Feature Interview: James Shaw

One of the rider’s of the season, James Shaw is looking forward to the Tour of Britain to see for himself whether he can earn himself a ride back in the WorldTour. We chatted before his win at the Ryedale GP on Sunday

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Feature Interview: James Shaw

One of the rider’s of the season, James Shaw is looking forward to the Tour of Britain to see for himself whether he can earn himself a ride back in the WorldTour. We chatted before his win at the Ryedale GP on Sunday

As a junior, James Shaw from the East Midlands, won major races like Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Het Niewsblad and then went on to race for Lotto Soudal (WorldTour) for two years. In 2018, he was 10th in the Worlds (U23) but his time in the World Tour came to an end despite many a good ride at that level. What ever the reason that team didn’t renew his contract, his ability on a bike surely wasn’t one of them.

This season during the British domestic calendar, James has showed the class he didn’t get to show as a domestique on the front all day in WorldTour. The road season kicked off big time with 5th overall in the Tour of Yorkshire. Proof enough surely he has the talent for that level along with other riders in the domestic scene.

Before that race, James warmed up with 10th at Klondike and was then second at Lancaster GP in June, and 4th in the Tour of Mendips. He won the Tour of Reservoir overall and a stage as well before he was then 7th at the South Coast Classic. In the final prem of the season, with teammate, Jacob Scott, he won the Ryedale Grasscrete GP with a very strong ride indeed on a day that just being on a bike was hard work in that wind and on those grippy roads.

Before he won Ryedale, we chatted and he said of his season “it’s been good and I have done some alright rides. I had never done the Prems before so Klondike was my first and I’ve had a full season of them. It has been harder than I thought it would be. It’s under rated as a season and internationally it should be given more recognition.”

Winning stage 2 of the Tour of Reservoir and with it, the overall from another of the season’s high achievers, Matt Holmes of Madison Genesis

“Personally for me it has been good and hopefully we can finish the season off with a bang at the Tour of Britain”.

That race, the Tour of Britain, was one of his first at WorldTour level as James explained. “It was one of my first races for Lotto Soudal as a stagiaire and it’s a race I like. British races have these draggy roads and we’re not renowned for having the greatest weather either so it is one of the tougher races.”

“Leading into the Worlds, a lot of teams will send an A team to get in good shape for the Worlds so that will make it interesting and make it tough and I’ll certainly give it a good bash”.

When I put it to James that with the Tour of Britain and the Worlds, that’s two goals in two weeks, he wasn’t so sure he’ll get a ride at the Worlds. “It would be nice to do the worlds but as far as I am aware, we have only qualified six riders which is disappointing as I’m sure everyone would like the country to have more. So the level of competition for places is higher. You look at the class of people too that will want to go as well. I hope I get a ride but I’ve not heard anything yet.”

Asked if the hunger to race and do well in the Worlds in his home country is higher than normal, James explained he wasn’t really that sort of rider, adding “if I can win a race, I don’t mind where it is, I just want to win it. The biggest advantage will be knowing the roads and having access to the course easily travel wise.”

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Back to the domestic season, and I asked James what his highlights were? “Reservoir and Tour of Yorkshire stand out for me” he replied.

One of the outstanding features of his season is his consistency and that I assumed was down to his training. James has worked with trainSharp for many years now and explained that his training for racing here did have to be tweaked compared to the way he trained when racing the WorldTour.

“Last year, when I was probably doing 75 race days a year, you don’t have that much chance to train because you’re off to the next hotel and travelling so much so it is predominantly about recovery whereas this year I have been able to put more hours in and control what I do and pick my form.”

“Trainsharp are good and sort everything for me and leading into the Tour of Britain there are a few big weeks ahead to get the body prepared for that type of terrain. I was down there on Friday and we did a lot of prep for the time trial stage so I took the TT bike down and got a bike fit and so on. I have had a lot of support from them.”

“I started out in 2013 when I was riding at Haribo with Mark Barry and trainSharp were a sponsor. When I moved on the next year, I asked if they could continue to work with me and they were more than happy to do that.”

On the way to winning the Junior CiCLE Classic

“In 2015, trainSharp helped me to sign with Lotto U23 and then supported me as I stepped up to the Lotto World Tour Team. I always felt safe and ahead of the game with trainSharp’s training methods so chose to stick with them throughout my period at World Tour. For 2019 I have been riding for Swift Carbon Pro Cycling and I am still very proud to be part of the trainSharp Inspire Talent Programme and thankful to them for the legs they gave me to win stage 2 and the general classification at the Tour of the Reservoir.

“I would recommend the trainSharp Youth Academy and Inspire Talent Programme to any young rider with dreams of being a Pro. I work with Chris McNarama and we have a friendship out of that and we raced together at Eastbourne (South Coast Classic) and there’s not a lot of chances to race with your coach. We work well together. My training has changed a little over the years as I’ve got older but I am essentially the same rider and they are up to date with the latest science so they know what works and what doesn’t with my training”.

“Consistency has been key for me and something that has worked well with trainSharp, getting that balance of fatigue but still being able to train right. I don’t know what will happen today as I have sacrificed some form to get the work in for the Tour of Britain and hopefully it will be worth it …(as we know, James won the race).

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The final subject we chatted over was the difference between WorldTour and Prems. For James, the biggest difference is the control aspect.

“The first two hours of a WorldTour will be done slower and at a less intensity than here but when they turn the screw in WorldTour, they go bloody quick and considerably faster. We go faster for longer but the WorldTour just go faster in actual speed.”

“That may be down to the control aspect of the racing in WorldTour or maybe because those here think, ‘why not give it a bash’ where as in WorldTour, the riders are doing the job they are paid to do”. Like James did when with Lotto Soudal, spending 100’s of kilometres at the front of the peloton.

“In Britain, we don’t have that sort of aspect to our racing because everyone is like I am going to get stuck in and give it my best shot. Like the first two hours of prems are crazy. It’s not like a normal bike race and rather intense.”

“After an hour or hour and a half, you’re thinking ‘I’m not going to make it to the finish like this’ and then the wearing down process starts and riders start going out the back and you think ‘I have to hold on now’. In WorldTour, the first half an hour is busy until the break goes and then you spend the next hours swanning around, stopping for a nature break and getting some bottles etc. You can switch off a bit.”

And the question many will be asking, has his season here shown James he deserves to be back in WorldTour?

“I’d like to think so. The Tour of Britain will be a key event for me and tell me whether I deserve to race at that level. It’s not that I don’t want to race at this level because I have enjoyed the racing and the people I have met on this journey. I don’t think its an egotistical thing to say I don’t what to do this because for me, the passion of the organisers, and people like yourself; what’s not to enjoy here so I don’t mind it. I have the same respect for this but I’d just like to do the WorldTour stuff to do more variety of racing internationally.”

“I don’t know what it will take because some people seem to get contracts just being in the right place at the right time. If it’s going to happen, it will happen, you can’t force it. I can just do the best I can and the results will follow.”

The results have followed for James and who knows what will happen in the Tour of Britain but going back to Yorkshire, he showed he can more than ‘live’ with the likes of legends like Greg van Avermaet. Now he just needs a WorldTour team to give him that chance to show more at that level… Good luck to James in the Tour of Britain and beyond.


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