Dan Fleeman has been British National U23 Road Race Champion and twice British Hill Climb Champion; and now he’s gone and won another national title – the British Cross Country Marathon Mountain Bike Championship.
We’d been meaning to speak to him about his new title for ages but needed our memories jogged; so he came up with eighth place in the Beaumont Trophy road race putting him among the UCI Euro Tour points
And then – he placed 14th in the British Elite Road Race Championship.
As the likes of Garmin’s David Millar headed for the showers (and Tour non-selection), our ‘just for fun mountain biker’ kept in the wheels and was one of only 19 finishers in another ‘Sky slaughter’ at the Nationals.
Yes, Dig Deep Coaching’s former DFL, AN Post, Cervelo and Raleigh pro Dan Fleeman is back in the mix – but he’s a man who’s won the Tour of the Pyrennes and jousted with the best on the Madonna del Ghisallo in the Tour of Lombardy so the hills around Abergavenny weren’t going to be too much of a challenge – even if Peter Kennaugh and Ben Swift were turning the screw.
Tell us about your title please, Danilo?
“Yip – I got a nice Adidas jersey and invite to the national dinner!”
And the man you coach, British Cyclocross Champion, Ian Field, was second; one-two for Dig Deep Coaching?
“On the big climb Ian and I were away with your Scottish rider, Rab Wardell and Nick Craig.
“Ian and I knew that those two are pretty handy on the descents so we had to get rid of them before the top of the climb.
“The two of us getting away just happened; I was on the front with Ian on my wheel on the fire road and looked back and saw we had a little gap – we rode hard spells and got the gap we needed to stay away.
“We shared the work; I rode on the front on the climbs and Ian did the flat – I slipped away from Iain on the fire road near the finish.”
And you’re in Metaltek-Kuota colours?
“Yeah, they’ve had a team for a few years now, based in Melton Mowbray – there are five Continental teams in the UK but British Cycling has created an ‘Elite National’ category below that; the team has been given that ranking.
“Andy Swain of Metaltek – his company, which specialises in CNC machining of complex components in aluminium, stainless steel, brass and plastic – is the man behind it and he has Dave Povall on board now as manager.
“Dave was with UK Youth last year but that team folded.
“The agreement is that I ride the road for them but it’s secondary to the MTB – they want to use the experience which I’ve gained as a pro, over the years.
“They’ve been very good with me and let me choose my own programme.
“Kuota are second sponsor and they’ve given me a really nice MTB – it’s the only one like it in the UK.
Tell us about your training.
“I’m not training for the road so I’m not doing big miles; two hours each day in the morning and then I work into the evening – I just don’t have time for four and five hour runs.
“But I’ve managed to get round the Rutland, Reservoir, Beaumont and Nationals on what I’m doing.
“MTB racing is explosive; it’s on or off whereas on the road you have those sustained efforts where it’s lined out.
“These last three years I’ve been training for the MTB but I think all the years of endurance training I did are sustaining me over the longer distances.
“The Nationals were only my fourth road race, this year.”
How are the MTB technical skills coming along?
“I’ll never be as good as the Scottish guys – Rab Wardell and Grant Ferguson are very good – but I’m improving.
“There’s a race at Redruth Quarry which is really technical with lots of rocks and boulders; I was eighth last year but managed third, this year – so I’m progressing.
“I also rode a race on the London Olympics course which is pretty technical and only Grant of the UK guys finished in front of me.”
You started on MTB’s in the 90’s; how does now compare to then?
“I’ve been away from it for a long time so it’s hard to say – but it was big when I started; Barry Clarke, Tim Gould and Dave Baker were all well know names.
“When I was on the road, I think the off road side sport did decline but I think it’s stabilised and it’s been helped by the UCI shortening the lap distances to make it more attractive to the spectators.
“It used to be 35 minute laps but now it’s 12/13 minutes with more technical courses – that’s good for the fans and TV.
“I think that the MTB scene is where the road was 10 years ago – but with the Tour Crit Series and Tour of Britain it’s really come on and there’s so much more money about.”
Is it possible to be a full time MTB pro in the UK?
“Not at the moment, the sponsors don’t get the exposure so won’t put the money in.
“It’s like on the road; if the Tour Series crits finished tomorrow there would be an exodus from the road side of the sport.
“There are teams who work hard at it – like Rab Wardell’s team, Orange Monkey; but as yet sponsors don’t get a good return on their money.”
Are 29-ers still the rage – and single chain rings?
“They 29’s are good and roll faster than a 26” wheel but Nino Schurter the top Swiss guy is quite small and he was having problems getting his position right on 29” wheels, so he got into the development of this new size – 650 or 27.5” as they’re calling them.
“Everyone has cottoned on to them and that’s the way it’s going.
“I ride a single chain ring with 11 speed at the back, I’ve been on that set up for two years.
“SRAM introduced and patented what’s called ‘thick thin’ chain rings; they’re really effective at making sure your chain doesn’t come off because you don’t have a front changer.”
“It’s just for fun but I couldn’t ‘just ride round’ to 23rd place – I’m enjoying the fact that I’m progressing.
“It was great to win the Marathon Champs, that was a goal; and I want to have a good shot at the cross country Nationals – the Nationals was my last road race for a while.
“I was fourth in the National Series, last year and would like to go top three in that.”
“Nah – we’ll leave that to Fieldy!
“Winter is our busiest time with clients, riders wanting to get organised for the coming season – and beside, I need a rest!”
How’s Dig Deep Coaching going?
“Really good, especially these last three months – it’ll be three years in July since we started.
“I have six or seven personal clients – I want to give everyone I’m involved with good attention so I don’t take on too many.
“A lot of my time now is looking after our other coaches and getting new coaches on board.”
How’s being a dad going?
“I’m not sleeping as much as I was but it doesn’t seem to have slowed me down – like they say, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way!’
“Having said that, it might be different if I was doing five and six hour runs.”
And no Dan interview is complete without a ‘Danecdote’ – our hero decides that he needs to do some motor pacing to get his speed up for the road.
Long suffering Dan’s Dad is enlisted to fire up the old moped and pace Dan and team mate around the Staffordshire lanes.
As they roll down the drive, on comes the rain.
Fleeman senior turns to his charges and enquires; ‘why can’t you pair play snooker, like normal lads, I’d happily carry your cues!’