Feature – Chatting to Hero Domestique Hank


When NFTO’s Adam Blythe needed a cape in RideLondon, who did he turn to? Hank of course! VeloUK talks to James ‘Hank’ Lowsley-Williams

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Feature – Chatting to Hero Domestique Hank

There are winners and there are domestiques in cycling and if the latter are lucky, they will be given the chance to get a result as well. For James Lowsley-Williams, or Hank as he’s known, the results, ie podiums, are thin on the ground but what you can’t argue with are Hank’s performances on the road for his team.


Anyone who has ridden at Elite level, especially a Prem etc, will know that you need good legs and matching lungs to get through such races never mind ride at the front or be a work horse for a team’s winner in a UCI HC race.

An abiding memory that will probably stay with me forever is seeing Hank at the front of the peloton in the Tour of Britain with his arm around Sky’s superstar domestique, Bernie Eisel, having a chat. Obviously, Hank was not overawed by riding at the front with a World Tour team like Sky!

Another image I’ve just seen posted on twitter by the team’s boss John Wood, is of the peloton in single file, Team Sky leading and then John’s team, NFTO all in the familiar train formation. That is quite something when the difference between the budgets and the ranking of the riders between these two teams is chalk and cheese. NFTO for sure are a quality act on the road.

At the recent get together by NFTO in Herefordshire, VeloUK spoke to Hank, who from what I saw of him in the training rides two weeks ago, is in good form. James said everyone was pleased with how things were going with the team after the team’s new rider, Steele Von Hoff has won several times already in 2015 including a stage in a World Tour event (Tour Down Under).


For winners in cycling, getting a contract each season is simple enough but for a team’s domestique, getting a ride in a UCI team each season can be difficult. They are the hidden heros in cycling. For sure I have seen many riders in the position of struggling to get in a UCI team when clearly they are worthy of such a place.

Hank was in that position after UK Youth went belly up in 2013 but the rider with royal connections got a ride with NFTO in 2014 in what was a big breakthrough year for him. “In every athletes mind, you’re thinking about the year ahead and keeping yourself safe and securing yourself a contract” he explained at the team house in Herefordshire.

“That’s the aim for me so every year I want to do more; train harder and get bigger results and climb the ladder in pro teams.”

James rode for his 2015 manager Dave Povall at UK Youth and he says “We worked well together in UK Youth and had a successful year so I think he’ll be an added bonus to NFTO and make it a bigger and better season for us.

Looking back to 2014, and asked how it went for him in the red and black colours of NFTO, Hank replied “I started on the back foot securing a late contract (post UK Youth) so anything I did was going to be a bonus”.

“I went into the start of the season not knowing where I stood and was soon feeling confident and positive in every Premier race we did. I then had to look forward to getting picked for RideLondon and the Tour of Britain and doing that was a massive bonus for me”.

“Having got selected was unexpected but as soon as I got that opportunity, I thrived on it. Looking at 2015, not only do I want to get selected in those races but perform in them as well. That’s the goal”.

Asked if 2014 was a big learning year, he said “massively. I had the likes of Adam, Russell and Dean to learn from. It was pretty awesome to follow them around in the bunch and see how they move and how tactically clever they are. That is something I think I lack”.

“So looking at them and following their moves and having them tell me where to be etc, I learnt a hell of a lot in 2014 which makes me a better rider for 2015”.


Hanks 2014 Highlights
“RideLondon was a highlight for me as it was a HC event and the biggest and most prestigious race I have ridden in. So even to ride it was amazing but to finish in the second group after working for Rus and Adam was pretty awesome”.

“It has made me more hungry to do better. Going into the Tour of Britain, I was more confident, less nervous and I could enjoy it more and push myself that little bit harder. To get on the front and work with Sky and Quickstep was quite surreal but I thrived on it.”

Memories of a Domestique
Those watching the pro races on TV and even me on a motorbike in the race, get to see very little of the work the domestique do. Only when I head back into the convoy do you see the riders getting bottles or changing wheels with teammates but even that is just a glimpse of what they do.

So what were the biggest memories for Hank as a domestique? “I was there beside Adam in pretty much every race going back for bottles and so on and in RideLondon, I remember the time when we had that hail storm and he sent me back to get a Gabba (rain jacket).”


“So I went back during the hardest part of the race with hail coming down and the bike was sideways beside the car, trying to get the Gabba out and when I took it back to him, he didn’t want it! Stuff like that is wasted energy but if you are up there, it shows you have the strength.”

“I just read the Domestique by Charly Wegelius and it shows how much effort goes into being a domestique in a race so if you can finish in the top 25 and you have done one of the hardest jobs, that shows there is something there and that is massively motivating”.

Unlike Adam Blythe and others, Hank has not grown up with cycling since he was in single figures so riding with a World Tour rider was a great experience he says. “Following Adam around was incredible. He knows where to sit on certain sides of the peloton depending on where the wind is coming from. How far up the bunch too sit and where he’ll save the most energy.”

“I took a lot from riding with Adam because he is so clever and wise on the bike. Having someone like Rob Partridge who I worked with in the RAS whilst with UK Youth is great as well as he’s pretty clever in the peloton as well”.

Whilst I have followed Hank’s progress in the sport, he has seemed to be making great progress year on year. What was his assessment of how physically he is progressing in the sport?

“I’m massively getting better” he replied.

“I haven’t been riding long, four and half years, so I think I have a lot gains to make. It has been a mountain to climb but every year I have seen a massive improvement. The numbers are getting bigger and I am working with Courtney Rowe now and that seems to be going really well”.

“I don’t work well doing my own training, so I need a coach to tell me what I need to be doing as I tend to get over excited and do more than I should. So I’ve been given a programme and stuck to it as much as I can”.

“I have been in Spain doing three week blocks there getting some solid work in. I’m in good shape now and looking at getting at some more speed in the legs coming into the season”.


Not afraid to feel the wind in his face, James is chasing some teammates down  during a team training session

Goals for 2015?
Having done the major races for a few years now, I asked Hank what he felt his goals should be in 2015. “I am looking to do well in the Prems for sure and to be up there looking after the top riders and hopefully getting a result myself”.

“First and foremost, it’s about the team though”.

“The UCI races though are where I really want to perform well in and where I think I’ll be better in the grippier, harder and faster races”.

And working with anther sprinter from the World Tour in Steele Von Hoff?

“I can’t wait to meet him. He’s been in WorldTour for a few years so it will be nice to talk to him and learn more from him. I can hopefully help him get a fair few victories”.

“NFTO are here to make a difference taking on what is a solid set of Conti teams and hopefully we can come out on top like we did last year”.

“The Tour of Britain is just one of my best experiences and I’m looking forward to that as well. If I can get picked and get a result, that’s what I am really hunting for. That is what I am thinking of when I am out training in the rain and cold for five hours. Because that race was the ultimate experience”.


Relaxing by learning to play the guitar …. perhaps ;-)  whilst waiting to head out on the bikes

Family Bug
Finally, I had to ask what his family were making of his sport. Coming from a family more used to Rugby, Skiing, Polo etc, cycling was at first a shock but Hank explains that they are all ‘getting’ the sport now.

“Massively, they are mad keen on cycling now” he says. “Even my grandparents (who own Chavenage House) are watching cycling now! My flat mate wants to become a director sportif and my sister is getting into cycling”.

“So the whole family is getting the bug and we even have cycling events at my grandparent’s house (mansion!) So that is pretty crazy.”

You can check out that ‘house’ here. Good luck to James for 2015 …


His grandparents house and a cyclo-cross race held there last weekend, LoveCrossed. Chavenage House is an Elizabethan era manor house 2.4 kilometres northwest of Tetbury, in the Cotswolds area of Gloucestershire


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