Q&A: Ffion James (Abergavenny RC)

In the first of a series of cyclo-cross specials, we quiz one of the high flyers in the women’s racing, Ffion James of Abergavenny RC

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Q&A: Ffion James (Abergavenny RC)

1. Looking back at the National Trophy, are you happy with how it went this season?
Ffion: It’s gone relatively well for me this year. I only raced three out of the five rounds as two clashed with World Cups so I didn’t come anywhere in the series. I managed to bag two third places in Hetton and Ipswich but I am a little gutted as I’m still yet to get a Trophy win after quite a few podiums in the last couple of years.

2. Which round was the best for you and why?
Ffion: Ipswich was surprisingly the best race for me. The course really didn’t suit me as it was so fast and dry whilst I’m better when it’s technical, hilly and muddy. I felt really strong that day and surprised myself with a podium, not far off 2nd place.

Ffion on the podium in the National Trophy – with Hannah Payton and Annie Simpson

3. Tell us about the bike you used for the series – how did it differ to other bikes you have used in the past and what did you enjoy most on the bike this season
Ffion: For the last few years I’ve been racing on two identical Focus Mares CX bikes. I love the disc brakes on my bikes. They’re great on the more technical, hilly courses with steep descents due to the greater stopping power. They’re also great in the mud as the bike does not clog up so much.

I think one of the most important features on a cyclocross bike is tyre choice. I have quite a large selection of Challenge tyres which I use, some tubular and some clincher, but I still haven’t used my Limus full on mud tyres this year. I really hope I get to use them soon! I only have one really good wheel which is a rear Edco wheel which has been lent to me for the season. I’ve got a Baby Limus on there and I try to use it all the time.

4. Did your preparation for the series change in 2016?
Ffion: Yes my preparation has been completely different this year to previous years. I usually start the ‘cross season after a year of focusing on mountain biking and training hard. This year however was really interrupted for me as I was concentrating on my A level exams.

I got some good training in after that but then I went to watch my sister, Becky, compete in the Olympics in August, taking almost three weeks off the bike. This was far from ideal preparation for a cross season that for me started in September! However, after a slow start to the season, I think the break may have actually done me good. Now coming up to the most important races of the year I am feeling stronger than ever.

5. Were the conditions for the Trophy this year different to other years – ie, less muddy?
Ffion: The conditions have been completely different this year in all my races. I’m still yet to have a muddy race as I missed the only muddy Trophy in Shrewsbury! The drier races haven’t suited me so much, but as a ‘cross rider you have to be able to race on all courses and adapt to all conditions.

6. Behind every success story within the tapes of a cross race is a team of helpers – How many people look after you at races in the pits and events in general
Ffion: I usually just have one helper in the pits and that’s my dad (organiser of the Abergavenny round too). I couldn’t do it without him. He drives me and my sister to all the races, helps me clean and fix my bikes, and of course does a great job in the pits. Sadly this year so far he hasn’t had to do anything, but I’m sure in Bradford he will have plenty of work to do!

7. What is the key physical attribute a rider needs for British cross races which requires both running and riding and skills to match.
Ffion: Cross courses these days vary so much so a cross rider needs such a wide variety of physical strengths and skills. I find that World Cup courses require more technical skill and running ability than British courses which focus more on just cycling speed and strength.
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8. What will be your preparation events for the National Champs this year and being at Bradford, is there anything in training you will do to prepare for that course?
Ffion: My plan is to get some good training in now over the Christmas period followed by racing in Nova Cross C2 the week before Nationals. Bradford is likely to be a muddy and technical course with quite a lot of running so I will take this into account during my training.

On a Thursday night we have cross training sessions at Abergavenny Leisure Centre, where the National Trophy was this year. These sessions are really good and we’ll probably adapt them to practise running and technical skills in preparation for Bradford. Quite a few of the riders who come to the Abergavenny RC Thursday night sessions will be racing the National Champs.

9. Finally, After the British Cross champs, what will be your goals for 2017?
Ffion: I’m hoping to get selected for the Under 23 Cyclocross World Championships at the end of January. This was my main aim when I started the cross season and I really hope I get the opportunity to race.

It’s been great that I’ve also had the opportunity to ride World Cups as well which have been really good preparation for this. I raced Valkenberg back in October and Namur last weekend, making a big improvement from 31st to 21st, and 6th Under 23 in Namur. I’ll be aiming high for my final cross race of the season.

After the Worlds, I’ll probably take a small break before I start training again, but I’m not sure what my plans are for next year yet. I’m really enjoying my cross racing so I’d like to concentrate on getting a good season again next year. I’ll probably race road and mountain biking throughout the summer as I do really enjoy both and it would definitely help me get stronger and faster ready for the cross season next year.

Thank you Ffion for that excellent Q & A! Good luck for 2017!



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