Wednesday, October 27, 2021
HomeBlogsASPTT Nancy's James McKay BlogIntroducing the James McKay Blog

Introducing the James McKay Blog

I've decided to take 2019 as a year to solely pursue my cycling obsession and race for a team full-time, and I'll be writing about it here on VeloVeritas.

-

Hello and welcome to the new James McKay Blog! Over the past three years I balanced the life of a university student and bike racer, albeit unequally! But after graduating last summer, I decided to take 2019 as a year to solely pursue my cycling obsession and race for a team full-time. I had my degree now, and with my 22nd birthday on the horizon, time is ticking on my cycling career.

I had set my eyes on mainland Europe; the UK isn’t the place to be a full-time bike racer. I knew first-hand that across the channel I would find racing on closed roads, more generous prize money and harder races in which to sink or swim.

James McKay Blog
James McKay Blog. I’m in the new flat (centre) with my new housemates, Wesley Phipson and Yordan Andreev. Photo©James McKay

I’d first gone over to race in Belgium with John Barclay as a youth and continued the pilgrimage throughout my Junior years and with TBW-Bottecchia, the U23 team I’d ridden for over the past two years. 

However, although I like a good kermis I favour longer races with lumpier parcours. I turned my eyes a little further south, to France.

I contacted Simon Carr, another young brit, who has lived and raced there for the past few years. With a good grasp of the language and team structure, he kindly agreed to help me translate my CV into French and gave me some advice about where to send it. 

After emailing a list of DN2 & DN3 (second and third tier) teams, I received interest from ASPTT Nancy, in the northeast of the country.

After provisionally agreeing to their offer of accommodation and paid living expenses, they sent me through a dense 24-page contract to read and sign. This provided extremely good practice for my French vocabulary!

Meanwhile I started working part time in a local café; with my developing plans for 2019, I had plenty of motivation to get up for early shifts. Although I wasn’t turning down the free espressos either!

* * *

In December I spent several weeks in Spain with teammates from TBW-Bottecchia, training in the sun whilst the British winter really set in.

After banking some solid hours on the bike, I spent 10 days skiing in the Alps with family – a perfect opportunity to mentally recharge before eight months of racing. 

But before I knew it, I was driving across Northern France towards the Lorraine region. Upon arriving in Nancy, I was welcomed by Yordan Andreev, a Bulgarian rider who would be one of my housemates for the year.

I was pretty astonished to find a brand-new, fully furnished apartment. The fridge and kitchen cupboards were rammed with food and someone had even made up my bed for me.

Photo©James McKay
Photo©James McKay

Once I’d had far too much fun unwrapping the large bag of team kit, the DS arrived with my own set of keys and my team bike.

I couldn’t be happier, especially given some of the horror stories I’d heard about some rider’s setups in France. I was paid for the month in cash the next day, not that I had anything to spend the money on. 

The weekend was the first chance to meet the whole squad. Saturday started off with a 140km team ride, which was effectively a smash-fest/chaingang in very northern European weather.

James McKay Blog
Photo©James McKay

Once we’d dried off back at the team service course, the beaming DS congratulated us all. He was impressed – it must’ve looked pretty savage from the team car behind.

We had a few hours to kill before the team presentation in the evening, which involved a photo shoot followed by shaking countless hands over some drinks and quiche Lorraine.

My final housemate, Wesley Phipson, arrived from South Africa the next day. The DS and his wife came to greet him and treated the three of us to several bottles of champagne along with yet more quiche.

James McKay Blog
Photo©James McKay

For three lightweight cyclists at 1pm on an empty stomach, it went straight to our heads and we had a very merry end to the weekend.

The following week was spent tinkering with bike positions, exploring the local countryside and learning French from food packets.

Photo©James McKay

It’s now Friday and tomorrow we leave for the Var region near Marseilles. It’s straight into racing with the four-day Boucles du Haut Var, but we’re going to stay on a few days afterwards to get some big miles in on sunny roads.

I’ve had to back off my training in the last week due to a cold, and given the 10 days skiing in January I’m certainly on the ‘fresher side’ but hopefully the racing/training camp down south should drag up my fitness.

Until next time on the James McKay Blog,

James.

James McKayhttps://veloveritas.co.uk
At 21 years old, James has his degree in his pocket and is pursuing his cycling passion, racing in France with ASPTT Nancy.

Related Articles

00:53:47

‘The Pursuit’: Team KGF Documentary, the amateurs who shook the world

Filmmaker James Poole made the Team KGF documentary after following the team (now re-launched as Team HUUB Wattbike) for a year on their journey from shock national champions through to World Cup and World Championship success, to create a film which presents the amateur riders' debut season which shook up the track cycling world as they self-funded and out-thought their way to the top.

Callum Johnston – Looking forward to a second season in Italy with Zappi

If you’re a VeloVeritas regular then you’ll have seen our interview with Flavio Zappi, the man who transforms promising U23 riders into World Tour performers. Will Scot, Callum Johnston be pulling on a QuickStep jersey in a year or three?

Sam Spokes – a Great Start for Drapac with 5th at the Aussie Nationals

He has a great name for a cyclist, Sam Spokes; we first spoke to the young Aussie in 2013 when he was making a name for himself with QuickStep U23 feeder team, Etixx. Last year also saw some nice results - but not enough to move him up to the Etixx World Tour squad. But all is not lost, he’s signed with Australian Pro Continental team, Drapac – and in his first race in the Aussie team’s distinctive red jersey he made the winning break in the recent Australian Elite Road race taking a solid fifth behind winner Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling).

Erick Rowsell – “I do like to race a lot”

It’s been a while since we last spoke to young English rider Erick Rowsell (and yes, that’s his sister) - it was at the time when he was one of eight Endura riders (and just five Britons) to survive the inevitable cull which occurred when the team merged with German Pro Continental squad, Netapp for season 2013.

Rab Wardell – A Trip Into The Unknown

Whilst Endura have been getting all the attention recently, other Scottish riders have been looking to raise their game too. Rab Wardell is taking his talent south - to Southport's Kinesis team. We caught up with him to talk about the move - eventually. (Rab is a fan of having his mobile on 'silent' after five pm - but of course, this means he doesn't hear it when it rings!)

Ethan Hayter – World Team Pursuit Champion at 19

In 2016 in Belgium Ethan Hayter won the tough junior races, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, GP Serge Baguet, De Klijte-Heuvaelland, was in the winning team in junior European team pursuit champs and was British Madison champion with Joe Holt. Last year he won the u23 Berlin Six Day with Matt Walls, took a medal in every British track championship he rode and was part of the winning u23 Europeans team pursuit squad. This season he began training with the senior team in January and was world champion within weeks, at 19 years-of-age.

At Random

Grant Ferguson – Winning the U23 UCI MTB World Cup at Val di Sole!

And after a couple of seasons of near misses, Grant Ferguson, the British U23 ‘cross and Elite MTB Champion has finally reached the top of the international MTB slippery pole with an excellent win in the U23 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Val di Sole in Italia. Second was Titouan Carod (France) who’s the 2015 U23 World Cup overall winner, emphasising the quality of the Scotsman’s win.

Erik De Vlaeminck

If you’re of this generation then Sven Nys will probably be your King of ‘crosses - but if you grew up in the 70’s then you’ll know that the true Monarch of the Mud was that stocky man of Flanders; Erik De Vlaeminck, big brother to ‘Monsieur Paris-Roubaix’ Roger De Vlaeminck. Sadly, the elder De Vlaeminck brother died today in the town where he was born, Eeklo in the heart of East Flanders.

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 8: Lleida – Andorra. Collada de la Gallina 174.7 km

Chris Froome lost more time to race leader Joaquim Rodriguez in today's stage from Lleida, all in the final 500 metres, as Alejandro Valverde and JR jumped clear of him and chased after Alberto Contador, who had got a gap of 100 metres over the three, with just a kilometre to go.

David Hewett Blog – Winter Training, Part Two

At the end of my last blog post, I explained that I had left Girona, having got a good few weeks of initial base miles in the tank, and had returned home to spend Christmas with my family. After six days at home relaxing and enjoying the festivities, I packed what felt like almost all my worldly belongings into my car (including almost £20 worth of Sainsbury’s crunchy peanut butter jars), and set off at 4:30am on 29th December towards Dover ferry port.

The VV View: Rogers, Gabrovski, Colo and Clenbuterol Inconsistencies

Back in December in our year end rant we mentioned the fact that there seemed to be one law for ‘genial Aussies’ and another for ‘dodgy Spaniards.’ What we said was: "And whilst Contador’s ‘contaminated beef’ defence was largely scorned, the mood surrounding Michael Rogers’ positive for Clenbuterol seems to be; ‘poor old Mick’ – with Matt White telling us that the UCI should sort out the Chinese meat industry."

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 11: Cambados – Pontevedra 39.4 km ITT

We're in Cambados, mulling over how could we overlook Fred? He won the TT in the Tour of Switzerland - beating Cancellara in the process - then pushed TV hard for the polka dot jersey in le Tour.