Q&A: James McLaughlin Heading to France

James McLaughlin, 4th in the 2011 Cinturon International a Mallorca & first Under 23 is heading to France in 2012 to ride for Sojasun Espoir

Riders Note: If you’d like to take part in a VeloUK Q&A, email us and we’ll send you some questions!

During the year, a lot of Brits head abroad to live the dream and race in France, Italy, Belgium and so on. Earlier this year, James McLaughlin was riding for a British team and in the early season stage race, the UCI 2.2, Cinturon International a Mallorca, he was 4th and first Under 23 rider.

James then rode the British Classic, the Lincoln Grand Prix, the CiCLE Rutland Classic, DoonHame and the first round of the Halfords Tour Series in Durham. James then headed for France for the second half of the year where he raced for Guernsey VC and then finally ‘Hennebont Cyclisme’ for the last month of the season.

Next year, James will be riding for Sojasun Espoir, a feeder team for Saur-Sojasun who had in 2011 riders such as Jimmy Casper on their roster.  James explained that the team, Sojasun Espoir, a DN1 team in France, have a great reputation in Brittany where he was racing this year and have a good structure and race program. “It is a great opportunity!” he adds.

It was James that approached the team and with them having seen him race in the country, they were pleased to take him on-board. So in 2012, James will be based in Brittany not far from the team’s headquarters in Rennes.

2011 GP Plouay for Amateurs/Under 23s where James was third.

VeloUK sent James some questions and here is what he had to say in reply:

VeloUK:  What are the best things about racing in France?
JM: I have raced in France for the last few years, racing only in the summer throughout my holidays. This year was my first full year racing albeit split between the UK at the start of the year and France in the second half.

I love the aggressive racing in France, there is such strength in-depth and generally, it is always the best rider who wins! Also, it’s their national sport and sees huge support wherever or whatever the race.

VeloUK: Climbing is one of James’s strengths which helped him in the mountainous Cinturon Classic. Does that come naturally or does he work at it?
JM: It is something which I have always believed was a strength of mine due to my slight physique however I still work on it a lot – there is always room for improvement. Time trialling is also something which I have focused on a lot which comes handy in a stage race.

VeloUK: What events do you expect to be riding with this team?
JM: Being an Under 23 team, there is a big emphasis on Espoir races especially Under 23 Nations Cup events. It is the races down south like the Ronde de L’Izard and Tour des Pyrenees where I hope to race and achieve results.

With Sojasun Espoir also being part of the DN1 Coupe de France, there will be an emphasis on competing in that so I will be travelling a lot all over France, especially in the first half of the year. In the second half, a lot of the racing is based in Brittany.

James pictured riding the early season British race, the Tour DoonHame in Scotland.

VeloUK:  Do you see the team has a possible stepping stone to a pro team?
JM: Sojasun Espoir is the feeder team to Saur-Sojasun which rode in the Tour de France this year so there is a direct connection there. I hope it will provide the stepping stone I need to progress up to the pro team or hopefully put me in the shop window.

VeloUK:  Are you going to the team alone or with other British riders?
JM: No, I am going alone. I am the only Englishman in a team full of French riders! Time to start practising my school French!

VeloUK: How did you start racing in Guernsey?
JM: I was inspired to start racing by watching Lance Armstrong race and win his last Tour de France. The sacrifice and commitment was something which really appealed to me. I worked that summer to save for a bike which I then bought in the winter to start racing the following year. The 2006 season was my first full year, just racing locally with the National Hill Climb at the end of the year.

VeloUK: Is there an active racing scene in Guernsey?
JM: The racing scene locally is very healthy. It has gone from strength-to-strength over the past few years, thanks to the continued hard work and commitment from the Guernsey Velo Club committee and its members.

It is something I hope to see continue to develop, especially the ‘Go-Ride’ scheme as they are the future of our club. Hopefully one day we will come close to rivalling the racing in the Isle of Man.

James racing the first round of the Halfords Tour Series in Durham; 2011.

VeloUK: What was the highlight for you in 2011?
JM: Placing 4th in the Cinturon International a Mallorca and 1st Espoir.

VeloUK: How and where do you intend to spend the winter?
JM: I started structured training again on 1st November and I am going back to Australia (Perth) at the start of December, to spend the rest of the winter training for the coming season. I have had a coach (Ann Bowditch) for the last five years, and without her support, I certainly wouldn’t be in the position I am in now.

It will be a mix of intervals and long miles however mainly lots of steady miles. Little ring all winter!

VeloUK: Finally, what is the end goal with your cycling – a pro career and if so, does the success of the many British pros give you more motivation that British riders can race against the best in the pro peloton?
JM: It has been a goal of mine for a long time to turn pro, so yes that is still the goal. The success of all the British pros certainly spurs you on; it shows we are not a minority anymore and can achieve big things on the world stage.

Cicle Classic in 2011 before James went off to France.

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