TalkingShop: Interview with Ian Field

Paul Burgoine writes “Given the rise in popularity of Cyclo-Cross racing in England, I thought it would be relevant to introduce to you our top Superprestige rider Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles)”.

Ian has broken into the ranks of European Cyclo-Cross this season in a big way and is now a force to be reckoned with in the crazy world  of ‘cross.

At the time of writing Ian was 35th in the UCI rankings and the 26 year old from Ashford in Kent is proving that he is here to stay and is not afraid to mix it with the likes of Sven Nys and Niels Albert in the snow and mud of Europe and the USA.

Link: Ian’s Blog about … another racing block

PB: Obvious question first, how did you get started in Cyclo-Cross?
Ian Field: I got into Cross through a friend at school. Basically he needed people for the British schools cyclo-cross championships so I went along to the school trial because I enjoyed riding my mountain bike every weekend as a kid and the idea of racing it really appealed to me.

I won the trial and came 3rd at that very first race with my school winning the overall so I was hooked. It went from local league stuff on a Saturday morning to national events and then eventually the international events with the GB team which gave me an insight into what the sport was really all about.

PB: Has Cyclo-Cross always been your favourite cycling discipline?
Ian Field: I have always loved cyclo-cross, even as a MTB’er I still competed in it every winter and took it just as seriously going to the Worlds most years. It also helped keep things fresh for me as a change is as good as a rest.

But I always knew I would come back and be full time at ‘Cross at some point in my career.

PB: What people have been influential and inspirational in your career so far?
Ian Field: There have been so many people to name who have helped out a huge amount with my career so far right from Nick Herlihy who was my friend at school through to Stefan Wyman now who is my mechanic and all round helper who had a huge influence in me coming to Belgium in the first place.

In the middle, there was my first coach Richard Wood who introduced me to the National scene in the UK taking me to all the top races for so many years! The late great Bob Ormsby who coached a Cross group in London which I rode as an Under 16. He really opened my eyes to training hard and wanting something. Then my years at British Cycling were influenced heavily first by the legendary Nick Craig who coached me for a year and taught me an awful lot about being a full time bike rider.

Then towards the end Simon Burney who helped me pursue my personal Cross goals when I came to the end of my time with BC. Finally, and not forgetting Pete Hargroves who makes everything I do possible. He gave me a shop deal when I decided to switch to Cross and he has backed me ever since each year making it possible for me to come to Belgium and try and reach the top.

PB: In  Belgium, Cross racing is huge with the top riders having extensive fan clubs and support. Being a lone Brit in the male peloton, have you been accepted by the riders and fans?
Ian Field: I’m getting there. It’s a slow process but I’m trying hard to fit in. Some riders are super friendly and helpful and others not so but I guess any job or sport is like that. I’m definitely getting more and more support at each race now which is really cool. At more or less my home race, the Koppenberg cross, there was a lot of support out on the course for me which was really cool.

PB: To compete successfully in the World Cup events, do you feel it’s essential to live in Flanders?
Ian Field: Not necessarily living in Flanders but definitely you should be competing at a very high level week in week out. There is a really good scene in the US now where it’s possible to race and be competitive when you get to World Cups. As well as the national series in France, however those are pretty much the two exceptions to not racing in Flanders week in week out.

PB: How is your Flemish coming along (it baffles me)?
Ian Field: Slowly, I find it much easier to listen to and understand rather than trying to speak it! It really helps watching TV in English with the Flemish subtitles like most of the TV is here but still you don’t learn the pronunciation that way. The other big problem, is everyone’s English is so good they automatically speak English back to you even if you have tried in Flemish!

PB: Is there a tight knit group of British Cross riders around Oudenarde, for support and socialising?
Ian Field: This is the first season there have been more than three of us staying in the same town so not really. However with two more UK riders now based in the same town, its getting there. As for support, I live in the same house as Helen Wyman and her husband so there is plenty of support within our house for each other to be honest. During the season when I am based here, socialising is put on the back burner and I’m pretty focused. The season isn’t all that long so I am pretty on it when things kick off then come March when it’s all over again for another year, I usually have a few beers with Stefan to say thank you then head home to spend time with friends and family.

PB: Most Belgium riders have fan clubs and have a variety of clothing merchandise. Even Helen Wyman has a beanie hat now. Is there a Ian Field fan club and body-warmer yet?
Ian Field: There is a supporters page on Facebook however there’s no official supporters club like the Belgians have yet. Again, it’s the same for merchandise, however there might be something coming soon……

PB: You had a good result in the Superprestige in Zonhoven and suffered bad luck in the Koppenbergcross when you were in a good position. Given this you must be positive about the 2011/12 season. Is there a race that you are targeting specifically?  (Not including Nat Champs)
Ian Field: I had been targeting the Zonhoven and Koppenberg double header so I’m pretty pleased everything worked out pretty damn well for them. I have got a bit of time to train now and then I’ll hopefully be good again at Gavere and Koksijde. Then again Koksijde for World Champs.

PB: Do you think the National Championship course in Ipswich will suit you?
Ian Field: I have only ridden there once and that was quite a few years ago now, but as long as it’s a good all round Cross course, it will be good for me. Hard sections, technical sections and something to think about would be perfect for me.

PB: Possibly the main race to visit for British fans in Belgium this year will be the World Cup event at Koksijde, but in general do you get much home support in races?
Ian Field: I have support at every race I go to which is really nice and as I said, the local race at the Koppenberg was really good for me. Hopefully Gavere and Koksijde will be just as good. The Koksijde one fits in really well for Brits with it being the Gent 6 weekend and the obviously small distance from the UK. Most of my family and friends from back home usually come and watch that one so that’s always good for me, however I have not managed to reward them with a good ride there yet!

PB: Does the grid starting system (as in Formula 1) have a big bearing on the outcome of races? And how do you get on the front row?
Ian Field: The gridding has a huge bearing on the outcome of the race. Take the first World Cup.  Albert got held up by the cameraman incident and dropped only to 23rd one place behind me on the first lap. After the race he said the chance to win the race was over on the first lap. He basically said anyone who starts third row or further back stands no chance of winning which puts it into perspective. You move forward on the grid according to UCI points and your World Ranking. Which is why I went to America for the start of the season to pick up as many points as I could.

PB: There have been some quite high profile races in London recently but the atmosphere does not come close to Belgium events. How would you sum up an event to someone contemplating a visit across the channel?
Ian Field: Ever been to a Premiership football match? That’s the kind of atmosphere we are talking about when the leading riders come through each section of the course! The fans are passionate about ‘their rider’ and don’t hold back when shouting on their guy. This is all combined with a party atmosphere which is found in the beer tents at events, dance music and beer flowing all day leads to a great event all round. Some people go to Cross races in Europe and don’t see a minute of racing let alone knows who won!

PB: So far, no ‘cross racers have had an impact on the spring classics although the idea that the transition could be made one day is always thrown into the ring. What is your opinion on this and who do you feel could maybe get a result in The Tour of Flanders or a similar race?
Ian Field: Well, we will all get the chance to see if Styby can do this transition come the classics next road season as that’s the plan! Nys has ridden Roubaix in the past and been in the leading group with 30km to go before. The riders at the front of Cross are more than talented enough to mix it on the road at the classics however these guys make enough money from cross not to have to worry about the road, plus after a long hard Cross season, do you really want to carry on with 200 plus Km road race in the next month?!

PB: Is there a lot of team work involved in Cyclo-Cross racing or can you be just as effective as a lone rider?
Ian Field: There isn’t too many team tactics employed in Cross but on a fast group racing style course it can definitely play a part. The thing I love about Cross is the fact if the one lone rider is technically good and strong they can still win rather than simply being worked over on the road which happens so many times.

PB: In your opinion, are there any other British riders that could compete at your level in Superprestige races?
Ian Field: Superprestige races are very different to the style of Cross back home, plenty of riders have come over in the past and participated at these events but  no one since Matt Ellis or Roger Hammond have really got the same results as what I have been achieving at these events. Hopefully in the future there will be more Brits coming over at a younger age and giving it a real go.

PB: Frites ‘N’ Mayonnaise or Chips ‘N’ Curry Sauce?
Ian Field: Frites n mayo every time!

PB: Snow or Mud?
Ian Field: Mud

PB: Sven Nys  or Zdenek Stybar?
Ian Field: Neither

PB: Finally what are your hopes and dreams for the 2011/12 season?
Ian Field: I really hope to move forward from the Koppenberg weekend and take another step in becoming a regular top 15 finisher. It showed me I can compete against these guys on the toughest of courses. The Worlds are a big goal and obviously nationals are really important this year. I’m just going to put my head down and peak again when I need to and hopefully the results will just follow.

Finally, to fans of the sport, Koksijde is the ideal place to go for your first Belgium Cyclo-Cross, only 30kms from Dunkerque and an amazing event with a atmosphere second to none. The race is on the 26th of November and it costs about £15. Believe me you will not be disappointed!

Get there in time for the Women’s race and as well as supporting Ian Field you can cheer on Helen Wyman. I would like to thank Ian for his time and patience in completing this question and answer session and wish him the best of luck for the future. Paul Burgoine

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