Feature Interview – James Lowsley-Williams


James Lowsley-Williams heads into a different battle than his forebears as he gets selected to race the Tour of Britain for NFTO

RST Cycle  Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Feature Interview – James Lowsley-Williams 

Twenty two year old James Lowsley-Williams is perhaps an unknown pro to many casual fans of the sport but over the last two years, he’s made me sit up and take notice with his never say die performances.


In the recent RideLondon Classic he was 39th which may not sound much but he was there to do a job for Adam Blythe and having seen first-hand the carnage in the Surrey lanes, for a young rider with limited years at this level, to only finish 47 seconds off the leaders on the Mall was impressive.

James is a worker for his team NFTO and last year was in the all-conquering UK Youth squad. He’s had his victories outside of the major events but for anyone looking at the NFTO team and wondering who he is, read on!

James home is an historic family estate in Gloucestershire, called Chavenage House, which dates back to Elizabethan times. It has featured in films and TV shows such as BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford which was a personal favourite of mine.

It’s also open to the public and hosts events and weddings to help the house pay its keep because as James admits, there is always a lot of work to do to keep such an historic building going. Sometimes it can get chaotic James admits but adds it has its fun side, especially when cyclists visit like they did at his recent sportive “Chavenage House Challenge”.

A read through the history of the house is quite amazing especially for someone like me who has come of age when it comes to being interested in history.


Asked what his family think of his chosen sport, he admits “I think it’s fair to say that at first they didn’t get it as it wasn’t Rugby or Cricket. So it took while but they do like it now.”

“I am the first cyclist in the family, but my grandfather David has always been a keen sportsman, riding as a jockey and playing tennis and squash. My grandmother Rona is a McCorquodale and a cousin of Alastair McCorquodale who ran fourth in the 100metres at the 1948 London Olympics, and won Olympic Silver in the 4×100.”

Asked how he came to find himself racing bikes, James explains he started cycling aged 17 after the Beijing Olympics when cycling really grabbed his attention. “I decided to head up to the Velodrome in Newport to give it a go” says James. “I absolutely loved it and the day Courtney Rowe (father to Matt and Luke Rowe) started coaching me, is how it all started”!

Royal Connections
I remember one of his teammates saying to me how James has royal connections so the question had to be asked, was that true? James admitted that there is a distant cousin in the family who is married to Princess Diana’s sister, but that is about as far as his royal connections go. His ‘court’ however is probably very different to those of most racing cyclists.

So how does a young lad with strict family traditions in a stately home come into what we in the sport know is one of, it not the hardest sport there is? Cycling has certainly become quite ‘cool’ to be part of in recent years, especially after the London Olympics and there was royalty watching the Tour de France in Yorkshire but young James saw the light well before that.

“I always thought I would go into the army. It’s what everyone in my family did, including my dad, who was in the Royal Hussars” says James. “I’ve always been into sports though and got into mountaineering for a while, climbing Mont Blanc for instance”.

“I bought a bike to train for the mountaineering and ended up loving it. I watched Sir Bradley Wiggins and the GB Team at the Beijing Olympics and was hooked. I think the main attraction was the speed combined with endurance”.


Winning in Aberystwyth in 2011.

Looking back through his results, James had his first win in 2009 in a 3/4 race when still a Junior and was gaining plenty of racing experience in the Junior National Series without waving a flag ‘here I am’. He may not have been setting the world on fire but he was learning how tough a sport it was mixing it on the road and track.

The youngster was making ground in his chosen sport and showing what he was made of. In 2011, a young 19 year old wearing the colours of UK Youth, was the winner of the 2/3/4 support race at the Aberystwyth Tour Series round. That year also saw him riding Premier Calendar races and getting a taste of the top level in Britain as well as other major events like the Revolution Track Series.

In 2012, the bigger races got more and more frequent and he was finishing them as well in the top 20 (Dengie Marshes for instance). 2013 though was a key season where he was getting in the hands in the air in events like the Out of Saddle 2/3/4 and the Southern Region circuit race championship.

He had his first category licence by now and was getting noticed. Not so much by his results but his presence at the front of races.

In 2014, he moved up a level again and his performance in the RideLondon Classic where I saw from the motorbike just how hard and fast it was, showed me this youngster was capable of racing with the top pros and as some one who has raced at Premier Calendar level, badly, I have been curious to know more about what motivates him.

You don’t get to be that good without drive and determination and James admits “I love to compete and I like to set goals. Training is the foundation for that. I’ve always had a high pain threshold, so I guess that helps.”

“I also want to deliver my best for my team, which also motivates me. I am a naturally competitive person, so that’s probably what really motivates me. Ride London is the career highlight up to now. For me, it was not only memorable but a big event as it was my first taste of World Tour racing”.


Tough job James – interviewed for TV before the Circuit of the Fens.

“Up to that point, the Prems were important, because that is where I had to work hard and perform well to make selection for RideLondon. I think that the Ryedale GP was important for me to do that”.

“That’s where I found my legs after riding the Tour Series. I worked hard for Russ Downing and the NFTO team on a brutal course (the hardest said a few riders) and I put my everything into it”.

A number of times during the year when we have spoken, James has mentioned his coaches at Trainsharp, a valued sponsor of VeloUK but also a company that are helping many well known names in pro racing as well as teams such as NFTO.

James explained how important coaching is to him starting by saying “I got a lot out of being trained last year by Steve Benton (UK Youth team coach), which I think gave Jon and Sean something halfway decent to work with”.

“They then took me to another level with NFTO. I work well with Jon as a person and with the Train Sharp team as a whole. I think I have benefited enormously from Sean’s experience at working with World Tour pros. Both of them have given me training that works very well for the type of rider that I am”.

“Basically, this means doing long hours. Then doing even longer hours. They push and I respond. It works for me. This includes a lot of high intensity work on the turbo. Thanks guys”.


James congratulates Adam Blythe on his win at RideLondon.

I can only speak for me but having watched the likes of Phillipe Gilbert and others on the tele for so long, to line up with them in a race would be quite something. That isn’t going to happen for me but for James, it was a special experience on August 10.

“On the starting line, I had a moment of awe. These are the greats and my heroes. Cyclists that inspire in every way. My next thought was, ‘This is when your heroes become your competitors’. After that, helping Adam (Blythe) was all I thought about”.

James says that at the start of the year, he wasn’t sure if he was going to get that much sought after ride in the Tour of Britain for his team NFTO. A measure of how important getting that ride is comes not so much in what a rider says when selected but the utter disappointment shown by those who don’t get selected. It is a major career highlight for many.

James says of the selection “As my performances improved during the year, I began to hope and desire it. But I had to keep my head down and focus on training and on every race. Performing at RideLondon gave me the belief that I might get selected. And that means everything. I’ve always wanted this. It’s a chance to compete against the best”.

“Does it get any better?” he adds.

James told VeloUK he enjoys stage racing most of all. “I did well at the RAS with Marcin Bialoblocki and discovered that stage racing really suited me. So to do a stage race at this level, with these riders, is amazing. What am I looking forward to? Riding the race is all I can say”.


Cycling can be a sport that consumes an individual especially when there are goals on the horizons, battles to be won and points to prove to managers and coaches. It doesn’t leave a lot of room to be doing other things and James has been involved in many different sports.

So does he allow himself to be distracted? “I don’t allow myself too many distractions apart from training and competing” he replied. “I have lots of interests that I’ve had to shelve for the time being and all I do is cycle. It’s what I love”.

“For now and for the foreseeable future, it’s all I want”.

Making a name for himself
In the NFTO team, you have the experienced pros like Adam Blythe and Russell Downing who are household names, at least to the seasoned cycling fans. Then you have the workers and even there you find those who have made their ‘name’ either through being in the sport so long or having had had a memorable victory.

James is still in that process of building up a reputation as a #hitter and his performances at Ryedale and then RideLondon have certainly done that reputation no harm. How does he feel that process is going?

“I’ve had a lot of encouragement and support from fellow riders, from coaches and from managers and that means a lot. So yes, I’d like to think that they see me as a pro”. He says the likes of Magnus Backstedt, Yanto Barker, Russ Downing and Adam Blythe, the best in the business, have been some of the riders who have helped him learn about his craft and he thanks them for their help.

“I’m learning all the time” he says. “I think any experienced cyclist will tell you that. Every race gives me something to think about and something to improve on. For two years in a row, I have been in the top ranking team in the country. Sure, there have been tough days and disappointments when I thought I could do better. But that’s cycling. My response is to work harder.”


James at the front at Ryedale chasing the break for his team.

Talking about what work harder means, James explains how training solo is part and parcel of the ‘job’. “I didn’t think I could take the loneliness as I like people and am quite sociable. But I’ve got used to it and now I see the time alone as a chance to set goals, concentrate and push myself”.

“I think that training alone makes me push myself harder, to make sure I really am doing the best I can”.

Finally, what does a young man with ambition have as long term goals? “I think it’s important to be in the moment, because at the end of the day that’s where it all happens. But I think you can gather from what I’ve already said that I’ve sets my sights high”.

“For me, that means joining a pro-conti team and racing at the highest level. For me, that means the Tour de France. Doesn’t it for every cyclist?”

Very true James. I am sure there are riders all round Britain with the same goal but not many have ridden alongside Bradley Wiggins and Phillipe Gilbert and come out the other side with a very respectable performance especially after having played the team role.

James certainly seems to have a lot in the ‘tank’ and I look forward to seeing him in the Tour of Britain.


James, centre of the pic, as Sky shut down RideLondon. In the photos before this, James was near the front a lot fo the time looking to get in a move.

Thanks James… follow him on his blog here ….

Related Link: UK Youth to NFTO

Send your results as well as club, team & event news here

Other Results on VeloUK (including reports containing results)

Other News on VeloUK

Tags: , ,