Sunday, July 25, 2021
HomeInterviewsJamie Burrow - Talking Mountains and the Plateau de Beille

Jamie Burrow – Talking Mountains and the Plateau de Beille


‘Burrows, le Pantani Anglais,’ said the French papers – when VeloVeritas saw that le Plateau de Beille climb was to be included in the 2011 Tour route we decided we had to have a word about it with the man who once held the record for the tough 10 mile ascent. Jamie Burrow was rated number one under-23 rider in the world, he turned pro for US Postal and despite some very promising rides in the pro ranks he never scaled the heights expected of him.

In recent years he re-invented himself as a top Gran Fondo rider and was about to launch a career in cyclo-cross when a bad crash put paid to that.

But he’s bouncing back again as an hotelier and took time out from renovating the property in Rimini to talk mountains with us.

Jamie Burrow
Jamie, on top spot on the Fondo podium.

Have you recovered from your injuries, Jamie?

“Yeah, I was only out for six weeks but of course that was long enough for all of my form to have gone.

“I still travelled up to Belgium but when I got there the weather was really bad with all the snow so I couldn’t even train properly – with the benefit of hindsight I shouldn’t have bothered; but there were three new ‘cross bikes in the garage and I didn’t want to waste all that effort.”

No ‘cross, then?

“No, I spent a year planning it and thought that maybe I could get some form for the races over Xmas but like I said, the weather was so bad that I couldn’t even train.


“No, I’ve been involved in renovating the hotel and getting our marketing strategy right, all year – I’ve spent a lot of time with a paint brush in my hand!

“We hope to be open from early April until September and attract cyclist as well as Italian holiday makers.

“There are other cycling hotels here but they don’t have staff with a cycling background, like I have.”

Plateau de Beille?

“It was stage two of the Ronde de L’Isard which was part of the 1999 UCI under-23 World Cup.
We were an Italian team (UC San Paolo) and knew of most of the French climbs but hadn’t heard of the Plateau de Beille when the organisers faxed us the parcours.

“Then someone said it was the one where Pantani had won in the 1998 Tour – I think that was the first time that it was used.

“We got hold of videos of Pantani’s win and sat down and studied them.

“As I remember, it wasn’t like your typical Alpine pass, there weren’t that many hairpins but I remember that it was pretty open at the top.

“There was a break up the road, I felt good and our team rode tempo to get the gap down; then on the lower slopes of the climb my team mate Sylwester Szmyd (now a key man with Liquigas) took it up and one by one the lead group whittled down to seven or eight, I went with about 12 to go, caught the break and won by two minutes from Sylwester – he was able to just sit in the wheels once I went.”

Jamie Burrow
Plateau de Beille profile.

They say the French asphalt is ‘sticky?’

“I don’t remember but the Ronde was in May and the day was overcast, the Tour is July and it’s much hotter so maybe it’s heavier for the pros?”

What was the bike?

“It was a Cannondale – we had the same sponsors as Saeco-Cannondale.

“I was big into making sure my bike was ‘just so’ – the Italians much less so.

“That’s because even from the age of 12 they’re given bikes from their teams, whilst I grew up in a cycling family and had to buy equipment out of my pocket money – I was always aware of what was current, what was good and what wasn’t.”

Jamie Burrow
Jamie credits his fast climbing on the Plateau as helping him secure the Postal contract.

And the record?

“Pantani did 43:30, some sources say that I did the exact same time but some said that I beat it by one second.

“They moved the finish a little further up the hill so you can’t get a direct comparison with later rides (2002: Lance Armstrong 45.43 – 2004: Lance 45.30 – 2007: Alberto Contador 44.08).

“When my manager was looking around to get me a pro contract we had a brochure made up with my press cuttings and performances – I think that ride was very helpful in getting me my contract with Postal.”

I believe you won the time trial stage the day after Plateau de Beille stage?

“I was riding Ivan Gotti’s time trial bike and that was a strong positive mental factor for me.

“I beat Thor Hushovd, he was reigning world U23 time trial champion and I expected to get a battering from him but my morale was good after my victory the day before and the bike helped too – I beat him 22 seconds.

“After that we just had to defend my lead on GC and I ran out overall winner.”

Jamie Burrow
Jamie smashes it at the front of the Fondo bunch.

How does the climb compare to the Italian passes?

“The French climbs are steadier, they suited me better because I always climb seated – I was never a pure climber but weighing 59 kilos I could handle six or seven percent climbs very well because I had a good power to weight ratio.

“That meant I could time trial too, but when you got onto the steeper Italian climbs it didn’t suit me so well – you use up a lot more energy climbing out of the saddle.

“I could climb at 177/178 heart rate for an hour but never got the chance to ride that kind of climb as a pro.

“I’m not saying I would have been winning on those climbs but when it got down to 30, 20, 15 guys then I think I would still have been there and been noticed.

“Changes in rhythm are hard on you but necessary on the Italian passes; it surprises me that Basso as the classic seated climber ‘rouleur’ was able to win on one of the steepest climbs in Europe, the Zoncolan.”

And will you be watching the stage on TV?

“Yes; I watched the stage on TV a few years ago and whilst I was watching it I received a text from one of my old UC San Paolo team mates – he did his three or four years as an amateur but never turned pro and got a job – reminding me about the time he’d ridden tempo on the flat into the climb and then how I’d gone on to win on the stage; it was cool to know that he still had those good memories of the day.”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Mark McNally – Retired, After Eight Years with Belgian Teams

We’ve opened the ‘whatever happened to’ file again and this time it’s Liverpudlian gone Flatlands native, Mark McNally. It was VeloVeritas mentor and expert on all things Belgian, Viktor who suggested that we contact the man originally from Liverpool but who has now made Belgium his home.

Mark McNally – Everything geared to the Tour of Britain

The summer is coming to an end so it must be time for Madison-Genesis rider Mark McNally to come to form... McNally is a product of the British ‘cycling academy’ system and was a member of the winning team in the European junior team pursuit championship in 2007 and European U23 team pursuit championship in 2008.

Shaun Wallace – Part One; Worlds Pursuiter in the 90’s

Shaun Wallace was a multiple British champion, twice Worlds silver medallist and three times a Commonwealth Games silver medallist as well as a world record holder on two occasions. High times we caught up with the man; he was at home in San Diego where he settled 22 years ago to ‘escape the winters.’

Ben Swift – Team Ineos Stalwart is National Road Champion 2019

Ben Swift launched a monster kick, leaving Scot, John Archibald to the bronze then zooming past teammate Ian Stannard on his blindside in the streets of Norwich to arrive at the line in solitary splendour and unleash a mighty roar of triumph and relief. We caught up with him at his Isle of Man home on the Tuesday after his win...

Steve Cummings – “I pick stages that are physically demanding”

Steve Cummings? He’s the real deal; a world champion on the track in the team pursuit; he paid his dues with Landbouwkrediet and Barloworld; rode for the ‘mega’ teams, Discovery, Sky, BMC; was part of that famous team which carried Cav to a rainbow jersey in Copenhagen but now he’s found his true niche – with South African squad Dimension Data. Last year the team raced as MTN-Qhubeka with Cummings netting a brilliant stage win in le Tour; this year the squad, with new sponsors has taken Cav on board and moved up to the World Tour.

Peter Hill – the Two Times BBAR Winner who Turned Pro for Peugeot

‘When I were a lad’ next to the Milk Race the biggest deal in UK cycling was the BBAR (Best British All Rounder) to find Britain’s best ‘tester’ – over 50 and 100 miles plus the 12 hour. The competition still exists but do you know who the BBAR is? Me neither. Yorkshire’s Peter Hill won the BBAR twice in the 60's but instead of going for his ‘hat trick’ he completely changed direction and headed across the English Channel to France and established himself as one of the world’s leading amateur time trial exponents before turning professional with Peugeot - but in those Machiavellian days it didn’t work out. Here’s his story...

At Random

Mark McKay – Scotland’s Talent Scout

The "Chris Hoy effect," is Scottish Cycling capitalising on it? We decided to speak to British Cycling's new Olympic talent scout for Scotland, Mark McKay.

Tom Gordon – Medallist in the Scottish ’50’ Championship

In the recent Scottish 50 Mile Time Trial Championships the names in first and second spots were ones we’ve spoken too many times on VeloVeritas – winner Silas Goldsworthy and silver medallist, Alan Thomson (both Sandy Wallace Cycles); but the bronze medallist, Tom Gordon of Dooleys was new to individual TT honours.

Berlin Six Day 2012 – Familientag

Sundays at German Sixes are and have always been 'family day' (Familientag) when the programme of sport and entertainment is held during the afternoon rather than in the evening or night. On a cold wind-chilled winter afternoon, local families came along to the Landsberger Allee Velodrome to enjoy the racing and pass on the tradition from one generation to the next.

Berlin Six Day 2013 – Day Four

First up on Sunday at the Berlin Six Day was the team picture, like one of those shots of the ‘class of 1955’ or whenever that they take at expensive schools. The only photos the guys I went to primary school with had taken were on an individual basis with the each of them holding up a card bearing their name and number.

Super 6 2009 – Round 4, Lang Whang, West Calder

"Lang Whang" is Auld Scots, it means 'long way' - it's fair to say that Endura's Gary Hand was in the break for a lang whang and he won the finishing sprint by a similar margin from wanderer returned, Alex Coutts (I looked at his jersey but the team name looked like Greek to me).

Iain Grant & Silas Goldsworthy – Top Two in the Scottish ’50’ TT Championship 2013

Last Sunday’s Scottish 50 mile time trial championship at Irvine saw Dooley’s Iain Grant make it the ‘double’ – adding a second gold to his 25 mile title won earlier in June at Stonehaven, with Silas Goldsworthy (Sandy Wallace Cycles) taking the silver-medal spot.