Criterium in Manhatten.
Riders will also compete in scores of other events on the East and West coasts as well as Midwest weekend events.
For Patten, last week’s Lance Armstrong interview where the shamed Tour de France winner admitted his doping, may serve as a line in the sand for the sport which has cleaned up its act a great deal in recent years.
Patten said: “The interview came just as I was finalising the deal and I know that some US teams and riders have lost sponsors because of it. But maybe now that he’s come clean about what he did the sport can move on and become stronger.”
Drugs testing in cycling has been considerably beefed up over the last few seasons.
Patten’s own aim at present is to maintain his own fitness levels, which he says were very good at the end of last season, and he’s delighted he has managed to maintain fitness over the winter – despite the ice and snow of recent days.
“I was out for a run over the fields at the back of my parents’ house despite the snow.
“I was with the Thurrock Harriers as a runner for years and it’s still in me sometimes to mix up my training with some running. When I saw the snow, I decided to go for a run and it was really enjoyable.”