Sometimes you time an interview just right and your subject goes out and does something big right after it. Take British cyclo-cross champion Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles) – or should that be, ‘Field de Brit’ as they say in the Flatlands.
We spoke to him on Wednesday and on Friday his coach Dan Fleeman of DigDeep Coaching called us to tell us that he’d pulled off a ‘biggie’ – 13th in the Koppenbergcross after leading for the first two laps and a puncture with two laps to go.
Sven Nys rates the race as the second most important of the season, after the Worlds and all of the big dogs were off the leash – Meeusen, Pauwels, Walsleben, Nys, Albert were all there.
The Koppenbergcross is part of the bpost bank trofee series; formerly the Gazet Van Antwerpen series – which after the World Cup and Superprestige is the third of the big season long competitions for the ‘cross men.
There’s big money on offer as far as start and prize money per race goes, as well as overall prizes in all three series.
The reason for the interview with Field was his excellent start to his World Cup campaign with two top 20 finishes – 19th at Valkenburg in The Netherlands and then 18th at Tabor in the Czech Republic.
Congratulations, Ian – nice results.
“Thank you, I’ve been top 20 in a World Cup before but it was down in France and people might say it wasn’t the best field.
“But no one could say that about Valkenburg, everyone was there; and it was good to follow it up with Tabor – folk might say that one good ride was a fluke but it you do another one then there’s no way they can say that.”
What was the parcours like in Valkenburg?
“Very tough, in the park just off to the side of the famous Cauberg climb where the Worlds finished last year.
“The hillside was steep and there were some tricky descents as well as climbs on tarmac.”
“The course is on wasteland – but there’s a tarmac cycle path – it was dry and fast with a lot of gradient changes, steps, run ups, a real test of fitness.
“Because it was dry and fast it ended up with little groups contesting the placings.
“It was a pretty good crowd there by the time the Elites raced in the afternoon – several thousand.
“They charged for admission the years before but this time it was free to watch which pulled in a lot of the locals from what we might say was a bit of a rundown area.
“There were the usual traveling Belgians of course – they’re all mad and go everywhere to support their riders.”
What about getting all your equipment to Tabor?
“It’s funny you should say that – whatever vehicle I use to go to races I always end up filling it.
“I started with a Renault Clio then last year had a Citroen Berlingo van and now I’ve hired a camper for the season which is full of wheels and bikes.
“My mechanic and I drove to Tabor over two days, 10 hours the first day then parked up in a service area to sleep – and four-and-a-half hours the second day.”
Mechanic and camper, Ian – you’re doing it right.
“Both come out of my own pocket but they make life easier and it’s the professional thing to do – you have to get everything as good as you can.
“I don’t want to look back at the end of my career and think; ‘if only I’d done this, or that.'”
On the subject of mechanicals – Nys and Albert had transmission grief in Valkenburg.
“Sven snapped a chain – chains are getting so narrow now with the new Shimano 11 speed cassette the same width as the 10 speed one.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily the fault of the electric shifting; I just think that the equipment is getting lighter and lighter and we’re nearing the limits of how light you can go.”
Do you think van der Haar’s successes on his Giant equipped with disc brakes will speed up their acceptance?
“He’s certainly winning on them!
“I heard that Niels Albert might ride discs in the Koppenbergcross so they’re gaining acceptance (and the former Belgian and World champion did, in fact ride a disc brake equipped Colnago in the race, finishing eighth, ed.)
“I know that Sven had trialled hydraulic discs and that the manufacturers are pushing them – and that’s what will really make the difference.
“They’ve had teething problems with them, I know that, but the big benefit of riding them – apart from their power – is their consistency.
“If the course is muddy or snowy or sandy then it’s hard to predict lap on lap how you’re brakes will respond with everything that’s flying around – but with discs you know that they’ll perform exactly the same way every lap.”
These good rides must be moving you up the start line seedings?
“Funnily enough, despite my good performances I’ve actually gone down in the rankings because it’s based on a rolling one year points system.
“Last year I acquired a lot of early season points with being in the USA for the first part of the season and I’ve lost those – dropping from 33rd to 50th in the world rankings.
“But I’m 16th in the World Cup rankings and I think that’s a much more important measure – and if I keep riding like I have been then I’ll eventually move up.
“If you score a lot of points in the US then it’s not like scoring them in Europe so I think the World Cup rankings give a better perspective.”
You’re finishing in the ‘teens’ now – how much of a jump is it to a top 10 finish?
“In terms of time it’s a small margin, 30 or 40 seconds – and if you then break that down per lap it’s only a few seconds.
“At Tabor it was a one hour 10 minute race and I was 43 seconds of the top 10 – just a second here and there each lap.
“People who know are telling me that on a good day it’s realistic for me to think about cracking the top 10 placings.”
What’s the main thing you’re working to improve?
“Consistency is what I’m working towards – always being up there.
“It’s all about striking the balance between racing, training and resting.
“Sometimes it’s difficult with all the traveling – the Tabor race was on the Saturday then we drove for 13 hours back to Belgium on Sunday; on Monday I was wasted, then on the Friday I’m racing again in the Koppenbergcross.”
Koksijde is the next World Cup.
“Yes, there’s a bit of a break in the World Cup until then – that’s November 23rd but I’ll be going into it 16th in the rankings which looks good on the CV.
“I have the Koppenbergcross then a Super prestige before it but Koksijde is definitely my next goal after the Koppenbergcross.
“They let you practice on the course all day on the Wednesday before it so I’ll be there for that; and there’s a sand pit you can ride in Oudenaarde and I’ll definitely be practicing in there, too.
“The thing with riding in the sand is that once it ruts you have stay in them – if you don’t then you just stop dead and have to run the section and that’s obviously a lot slower.
“I did a lot of preparation for the Worlds when they were in Koksijde the year before last and that’ll stand me in good stead with knowing the course so well.”
Isn’t hard to race in GB after all the buzz of the big Belgian races?
“I suppose the motivation is a wee bit different without the big crowds but racing in the UK means a lot to me and my sponsors – it takes me back to my roots as a junior and U23 rider.
“I’ll be back for the National Trophy event in Bradford on December 15th.”
And finally, how are you getting on in VeloVeritas’s favourite town – Oudenaarde and who are you training with?
“Yeah, it’s good; we caught the tail end of that big storm and there’s not much to do, but that’s fine with me.
“I’m here to a job 100% so Oudenaarde is ideal for focusing on training and resting.
“As for training partners, I don’t really train with anyone – the schedules I get from my coach, Dan Fleeman at DigDeep Coaching are very specific and don’t involve long social rides anymore.
With two World Cup top 20’s and a top 15 in the Koppenbergcross, Messrs. Field and Fleeman’s methods are hard to argue with, and Ian turned in another fine ride on Sunday – taking 14th in the sand of the Zonhoven Superprestige behind World Champion, Sven Nys.
His coach Dan Fleeman tells us that it’s only a matter of time before Ian cracks the top 10 – we have no reason to doubt him.
VeloVeritas will be at Koksijde and have promised not too pester Ian too much – but a lot depends on the strength of the pils . . .