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Jake Stewart – Winning in France with Groupama-FDJ

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It’s been a year since we last spoke to Jake Stewart, he’d just finished second in the u23 Gent-Wevelgem and taken third spot in the Italian Trofeo Piva; since then he’s been round the u23 ‘Peace Race,’ ridden the Ronde de L’Oise, Tour Alsace, Tour de L’Avenir, jumped ship on British Cycling programmes, joined the Equipe continentale Groupama-FDJ and already won a race in France.

Busy man.

We first came upon Jake at the Berlin Six Day in 2017 where he won the junior edition with Fred Wright; that year also saw him pick up medals on the track at junior National and European level.

Last season, as well as his road successes he was in the team which won the British Team Pursuit Championship.

But track medals, however well deserved, are one thing, road success on continental parcours is another…

Best ‘have another word’ with the 19 year-old Englishman. 

Jake Stewart
Photo©Jake Stewart/Facebook

A win already Jake, nice job – GP du Pays d’Aix with a quality guy in second place, Jordan Levasseur.

“It was one of those ‘grippy’ days that I go well on, there was a two kilometre climb on the circuit and with four or five K to go, it lit up going up there, I got away with a team mate – we got caught right on the line but I got over first.

“Levasseur is a good rider, yeah, he was with Armee de Terre for several years until they folded – he won the Paris-Arras stage race in 2017.”

Equipe continentale Groupama-FDJ, a very nice team to be with – but now you’re off the British Cycling ‘Plan’ – as us oldies call it?

“They spoke to me last year after Wevelgem when they began to plan putting a continental team together – but I didn’t hear anything from them until after the Tour de L’Avenir.

“I didn’t see myself progressing on the track with British Cycling, there are so many other talented guys on the way up there plus they have guys like Doull and Dibben who could slot back in.

“If you look at what happened to Andrew Tennant, supposed to ride the Olympics but never did.”

Where’s ‘home’?

“From February it’s been Besancon, there’s no team house, they pay us a wage and ask us to organise our own accommodation.

“I share with the Slovenian lad on the team, Ziga Jerman – I prefer that, it can get a bit intense being with the same eight guys in a team house all year.

“Were close to the Swiss border so there’s a great choice of training roads, you can ride on the flat or go into the mountains.”

Jake Stewart
Jake (bottom row, middle) with his new teammates Photo©Groupama-FDJ continental team

What’s the setup like?

“Very professional, mechanics, soigneurs, team vehicles…”

And those nice Lapierres to ride?

“Yes, the ‘Xelius’ with discs; I was sceptical about disc brakes but I’m loving them, they’re so much more responsive – if you’re on carbon rims with rim brakes in the wet you have to dry the rims before you actually brake but with discs you can brake the same whatever the conditions.”

Jake Stewart
Jake (left) training on the beach with his new teammates. Photo©Groupama-FDJ continental team

What’s the situation with coaching/training?

“Everything is organised for us, there are two coaches who oversee our training and programme – they answer to the World Tour team head of performance so it’s very well put together.

“We had a training camp down in Calpe where we did big weeks of base miles; now we’re doing three/four/five hour runs with 10/20 minute specific efforts in there.”

Jake Stewart
Jake looks very comfortable on his TT machine. Photo©Sophie Richez

How’s the ‘vibe’ in the team?

“The atmosphere is good, no cliques because it’s a very international squad, the language around the table is French and English.

“It’s a nice group to be part of.”

How’s the lingo coming along?

“Not bad, improving, I can understand what people are saying now, it’s so much easier if you’re immersed in it.”

Jake Stewart
Jake is looking forward to the season with FDJ. Photo©FG Photographic

Season 2018, were you happy with it?

“I didn’t know what to expect as a u23 rider, there was no pressure on me so to get second at Wevelgem was a surprise, albeit I knew I had good legs because I’d won a kermis the week before.”

You rode the Tour de L’Avenir, that’s a not for the fainthearted but you had 7th, 11th and 13th on stages.

“I decided not to go to the European Track Championships and ride the L’Avenir; it’s 10 days, the first time I’d ridden anything of that duration.

“I came out with a top 10 but was riding for others; I think that if the sprints had been set up for me then I may have won one.

“Whilst I like a tough parcours, I didn’t get on with those Alpine climbs…”

Jake Stewart
Jake (centre) and teammates at the Tour d’Alsace last year. Photo©Tour d’Alsace

Gent-Wevelgem this year saw you DNF?

“It wasn’t my day.

“It was very windy, the first 20-odd K was pretty much neutralised with the head wind then there was a big crash and I got caught behind it.

“It took 40 K of chasing to get back up and the move had gone so I chased to get up and by that time I’d burned all my matches.

“I’d gone in with expectations after being second last year and I had good legs but like I said, not my day.”

What’s next?

“I have the Triptyque de Monts et Chateaux in Belgium this weekend, then the u23 Flanders which is a week later than the World Tour one.”

[The Triptyque is a major u23 ‘shop window’ for professional teams, winners in the last decade include Tom Dumoulin, Bob Jungels, Owain Doull, Lilian Calmejane and Jasper Philipsen.

Just as this piece was being put together Jake took second on Stage One to Aussie u23 ‘man on the way up’ Kaden Groves; third to Tom Pidcock on Stage Two b to Tom Pidcock and third on Stage Three to Groves – with a final GC position of 5th behind Danish World u23 Time Trial Champion, Mikkel Bjerg. ed. ]

Jake Stewart
Photo©Jake Stewart/Facebook

And the track is on the back burner now?

“Yes, I’ll perhaps ride some madisons if they fit into my programme but the target is definitely to get myself on to the World Tour.”

We wish Jake success with his goal and will be keeping an eye on his results.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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