When our friend Viktor isn’t criticising me for going to Grenoble; ‘glorified kid’s tea party!’, he’s scouring the Belgian cycling websites for ‘the next Jack Bauer.’ It was Vik (for those who don’t know, our pal pedalled the hard roads of Belgium in his day, still trains hard and is our outspoken elder statesman, observer and ‘critic in chief’) who was first to spot the Kiwi’s potential as his name edged up the results in the heartland’s kermises. So the call came; ‘you should be talking to that Manchester laddie, Jack Cousins, he’s doing well!’
And if Vik says it, we do it. Usually.
How did you get into cycling, Jack?
“My dad took me on a cycling holiday when I was about 11 or 12, when I got back I just continued with the other sports I was doing.
“But a few years later, when I was about 16, I joined some clubs; Wills Wheels and Sports City Velo.
“These clubs had guys who raced; and that was how I got interested.”
What were your best UK results?
“I won a few crits starting off in 2010.
“I was second in the North West Junior Champs and had a few other decent results here and there.
“The following year I had a third in an E/1/2 race in the UK and finished a few Premier calendars too.
“Then I spent the rest of the season checking out racing in Belgium.”
“It’s where it happens.” [Good answer!]
How did you get your contacts and get organised over there?
“I had a few contacts but I just wanted to go out for a taster first so I found a cycling base on the web called The Chainstay and thought I’d just give it a go.
“They showed me the ropes a bit and as I started to race more I made my own contacts and stuck with them. I was lucky to meet the family I stay with now in Oudenaarde and a masseur from the Belgian youth team. He helped me out and put me in touch with my team.
“Once you get out there you just get on with racing and getting stuck in and you’ll meet people as you go.
“This year I had Dave Rayner funding which was a massive help.”
Do you look after yourself food-wise?
“I did at first but now Francien cooks, she’s the boss.
“I just ask for vegetables and say “Mmm lekker” – but I’ll cook when she doesn’t want to.”
What’s your team like – do you get much support, do you get a bike?
“I’ve signed with a new team for next year so I will get a bit more stuff but I don’t get a free bike, unfortunately.”
How hard has it been on equipment?
“Quite hard, you’ve gotta go through some kit – expect to replace the moving parts.”
Give us your Belgian palmares, please.
“The top three:
- 2nd: Ereprijs Thierry Van Huffel
- 3rd: Waardame
- 5th: Hooglede”
How has the weather been, this summer?
“Apparently it wasn’t a good one.
“It seemed OK to me, though – much better than a Manchester summer.”
Take us through a typical week.
“I mostly raced two or three races each week.
“I’d like to do two races back to back say Saturday and Sunday or Sunday and Monday then have an easy day the day after; then look to race again maybe Wednesday or Thursday.
“But you check the forecast and see what’s close – so it all changes round.”
What’s been your toughest race?
“I did a pro kermis in the home town of Patrick Lefévère, the Quick Step manager.
“It was a windy day and his team rode at the front to split the race from the start.
“I was feeling bad and started at the back…rookie error!”
Which performance are you most pleased with?
“My second place; I just missed out on the sprint but I’d never ridden so fast.
“That’s something I enjoyed and will remember; I was away with another rider with 30km to go. There was a chasing group of six then followed by 83 guys left in the peloton, we didn’t have a huge lead; 50 seconds at best but we held on to finish alone.
“I was exhausted afterwards but went out to race the next day. I won a prime for six bottles of champagne and gave it out afterwards, which was fun.”
Who’s your role model?
“I’ve always liked Chris Boardman.
“He gives good tips and he holds the Hour Record; you can’t argue with that.”
What’s the plan for 2013?
“Come back stronger and come first.”
How will you spend the winter?
“It’s hard to know what’s the best to do, but I’ve got a record of everything I’ve done so I will look back to last year and either do more or do it faster.
“There’s no shortage of ways I can improve.
“You just have to take care of your health and not get any serious problems.”
What’s the ultimate goal?
“I’d like to ride the Tour de France but I know it’s a long shot.”
What’s a young man’s take on the Armstrong scandal?
“I’m just glad the sport is cleaning up its act now.”
Is guys ‘kitting up’ still something you come upon in the kermises?
“Yes, one rider won a race I was in and had a doping suspension later, but that’s all I’ve seen as fact.
“You hear things but what do you want to believe? I can win if I get a bit stronger and I know I can get a bit stronger.”
Which Belgian radio station do you listen to?
“MNM/Topradio.” [another good answer!]
Have you cracked and had frites, yet?
We like the sound of Mr. Cousins – but he has to remember; ‘Viktor is watching!’