Interview – Steven James on World Cup


Gordon Wiseman spoke to Hargroves Cycles – Ridley RT rider Steven James on arrival in Milton Keynes looking ahead to a muddy weekend in Campbell Park

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Interview – Steven James on World Cup

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By Gordon Wiseman

Steve James – A World Cup Weekend but great to be keeping it British
Not only is the third round of the World Cup cyclo-cross series a first for the UK – the series having never left mainland Europe before it came to Milton Keynes this weekend – but it gives an opportunity for the top British based riders to compete against the world’s top ‘cross stars on their home soil, literally!

VeloUK caught up with Steve James (Hargroves Cycles – Ridley RT) just after he arrived at Campbell Park, when contractors and OB TV technicians outnumbered competitors and supporters. Steve has happy memories of racing in the city, having won the 2011 Inter-Regional Team Cyclo-Cross Championships at the MK Bowl and podiumed at the National Trophy round held at the same venue exactly 12 months ago.


VeloUK: What have you seen of the circuit so far?
James – “Very little so far, we’ve only just rolled up at the circuit and got the motorhomes parked up in the team area so I’ve not yet seen the course properly apart from the pictures floating around on Twitter and Facebook, that kind of thing, but so far it looks really good.”

“I’ve been very impressed with how it all looks compared to a lot of the places I’ve raced at before in Europe so it’s going to be really good to finally get out and ride the course. Conditions are looking pretty muddy” – an oxymoron if ever there was one – “so it’s definitely going to be an interesting weekend”.

VeloUK: The organisers have tried to build a technical but still very UK type of circuit.
James “It’d be nice to see if we could step up the British courses to a World Cup level but still retaining the fact that we’re in Britain. It’s all well and good saying you want to build a technical, European course but you want riders to know, this weekend we’re racing in Britain”.

VeloUK: Is that really important, to keep a British-ness about it?
James – “I think so. I think it’s important that we can show to everyone that we can put on an event that’s at a World Cup and European level, to put on an event that, not competes but compares with what everyone expects from the World Cup but still retains the fact that we’re in Britain and it’s a British World Cup. We want to make it something that’s individual, we don’t just want it to be ‘one of those World Cups’, just one of this year’s six rounds. We want people to think back and say, ‘yeah, do you remember that course at Milton Keynes, the atmosphere and course were so good!’

“We’ve got to step things up, take the British style courses that we use in the National Trophy, takes things up to a different level but still very much keep it British”.

VeloUK: “It’s your first year as a senior rider, how are you finding the transition?”
James “Yeah, I’ve now moved up to the Big Boys as they say, so I’ve really been looking forward to the challenge and the different type of racing, the different competitors. Although I’ve done a lot of European racing in previous years, this year I’m concentrating on the National Trophy and racing at home”.

“I guess that, it being my first year as a senior I didn’t want to rush into things and perhaps over-race myself. I had a very busy summer with mountain bike racing so I kind of wanted to have, not a relaxed ‘cross season but take things further without pushing myself too far and burn out”.

“But this weekend should be a good test of where I am and how well I’m going”.


VeloUK: “Are you pleased with where you are in terms of your racing and how you’re adapting to racing with the seniors?”
James – “The reality is that, for the past four years when I was racing with the U23s our races were in the same events as the Elite riders so I’ve pretty much been racing with the same guys already so it’s not s totally alien experience. But now, rather than thinking ‘I want to win the U23 race and see how I’m doing against the Elites’, now it’s all about the Elite race being the focus”.

“It has changed my mentality a little bit, I’ve changed how I go into the races, but it’s not been too much of an adaptation for me in terms of what I do in training and actual preparation for the races”.

VeloUK: What’s your programme this weekend?
James – “I’ll be riding both races this weekend, the World Cup and Sunday’s National Trophy, for Hargroves Cycles – Ridley RT. I’m not riding for Team GB as for this World Cup that team’s for U23 riders. As an U23 I’d represented Team GB on mountain bikes and in ‘cross on a number of occasions and that’s been great. But now they’re putting so much emphasis on developing the U23s so that’s got to be great for the sport.”

“And with the opportunities I’ve got with Hargroves I don’t ‘require’ the levels of support that Team GB offer. I’m not saying I don’t need that but with Hargroves I’ve got an alternative and they give me everything I need right now. It’s a set up I’m used to, it’s what I do every weekend, the same bikes, the same team, the same mechanics. But it’s great to see that Team GB are bringing a full team of riders, all the slots have been filled that were available to them and that it’s for the U23 riders”.

VeloUK: And your hopes for the weekend?
James – “Everyone has dreams and aspirations and my dream, my goal, is not to get lapped. I don’t see that as a negative goal because I know the level of riders I’ll be racing against. It’s Sven Nys you know, Lars Van Der Haar. These are all absolutely top dog riders, the best in the world. So whilst yes, I consider myself to be a good bike rider these guys have been racing for years and years and have World Championships under their belts. For sure, I don’t think I’m quite at that level yet so I want to see how much I really do compare with them.”

“So it won’t really be my final position I’ll be looking at, yes I’ll want to know that but my focus will more be on lap times, what am I losing each lap, where, my time gaps, that kind of thing”.


VeloUK: “Will there be any point in the race where you’ll say to yourself ‘let’s hold a bit back for Sunday’s National Trophy?”
James “You could think like that but personally, I never go into a race like that. It’s not that I don’t care about Sunday’s race, it’s really important as the National Trophy is a Big Goal but I can’t go into a race and not try to do as best as I can. I always go into a race with the mentality that ‘I’ve got to do well today’.

“Sunday looks like it’s going to be interesting as it looks like some of the World Cup riders are going to stay and race so that will make Sunday a really hard day as well. We’ve got something like 120 riders entered for the Senior race so the goal will be do as well as I can and improve on my results so far this season”.

VeloUK: “The circuit is 2.6kms, is that big enough?”
James “Yes, that’s big enough. For ‘cross, that length of circuit, with all the spectators around the course, riders passing them and each other all the time, yes that’s a great length and will create an amazing atmosphere. And that’s what we all want for something as big as this weekend and for the sport”.

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