Jez McCann is the man; 19 years-old, raised in Gravesend, riding for Richardsons-Trek.
It’s a while since VeloVeritas last spoke to Steve Skuse; Vik and I used to bump into him on our trips to the kermises when he mentored our blogger Dan Patten – who’s now doing very well for himself with Team Wiggins.
Steve got in touch the other day to tell us about another young man he’s looking after and who’s pulled off that difficult trick of winning a kermis in the Flatlands.
And the better news is, he qualifies to ride for Bonnie Scotland…
How did you get into the sport, Jez?
“There wasn’t much to do for kids other than hang around the local shops, but it wasn’t so bad.
“I’m living in Bexleyheath now though, close to central London.
“I joined my first cycling club when I was six years-old, Team Darenth.
“It wasn’t too serious, just about having fun on the bike – I had some of my best days there growing up.”
Tell us about your win, sir.
“I recently got my first win in Zedelgem, Belgium in a elite/u23 race.
“A group of 15 which included me went up the road early on but with 50k to go it was clear we were about to get caught.
“So I took off on my own and shortly after I was joined by two other riders; one Aussie and a Belgian.
“We quickly grew a decent gap.
“There were primes each lap I was more focused on the win so I let them fight it out each lap, saving as much energy as I could.
“I was counting how long they were both doing on the front each turn and making sure I was doing two or three seconds less, saving as much as I could.
“There was a group of six that came into sight behind us on the bell lap, so we had to ride hard to the finish.
“With a K to go I made sure I was last man so I could see them both in front of me and launch my sprint early about 300m to go and caught them by surprise.
“There was half a wheel in it at the end – so it was close but I was really happy I got the win!”
Any other Flatlands palmarès to tell us about?
“I got a fair amount of top 10’s out in Belgium as a junior but only raced a hand full of times there since then.”
You Richardsons guys seem to be over there a lot; we interviewed Luke Ryan last year…
“At the moment I’m just here with my dad, coach Steve Skuse and a few team mates.”
What do you like best about racing in Belgium?
“My favourite thing about Belgium has to be rice tarts!
“I always grab one – or two – on a cafe ride.
“Also the racing culture here – if you win a race you’re treated like a bit of a celebrity.
“I raced twice out here since my win and had locals ask for photos and been stopped a lot and congratulated, which is nice as I’m not used to that at home.
“My least favourite thing about Belgium would have to be the rain.
“The rain seems to be wetter here.
“The amount of times I’ve raced here and it’s sunny all day then you’re waiting on the start line and the heavens open.
“I don’t mind racing in the rain though – you can’t tell I’m crying then!”
It’s a wee while since I’ve been to a kermis, are the legends still in action – Super Mario? [Willems] Big Guy [Smet]?
“Yeah, I’ve raced a few kermis legends while out here – Super Mario, Guy Smet, Steven Caethoven, David Geldove…”
How would you describe yourself as a rider?
“I’m still learning things about myself each year as a rider.
“I’m still not sure what sort of rider I am – I have a fast finish and can win sprints from breakaways and small groups but wouldn’t say I was a sprinter.
“I get over the hills well also.”
How are the UK palmares?
“I’ve raced all the British Premier Calendar series this year.
“I’ve been getting round in the peloton and gone with some early breaks but haven’t done amazingly in any of them.
“I found myself in the breakaway on stage two at Tour of the Reservoir – which was probably one of my hardest days on the bike – I was away for a while then once I was caught finished mid bunch.”
What’s still to come in 2016?
“There are a few Premier Calendar races left.
“I’d like to do well at Stafford kermesse – it should suit my style of racing.
“There’s also GP of Wales which would be a good race to do well in; then the Jeff Schils Memorial in September which is a local race for my team.”
2017 – a move to Flanders?
“I haven’t thought too much about next year.
“There’s still a good few months left of 2016 season so I’ll see how the rest of it goes.”
Tell us about the Scottish connection.
“I’m off to Scotland for a training camp with Scottish cycling on the 4th July.
“My dad is Scottish which means I’m eligible to ride.
“Most people who know me say I sound pretty Cockney, but I’ve watched Braveheart recently so my Scottish accents coming along nicely.”
And where would you like to end up on the bike?
“My ultimate destination to live for cycling would probably be Nice in France or Monaco.
“Although I do love Kent; it’s great for training – when the weather is nice two weeks a year.”
VeloVeritas will be keeping an eye out for Mr. McCann, meanwhile we wish him ‘all the best’ for the rest of the season.