It was the tailend of last year when we last spoke to 2014 junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner, James Shaw; he’s spent this season with the Lotto-Soudal U23 team – we thought it was high time we had a word.
How have the results been, James?
“I’ve had no outstanding results; at the beginning of the year I deliberately didn’t set any targets – just to have the best year I can, be as solid and competitive as possible and learn as much as possible.
“I think I’ve improved as much as I can over the seven months I’ve been here, it’s been tough but I think I’ve ticked the boxes.”
What’s been the toughest race for you, so far?
“The 3M Olympia Tour of Holland; it’s eight stages, I’ve never ridden a race of that duration before – and the level was very high with a lot of good Continental teams there.
“The parcours didn’t really suit my style – it’s flat and favours the bigger riders, there’s a lot of pushing and shoving in the cross winds and when the echelons form, it’s hectic.
“I had to push myself but I got round, it took me out of my comfort zone but I’ll be a lot better if I come back to the race in 2016.
“The Tour Alsace was tough too; it’s a UCI 2.2 again with teams of a high level but the parcours suited me better with some good hilly stages – I prepped well for it and pushed myself hard.”
Big changes in your life, James?
“In the past 12 months I’ve gone from being an 18 year old junior in the UK never riding races longer than 120 K to riding races like the Olympia and Alsace.
“And I’ve been riding against some of the best U23 riders in the world, guys like Mathieu Van Der Poel.
“I’ve learned so much about myself and how my body reacts – sleep and rest are so important.”
Are you still coached by Trainsharp; how does that dovetail with Lotto?
“Yes, Lotto provide the bikes and programme and I get help financially from the Rayner fund but I’m still coached one to one with Trainsharp.
“The coaching is more specific now, tuned to how my body is reacting and to the race calendar I have.
“There’s much more emphasis on rest and recovery – Trainsharp are a dedicated bunch of coaches, they love the sport and I have a great bond with them.”
Take us through a typical week.
“It doesn’t really work that way, it’s about ‘blocks’ – I’m in a block of racing just now with seven races in 12 days with another race this weekend.
“I’m coming off a block of four weeks rest and recuperation so the legs have been good off the back of that.
“I’m finding that I have more power now for the longer races.”
Do you ride the same bikes as the World Tour guys?
“Yes, Ridleys with Campagnolo group sets, FFWD wheels with Continental tyres, Deda bars and stems, San Marco saddles.
“We have electronic group sets on the race bikes, mechanical on the training bikes.”
Do the sponsors get involved with the team?
“Lotto is the national lottery and Soudal is a big company which manufactures glues and sealants.
“The sponsors are massively in to it, we’ve been to the Soudal factory and their directors come out to the races and help out, they’re dedicated to the team.
“It’s not like they just hand over the money and don’t get invloved, they’re really into the team and have belief in the riders – it’s great to know that you have that sort of support.”
Do you stay in a team house?
“No, I stay with Jocelyn Ryan and Tim Harris (ex British pro road race champion who lives in Flanders and has mentored many riders over the years. Ed.) – and their cat, George.
“I’ve been there since January 27th so know the area pretty well, now.”
Tell us about the Lotto-Soudal team management.
“We have five DS’s who also work with the World Tour team – mine is Kurt Van De Wouwer who was 11th on GC in the 1999 Tour de France, so he’s ‘been there, done that’ and got the T-shirt and knows exactly what he’s talking about.
“I have a lot of time for him and we have mutual respect – we believe in each other.
“We see a fair bit of Marc Sergeant too.”
What do you do with your downtime?
“That’s a good question, there’s only so much washing and bike cleaning you can do.
“My parents came over recently and we spent some time together in Ghent, so that was nice.
“And I like to cook; I go to the shops, buy fresh stuff and make myself nice interesting meals.
“When you’re on races it’s always pasta/rice and chicken – it gets a bit bland…”
What’s still to come race-wise?
“We have a one day race this weekend then a stage race after that – I’m on the long list for the GB Worlds U23 team, that’s 10 riders but only five go to the US.
“But if I don’t go Richmond, I’ll still ride a good programme with Lotto-Soudal.
“My last race will be the U23 Giro di Lombardia, I’m looking forward to that; it’s a race with so much history and status – but after that I’ll put the bike away for a while.”
“I’m staying with the team; this year has been one where I put a foundation down – and I think I’ve done that.
“Next year we’re going to put a lot of time into looking at my programme, have me riding the races which suit my abilities – there’s no point in putting climbers in sprinters races or sprinters in hilly races.
“I’m going to sit down with Trainsharp and Kurt and structure my training to a programme which matches my abilities as a rider.”
A young man who knows where he’s going, we wish him well.