We’ve never spoken to him – then he went and won the Eddie Soens Handicap…
Congratulations on your Soens win Jake, talk us through it please.
“Thanks I’m pretty chuffed with it.
“Nothing was too complicated really.
“Everyone in the scratch worked well to avoid any upsets like last year, we caught pretty early and kept committing men up the road, notably Si Wilson taking the pressure off us to chase.
“We finished with three of us in a lead group of seven.
“And my team mate, Gruff Lewis made the call to just work the sprint for me.
“I almost messed it up at the end getting myself boxed as in but somehow snuck up the inside just in time to latch on to Joe Holt opening his sprint and I just managed to squeeze past him.
“Although this left the finish too close to properly celebrate, I think I would have struggled to go no handed with my 90 mm wheels in anyway.”
Tell us about yourself – how old, where from and how did you get into the bike?
“I’m 28 years-old, I did all sports as kid before getting into triathlon age 13, I started racing with Halesowen as an U16 and converted just to cycling as a junior.
“I wasn’t very successful as a junior or u23 but I just kept plugging away trying to focus on my own goals rather than the goals of the top juniors or u23 of my generation.”
You have a BS & MS in Sport & Exercise – do you use those to pull rank on Dan Bigham?
“Unfortunately physiology doesn’t quite have the same quantifiable silver bullets as engineering.
“So if anything it just meant I shot ideas down rather than Dan being able to say ‘use these bars and save 7-10W’, which, while it doesn’t sound too exciting at least it stopped us running down any rabbit holes in search of snake oil.
“Between us we all brought different strengths and weaknesses.
“Collectively what we did do well was identify weaknesses and look to correct them.
“Us all being on board with that was a real strength of ours from the start.
“After thought – There was a Dutch study measuring the effects of EPO on cycling performance up Mt Ventoux, that study found no significant performance benefits – with EPO!
“So you can imagine how difficult it is trying to work out which of the various MyProtein may give a performance benefit over 4km when top scientists can’t even prove EPO works!”
You were a founder member of KGF – now HUUB – tell us about how the team came to be.
“Dan had a bit of a ‘mare at the previous year’s national team pursuit, so decided he needed to find a stronger team.
“He was a man short but knew I could at least ride the track so promised me I could just bang out a kilo, then get off the track and resume my winter training.
“The problem came when it turned out he promised Jonny the same thing.
“Leaving me about five weeks to suddenly get fit and aero, and somehow hang on to a time that would have got us top 10 in the previous Olympics.
“After we won I was then really enthusiastic to actually race in my national stripes again.
“There are limited opportunities to wear national team pursuit kit domestically, I’d already asked Will Fotheringham (organiser of Halesowen track league) if he would put a TP on for us to ride.
“We knew the time was fast and Dan thought that alone meant we could just rock up to World Cups and get a ride. I had just tried to register a road team in Macao so was at least a bit familiar with the UCI regs.
“So I called up BC and we found out we had already missed the deadline, but they would give us a week to register.
“We got KGF on board thanks to our current lap split provider, Ellie Green – and just got it done to be honest.
“It wasn’t rocket science, we had lots of battles getting through that first World Cup season, as it was a steep learning curve, but we just did what we could to the best of our abilities. If something cost money we hadn’t got, we just got the credit cards out. It was just that sort of attitude that got us through.
“We didn’t let anything really hold us back.”
You were with ‘Memil CC’ Finland 2018 – interesting…
“Yes, that was a bit of a dream year for me, as mentioned above I never dreamt of overly ambitious goals, after my first season experiencing UCI racing in 2014, I just decided I would like that one season of racing a proper UCI calendar.
“And overall it went pretty well, in the four main stage races I achieved two top 10’s in UCI .1s, won a stage of Morocco (2.2), and won a stage of Quinghai which counts as a pro win on PCS as it’s a .HC.
“I even snuck a bonus Class 1 track win in at the Dublin GP to qualify enough points for bunch racing at Track World Cups, so while my results weren’t the most consistent that season I made the big ones count.”
Season 2018 – races in Taiwan, Morocco, Estonia, Finland, China – that’s a cosmo programme.
“I did an article for Cycling weekly in 2014, in which I mentioned that all my mates were off traveling the world, and whilst I couldn’t really do that the traditional back packer way, I would at least do my best to see the world through cycling.
“My girlfriend now has a rather exhaustive collection of mugs from all the countries I’ve been to.”
And ‘Tour of Zubarah’ 2015?
“That was a pretty cool race for me; I had a team mate from Neon Velo, Jamie Lowden (Dan is now seeing his sister), who was an ex-pat in the Middle East and suggested it would be good to give it a go for his local shop team.
“I had a bit of a shock winning the opening prologue, but it was basically a lap of a UK Crit course with cobbled off-camber corners, and some strong winds so it suited me well.
“I then hung onto the lead until the final stage when I was outnumbered by a team of Iranians (some later done for doping) who went up the road, and took the eventually winner with them with just 10km to go of the final stage.
“So when arguments come up on doping, I feel losing a UCI stage race because of it gives me a pretty good right to be outspoken.”
Do you still have ambitions on the track?
“Mentally it was a difficult time being the weak link in our team, I don’t think I ever really got around that, and unfortunately I just didn’t have the physiology or biomechanics for the specifics of the event at the end of the day, so even if I was at 110% I still think I would have been replaced.
“I have no regrets that I went and experienced racing at Track World Cups, and was part of our underdog’s taking on the world of cycling story.
“I just couldn’t hack any more sessions getting spat because I can’t knock out world record splits during our warm up!”
Are you still in the team house – what’s that experience like?
“Nope. I moved out of there and now live with my girlfriend. The house was quite all-encompassing, which is great when its going well but not so great mentally when it’s not going well.
“I think I was 27 years-old when I moved out, and I was just at a time in my life I wanted a bit more of my own place (well, rented place) that I could just have some nice things and not look after them, rather than regressing back to Uni. halls.
“There obviously were some great times we had there with the fondest experiences being in the first year, yet living in the front room and having bricks chucked through your patio living room isn’t quite optimal for performance, or having to hide your mattress and jump the garden fence at 09:00am when you forget you have a house inspection!”
Tell us about your coaching activities with JTPC.
“I’ve been coaching since finishing my undergrad in 2013, I would say I took to it pretty well, in my first couple of years I was working with GB cyclo-cross rider Hannah Payton, and with Richard Bussell for the second year he won the National CTT 10 mile champs.
“I always wanted to be working with high performance athletes, and now years down the line after working with multiple athletes racing internationally across disciplines I find myself in a good position of being able to still work with some really talented international riders, while also enjoying the positive affect you can have on rider not quite of those standards, their improvements can sometimes be quicker, and your advice can feel like it has more of a direct impact.
“My favourite part is when giving advice for certain road circuits local to me, I know them really well having raced on them since 2008, and athletes come back to me Sunday night completely puzzled how my advice played out exactly how expected in a race they thought was chaos.”
The UCI ruling on track trade teams must have stung?
“Yes it’s pretty dismal, although I’ve taken more and more of a step back riding wise from the track, we still had ambitions of keeping the team going through one way or another, and seeing what future the team may have had, even once the main body of riders had stepped down.
“But the fact it was taken away from us while not really in our control made for a more bitter taste.
“It’s still pretty amusing since coming on the scene the impact we have had to arm rests being banned, being one of the first team in aero socks (which are now more heavily monitored for height everywhere!) and now even the full change of attitude of UCI trade teams thanks to the French (and others) complaining we took Olympic qualifying points off them.”
Have you thought about ‘life after HUUB’?
“Well, for me that’s already happened, my last track race was Glasgow World Cup, and I was glad it was to be honest, I was struggling more and more to juggle life, and I went there and gave a hugely sub-par performance, my HR was so high I really gave it all on the day, but my training had been so poor leading up to it.
“It felt like I was an amateur racing pros, which I know I was to an extent but previous races it hadn’t felt that way.
“Since then I’ve been able to refocus on riding; the four hours at the track to do 20 minutes worth of effort has become three or four hour road rides and I’m going a lot better for it.”
How did the Cycling Weekly ‘opinion’ pieces come about?
“I think when a gap opened up for some rider opinions they decided not only to look for who are the best riders we can provide this slot to, but also which riders are the most opinionated, and that’s where I came in!
“I’m pretty proud I have found myself in this position, for someone who was group seven English in a Dudley Brough comprehensive school to be writing for a national magazine ‘aye no’ bad lyk!’”
The strange Corona days we find ourselves in…
“Yes, it’s pretty surreal at the moment, from a purely cycling perspective I’m not sure if it’s a positive that I started the season with form or if I’ve had a bit of a nightmare!
“I can’t complain that I have managed with win three races in two weeks at all while some people didn’t even get the chance to race yet.
“But also it means I had potentially a load of form I now can’t use for my early season targets, but I suppose in the grand scheme of things that a very first world problem!
“For now I think the plan it to just refocus and plan towards racing in June.
“I’m still ridiculously excited for the idea of racing past Dudley Zoo at the National Champs, so I’ve had a 72 hour off season and now I’ll be getting back on it with some new goals.”