Stung by comments from VeloVeritas mentor and observer of all things vélo sport, Viktor that we’d taken our eye of the Flanders ball we’ve been paying special attention to the results from the Flatlands.
One which caught our eye recently was a win in the InterClub race at Zandhoven over 138K where Englishman Jake Scott beat Stef Vermeulen of KWC Heist Zuiderkempen to take the win.
InterClubs are ‘big deal’ races and the pro teams keep a close eye on the results – naturally, they’re not easy to win.
‘Illi Bikes’ is the name on Jake’s jersey, the team run by former Team Sky mechanic, Ken Illegems and his dad, soigneur Etienne.
We thought we should ‘have a word’ with Mr. Scott…
Tell us about your win, please Jake.
“When I started the race my legs felt heavy, but after a few jumps to mark the breaks they got a bit better, my chain was jumping so I decided to change bikes about half way through, luckily I didn’t panic to get back because the race was starting to split, I moved up the peloton and jumped straight across to the break, most of the teams were represented so after a couple of laps we were out of touch.
“I tried splitting the break as it was still fairly big, but a couple of teams wanted a sprint, so I just stayed calm and found a gap with 150M to go and kept on going to the line, I knew I wanted to go left because there was a bump on the right that scrubbed a bit of speed off, where as if I hit left I had a smoother run to the line, It wasn’t straighter but it was definitely quicker.
“It was my first win of the season, and my first win in nearly two years since moving up to an U23, so to me it feels like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders, sometimes you doubt yourself if you can still win, so to cross the line first, mentally it helps a lot.
“Some riders can win consistently all year, but some don’t get that feeling, so yes, to get that one win is somewhat of a relief.”
How has the season been for you palmarès-wise?
“Palmarès-wise some might say it looks OK but really this year hasn’t been the most consistent, I’ve had a consistent string of results at certain points, but not a consistent year, it still looks better than last year however.
“When I really look at it I’ve missed nearly three months out of competition this year due to issues with my ankle at the beginning, and what were thought to be issues with my heart after the National Championships, but after checking and checking and checking it was found that everything is OK and there were no issues.
“As always I get back on track straight-away, and with the help I receive it’s hard not to keep aiming to push forwards.”
Where’s ‘home’ in Belgium
“Herselt, in the province of Antwerpen, but really were on the border between Antwerpen and Vlaams Braabant which helps a lot with the racing.
“I live with teammates and some great people next to a cafe which is set back in some woods, so normally it’s quiet and peaceful, which for me is good.”
Talk us through a typical week in the Flatlands.
“The Flatlands, that’s the funny bit really, living where we do we have a range of terrains, we’re not in the Ardennes where it’s up, down, up, down, but if we want to go for a good rolling day out its easy to do so, mostly the climbs are short and steep, which for me is good for training, but equally it’s so easy to go for a recovery ride, or head for efforts down the canal – but I need a good mix, and at points this year it’s been race recover, race, recover, but obviously that comes with rest and training also.”
Do you have a coach – what’s the ethos?
“No I don’t actually, I pushed hard to be coached this year but I can’t afford to do it, so I had to go back to what I’ve learned previously.
“It’s been quite exciting for me actually, it was hard during the winter, but I know what work makes me go well.
“Also living with who I do and surrounded by the people that I am is great, the advice is always there and all I have to do is ask, I’m close to a lot of people, and really it makes life a lot easier if there’s anything I need.”
You were an MTB guy originally, how did that lead you to Belgium?
“Yes I was, I’m not sure MTB lead to Belgium, but it certainly lead me to racing, it was track racing first after MTB-ing, then road, and the last couple of years it’s been more about the road.
“I came out here as a junior at weekends normally and the results were good, most of the time better than back in Britain.
“So I knew I wanted to race out here as an U23, but I was still at college for my first year, so I had to wait.
“I was able to spend a month racing out here last year to see if it’s where I wanted to be, and really it just confirmed I was quite comfortable in the Flemish surroundings.”
Top 10 in the junior Ronde in 2013 – nice ride…
“Difficult, really when I look back on that I think, I should have been higher there position wise, it’s a ride I look back on and have mixed feelings about.
“At the time my form was good.
“I remember we missed a cobble sector out on our recon ride, so I had to chase to get across to the front split in the race, but really the last sectors were too far away from the finish to make anything major stick, and other teams were looking for a sprint, but yes a top 10 was a strong result and the team management was happy so it was a good day out.”
And you rode the Tour of Serbia last year, who was that with and how did it go?
“The Tour of Serbia was a strange one; I went with Haribo-Beacon as the team was called at the time, we had five riders and one member of staff Charlie Tennick, but we had two experienced riders in the team with in Pete Williams and James Sampson, so it made life a bit easier.
“I remember the race been a dangerous survival really, it was good hard racing, but sometimes you would just think; ‘there must be better roads than this in Serbia,’ I remember double puncturing on some raised tram tracks, but at the time it was getting me in good condition for the Nationals that were in Wales last year.”
How did you get the ride with Illi Bikes?
“My friend rode for the team as a first year, and after I spent a month racing out here I applied to the team, a couple of meetings later I signed the contract and I was looking forward to 2015, and to this day I believe it has been one of the best places to develop and learn.”
Describe yourself as a rider; what are your strengths?
“That’s a hard one really, some people watch me and say I’m a sprinter, but really if you look at the races that I do well in, it’s always a wearing down process or a breakaway/split, I’m not the fastest, so I have to take that sting out of other people’s legs, and if it’s a smaller group I’m more confident to leave it to a sprint.
“But also this year I’ve learned that I can make the difference over any little or good climbs in a race, I’ve been able to use it this year and it’s worked a few times to make the group smaller and thin down the selection.”
What do you need to work on?
“Resting, I’ve learned more this year about that aspect and maybe that is going to be a key aspect to next year also.
“On the bike however I would like to work on my sprint a bit more, and really just have that power and confidence to make more of a difference.”
What’s your favourite aspect of Belgium?
“The life here, you can relax a lot with the people, and they’ve always got something planned for us during the year to have some time out, or to just step away for an evening or so.
“I also like the racing and the conditions, there’s always a race to do, and the standard is high, it has really brought me on and has proved to me that it is a school of bike racing in Belgium, nothing is ever the same.”
And least favourite?
“Really nothing, it’s nice to live having to look after yourself, and I think it’s important to remember to enjoy it a bit more, and be serious without been serious 24/7.”
When do you come home for the winter?
“At the beginning of October, the plan is to have some time off here because the bigger InterClub and Belgian cup races are getting less and less, then head back home and work for a bit to get ready for my return next year, and also to pay for a trip away over the winter to go training.”
What will the winter be about?
“I’ve said it above, but really I need rest this winter, it’s been a longer season for me with a lot of problems, so for me I want to try and press on later in the winter, and possibly do some cyclo-cross for some enjoyment in the earlier periods.”
What’s the plan for 2016?
“Maybe you’ve guessed already, but it’s a return to Belgium for me, I’m sure it’s going to be with ILLI Bikes once again as I want to learn to win consistently, I’m not looking for money, I’m looking for the opportunity to develop and progress, and really to start progressing towards a higher level.
“And if it’s OK would like to add an extra ‘thank you’ to:
“The Dave Rayner Fund, Pedal Potential, and the ‘Albion Cycling’ shop in Holmfirth, for their support throughout this year.”
We wish Jake ‘all the best’ for the rest of 2015 and season 2016, we’ll be keeping an eye…