Interview: National Trophy Leader Paul Oldham


Talking to Paul Oldham in the Trophy yellow jersey who heads for Milton Keynes with a big lead in the National Trophy Series

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| Preview of Milton Keynes Round with start list | Overall Standings in Series | Durham Round |


Prior to the Durham round of the National Trophy, VeloUK sat down with series leader and winner now of three straight rounds, Paul Oldham. The Hope Factory Racing rider has been dominating the 2013/14 ‘cross season winning the Rapha cross series as well. Eight starts, eight wins already before Durham so add another to that stat.

Paul is an all-round racing cyclist, at home off road but equally competitive on the road. He’s competed in the Tour Series for a few seasons, ridden the Irish RAS and the CiCLE Classic but it’s in ‘cross and mountain biking where he has found most success.

We’re in the Hope Factory motorhome with Pauls family to talk ‘cross though. With that strong Lancashire accent, the popular rider who has ridden for his country in ‘cross explains how the season has got off to a better than expected start.

“To be honest, I was planning on having a steadier start to the season. We went into the first round and won that and everything has gone well from there. I just need to keep it going now.”


The rider in second place in the series, and who was second behind Paul at Durham, was an off road legend, Oli Beckingsale (Endura MTB ). Talking about the Endura rider, Paul says “Oli is an awesome bike rider so you can’t discount him. At Abergavenny, he had a problem at the start and still rolled back up to me and it took until the last lap to sort that out.”

“I don’t think he is having as full on a cross season as the rest of us so come the later part of the season, he may be fresher. He’ll have a plan will Oli, definitely!”

It isn’t just the legends like Beckingsale that Oldham has to look out for as there are other younger riders challenging him in the Trophy races. “It’s good and they should be beating us” Paul says. “You look at the first round, and me, Oli and Dave in the first four had a combined age of over hundred! These kids should beating us as it’s only an hour. Ben, Adam and Steve James have really come through though”.

Asked about season goals and Paul explains there are two, the Trophy and the National Champs although that may not have been the plan at the start …. “”I said I wasn’t really going to target the Trophy Series this year but I say this every year don’t I!”

“I work on the fact that I want to win every race I ride. If you try and do that, the series result will come. I’m not going to worry about riding for points so we’ll see what happens. The nationals is the main aim but that’s two months away.”


Winning the British Champs at Derby in 2011

The series so far has seen the courses a little muddy but Paul is ready for a change if the weather forecasts are correct. “Southampton wasn’t that muddy but it was slippery” he says. “I think it may be another season where we leave the dry weather tyres in the wheelbags. The last two years have been quite muddy and I like that; courses to be heavier, but then they say it may freeze later on so we could be on frozen courses soon.”

One of the key things about Paul’s bike with his sponsors products on it are the disc brakes. The debate rages on as to whether the disc brakes are better than the cantilever ones. Paul explains in the mud, you get less clogging which is a big plus.

“You get consistent braking too and I love them” he adds. “Some people will say otherwise but I have no problem with them. The top riders, they say the weight disadvantage isn’t worth it but you’re talking 200 grams in a muddy race; it’s really nothing. You won’t gain that much and I think the benefits out weigh the cons.”

Picking up Paul’s bike, it certainly doesn’t feel heavy and bikes are so light these days that for sure, the disc brakes don’t appear to have made it a heavier bike. Heavier by a few hundred grams perhaps over the same bike with cantis but anyone picking up Paul’s bike would not walk away thinking its anything but a lightweight machine. And in cross, some mud would soon wipe that out as a bike clogged with mud certainly does add to the weight of it. A lot of weight!


Disc versus Canti – Paul’s bike and the one for rival Oli Beckingsale

Whilst looking at the brakes, I also notice he’s using Clement tyres (tubulars); quite big ones at that. “I like a bigger tyre such as a 33mm” says Paul. The name Clement was as iconic in the 70’s when I raced as others like Raleigh etc. Paul explains that his team had them last year and the brand have continued to help out the team.

“They have been really good with two tread patterns” he says. “Dugasts have had the monopoly on ‘cross for years but more and more manufacturers are bringing out good tyres and there’s nowt to pick between them. “

Returning to talking about the series, Paul, who has won it a few times, admits that whilst the nationals is a big deal, so is the trophy. “It means a lot because your name goes on that trophy and it’s on there forever. It was really nice to win it once but it was even better to win it twice! It shows you’re not a flash in the pan. I’d love to win it again …”

One thing I notice going to the Trophy events is that there is a core group of riders who compete in it. Whilst the regional leagues are now getting hundreds of riders doing them, the Trophy doesn’t seem to have ‘grown’ in the same way.

“The National Trophy is pretty much the same” agrees Paul. “The thing about the Trophy compared to the league events is it’s more of a core group of riders who go to them all because there is a lot of travelling to be done. If you get lapped, you get pulled out and it costs a lot of money to do them. It is though a great series and the courses have been brilliant this year. It also gets good coverage too.”

And whilst Paul is the one in the spotlight, he admits that without the help of people like Jamie Brady and Martin Booth who work the bikes in the pits, none of the success would be possible. “My wife did that for years in the pits but not now with two kids to look after” he explains. “People like Martin and Jamie do it for the love of the sport and without people like that, you couldn’t do it.”


A place you need grip – the Durhamberg in round 3.

Speaking of love, Paul also admits that in 2013 he re-found his love for mountain biking. “It’s been a brilliant year on bike. In mountain biking, I have fallen back in love with that. We’ve had podiums at national points and 4th at the national champs, it’s been a really good year. And then the cross, I have had eight wins from eight starts. So it’s been brilliant.”

For the last few seasons, Hope Factory Racing have had a road team but in 2014 will return to concentrating on the off road competitions. “We have decided to concentrate on what we’re good at and we know off road and that’s kind of what we are sticking to. I’m getting older now and running out of time to do what I what to do at the level I want to do it at.”

“The Tour Series, when you are trying to work full time and do that, it’s too hard. You’re up against professional bike riders and it takes a lot out of you. You can do it and be finishing with the group but from an enjoyment aspect, I didn’t enjoy it. I love crits but all that travelling, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. We have cross country mountain biking and enduro plus cyclo-cross in the winter so we support bike racing quite a bit”.

I also had to ask Paul about another team series that he has dominated for a few years, the Rapha Super Cross. “With it being a team format, it’s a little bit different and everyone in the team has to do the best they can do on the day like the Tour Series and it’s a brilliant series. It has boosted ‘cross as its a good day out for families. The racing is entertaining which is what its meant to be and the kids love it to. They have races, can get their faces painted, cow bells … its brilliant.”


Finally, we talk about the National Champs. It’s not until January but is an event that Paul has his eye on doing well in. “Fieldy has stepped up to the mark this year so he’s the man to beat I think” says the Trophy leader. “He’s won it twice but Derby is good for me (Paul won his title there) and I’ll just have to get my head down over Christmas, lay off the mince pies and we’ll see.”

“I think we’ll be near the mark. Beckingsale I expect will be a key factor and Fletcher, Bibby and Ferguson, will all pop out of the wood work over Xmas and do the three week season!” Paul may also be challenged by a close friend, Ian Wilkinson, who rides for Raleigh in 2014. Rumour is the winner of the Cicle Classic and Stockton GP in 2013, may well be doing the race and the more that take up the challenge like Ian, the better the Nationals will be … “

For now though, it’s the National Trophy in Milton Keynes where Ian Field and Ian Bibby, contenders for the national title, will come up against an inform Paul Oldham. That clash will be an exciting one to watch. Good luck to Paul this weekend in Milton Keynes and for the rest of the ‘cross season.

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