Rider Chat: James Shaw and breakaways

He’s normally chasing breakaways for his team Lotto Soudal but on stage 6 of the Tour of Britain, James Shaw was the one being chased down … we talk about breakaways

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Rider Chat: James Shaw and breakaways

The first road stage after the time trial saw what had been become a routine for the Tour of Britain this year, ie, a small group escaping and the peloton controlling the race before reeling them, usually quite clinically in the last 10 or even fewer kilometres. With the rain falling out of the sky in Newmarket for stage 6, after quite a reasonably dry morning, the race to be in the ‘move’ soon kicked off.

Attacks came and went until seven riders managed to break the elastic as those in charge of controlling the race said enough was enough and after twelve kilometres, Enrico Barbin (Bardiani-CSF), Harry Tanfield (Bike Channel-Canyon), Connor Swift (Madison-Genesis), Hayden McCormick (One Pro Cycling), Regan Gough (AnPost-Chain Reaction), Jacob Hennessey (Great Britain) and James Shaw (Lotto-Soudal) had their freedom for the day.

With Lotto Jumbo controlling the race for GC leader Lars Boom, we now had a drag race between the two groups – could the front group play with the peloton enough to hold the gap to the end? The answer was no but as ever, the break kept those watching guessing until the final few kilometres when the bunch was together and the sprint was flat stick for the finish.

Photo: SWPix.com

The last rider from the break to stay away was James Shaw who is coached by trainSharp and who had the reward of a visit to the podium for his efforts and a few days later, we spoke to the young rider about breakaways. Last year, his first Tour of Britain, his job was to chase breaks down or at least control the gap to them. This year with no Andre Greipel in the team, he had the freedom to get in breaks which he did.

Talking about the one on stage 6, he says “it was a day out that didn’t finish with the glory we were all hoping for” was his reply as to whether it had been a good day. In another interview with Connor Swift (Madison Genesis), who explained how James had been the ‘patron’ of the break, James (only 21 years old) explained “I was just trying to increase our chances of all of us staying away.”

“I was trying to take a tactical approach to using that delay in the time gap and using bits of the course to get time and we were just three k shy in the end. I think the maximum gap we got was three minutes so it was always going to be a task but we tried to use the wind in our favour and things. We worked well and worked strong though”.

When I put it to James that like a lot of young riders in big teams, the role they fill is spending a lot of kilometres on the front and he must have learnt from that, he replied “when you are the one chasing, yes, you learn what is going on in front”.

“It is not as simple as two people trying to out ride each other. Or more watts is faster. You also have to think that the peloton won’t want to catch us too soon and if we slow up, they will slow up and if we speed up, they will too.”

“So it is not always a case of going as fast as possible. In a race with seven guys against a peloton of a hundred or more, it’s never going to be good for the seven guys!”

With the gap coming down, the other thing we see often is the riders in the break attacking out of the group to try and escape on their own and buy a bit more time and also possibly book a place on the podium with a combativity award.

Photo: SWPix.com

James was one of the group who did this. He explained “we really really needed to get a shift on if we were going to make the finish ahead of the peloton and there were some fast finishers in the group; Hennessey being one, Swift and McCormick being pretty quick, so if it did go to a finish I didn’t want to go to it with them so I was looking to try and inject more pace and take the edge of their legs. In the end it was a case of last man standing.”

Finally, I had to ask, is it harder in a break or drilling all day on the front? “Depends” he replied. “When you ride on the front all day, as soon as the sprinter teams take over you can finish 20 minutes down so in that sense, you don’t have to ride the final. It’s different but it was good to be out front and showing the jersey, the colours in a home race.”

“And always good to get on the podium too.”

Lets hope we see James on the podium more in 2018 …





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