“One guy worth keeping an eye on is Wilson Renwick from Hawick.
“He’s a pro jockey and an amazing talent by all accounts.
“He won the Gordon Arms in March and has been injured since but produced an impressive result in a flat TT yesterday which is probably not his strength.
“As I say, defo one to watch!”
So said the text message from Jim Cusick the day after the National ‘10’ Championship.
And, always on the lookout for a good interview we tracked down 33 year-old Mr. Renwick – with a little help from Hawick’s Stuart Smith – and here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas.
How did you get into cycling, Wilson?
“Liverpool University did a study on jockey’s fitness and how we go about managing our weight.
“One of the tests was VO2 max (VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use. It is measured in millilitres per kilogramme of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min, ed.) and I scored 90, which was the highest that George Wilson the doctor conducting the test had ever seen – he couldn’t believe it.
[The highest VO2 max scores are the preserve of the world’s best cross country skiers and professional cyclists; Norwegian Nordic skiing legend Bjorn Daehle is on 96; Greg Lemond was 92.5; Miguel Indurain 88; Thor Hushovd 86 and Lance Armstrong 84 – a figure which had Lemond questioning the Texan’s performances well before the storm finally broke for Big Tex, ed.]
“He said that I should take up an endurance sport like running or cycling – I’ve done my ankles in knees in with accidents so running wasn’t an option so I bought a bike.”
The fact that you guys have to be obsessive about your weight can’t but help your cycling?
“I’ve had to watch my weight my whole life and my weight varies very little, from nine stone ten to 10 stone all the time.
“I used to struggle a little bit with it but now with being on the bike and burning calories I can eat more than I used to, which is nice.”
Is your training ‘old school’ miles or ‘high tech’ based?
“Iain Grant is training me now, we do a bit of everything but one of the first things he did was make me go and buy a power meter – when I first started I rode a few races but didn’t have a clue, I just rode my bike really – but now everything I do is for a reason.
“It’s good to know that you’re doing the right things.”
What’s a jockey’s fitness regime usually like?
“That’s becoming more important, the racing keeps you fit but a lot of jockeys are into running – they’ll arrive at the race course early and run two laps of the circuit to burn those calories.
“Cycling is becoming more popular though because there a lot less strain on your joints.”
As a jockey you do a lot of travelling to race meets all over the country – it must be difficult to train around that?
“It’s not easy, I know five days in advance where I’ll be riding so I’ll email Iain on a Sunday and he’ll design my training programme around my races.
“In general, if it’s winter I’ll do my turbo training in the evening after the races are finished and in the summer I go out early, before I’m racing.
“I had 450 mounts last year and am hoping for about 500 this year…”
How did you become a jockey?
“I used to ride ponies when I was young – I was never very big – and when it came time to leave school it seemed like a good option.
“In Hawick, since the mills closed the main options for a young man are to become a tradesman or a sportsman.
“There are four or five professional jockeys living in Hawick but over the last decade there’ll have been maybe 30 from the town – ‘mini Ireland’ they call it.
“I’ve been a professional for 18 years; I know what my mounts will be five days in advance, I have an agent who books my rides for me; I’m retained by a trainer to ride his horses but if he has no rides for me on a given day then I’m free to ride where I want.”
Which is safer, racing on a horse or on a bike?
“The thing about the bike is that you’re 100% in charge, with a horse there’s always an element of you not knowing what it’s going to do, if it falls then you’re going down too so cycling is definitely safer.
“The statistics are that you’ll have one fall for every 20 to 30 rides – but what actually happens is you’ll have ‘runs’ where you don’t have a fall for ages then you’ll have three in a week.”
Was there a jockey you wanted to emulate when you were a youngster?
“When you’re a kid you watch the top guys on TV and want to be like them but when you start to race you find your own style and go with that.
“I think everyone wanted to be like Tony (AP) McCoy OBE, he’s the best that’s ever been, he’s just retired but was champion jockey 20 years running and won just about everything there is to win.
“That’s thing about racing, you’re out competing against guys like him – an all time great of the sport.”
How does the cycling fraternity compare to the racing fraternity?
“To be honest, I’m only just starting out in cycling, I’ve ridden a couple of criteriums and two time trials, this year – the Gordon Arms and the ‘10’ Champs so I’ve not really met that many folks.
“But everyone has been really nice and the Hawick Cycling Club has been very welcoming – the thing about the horse racing world is that you get people from all walks of life but cycling folks all seem to be from the same sort of mould.”
Perched way up high on a flighty, speeding horse must prepare you well for handling a time trial bike?
“You obviously have to have good balance, yes – and you have good core strength too.
“The crouch you ride in and spend so much time in is very similar to the position you adopt on a time trial bike – the first time I sat on a TT bike it felt very comfortable.”
What are you goals on the bike?
“I don’t know, really but I think I can go faster than the 21:08 I did in the ‘10’ champs, it was so cold and when we looked at my files after the race my power was down and my heart rate below where it should have been.
“Iain says that on a better morning I should be well capable of a 20 minute ride.
“I’m just seeing how it goes, this season – I’ve not ridden a lot of races; I won a couple of criteriums and the Gordon Arms TT but I’d like to try more road races.
“I’ll be riding the 25 Champs, I’ve only ridden one in the past, a 56:32, but I also have a race meet at Perth that afternoon where I usually have five or six mounts – so I’ll have to try and get an early number in the champs so I can jump in the car and get up to Perth!”
Next time you’re tempted to say that there’s not enough time for training in your life, have a wee think about this gentleman’s schedule.
We’ll be keeping an eye on him in the ‘25’ champs for sure.
With thanks to Grand National racer Wilson, Jim Cusick and Stuart Smith.
Following the publication of this interview Wilson let us know that he had a fall in a race the day before, breaking a few bones and ruling himself out of action for a while, scuppering his plans for the ’25’ Championships.
We wish Wilson a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him in action again soon.