It was way back in January of this year when last we spoke to Scottish cyclo-cross star, Cameron Mason; he’d just landed his second u23 UCI World Cup season 2019/20 top 10 finish of the year at Nommay in France, the first coming at Tabor in the Czech Republic.
Not long after we spoke to him he took a fine fifth in the Hoogerheide World Cup in The Netherlands then a top 10 in the Worlds at Dubendorf in Switzerland.
And he’s back in action for the 20/21 season, recently scoring his best result to date – a bronze medal in the European u23 Championship in s’-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands behind World Champion and ‘home boy’ Ryan Kamp and fellow Brit, Thomas Mein.
We caught up with Cameron at his base near Brussels for some ‘cross talk.
A fine result in the Euros, Cameron – tell us about your race.
“I had a pretty good grid placing, near the front, it was a short start straight into the first corner and a Swiss guy crashed there so I had a bit of a fight to get back up.
“Ryan Kamp attacked and split things up and I was pretty much on my limit to hold my position.
“He attacked again with three or four laps to go and Thomas Mein and I pushed after him – the circuit was very technical with lots of twists and turns so when Thomas came past me it was a sprint out of every corner to try and keep on terms with him – by the finish we’d closed to 12 seconds on Kamp.”
Kamp is the ‘man of the moment’ in u23, World and European Champion.
“He showed his talent last year and this year he’s competitive with the Elites.
“He’s from a road background so if it’s a fast, flowing course it really suits him – but one of his weaknesses is bunny hops, he has to run them so you can get time back on him.
“But it’s not just him who’s riding well, there are five or six guys at a level just below his.”
Has your Euro bronze generated a lot of media attention?
“Bits and bobs, the main thing is that it shows I’m doing the right things and heading in the right direction.”
Racing with no fans on the circuit must be a strange feeling?
“Yes, so much of cyclo-cross is about how close you are to the fans; in the race you’re in the moment and just getting on with the job so you don’t notice it as much; but at the start and finish it’s strange.
“But the main thing is that we’re racing – and the TV viewing figures for ‘cross in Belgium and The Netherlands are through the roof.”
In most races the u23 riders are in with the Elites now?
“That’s right, there’s no ‘amateur’ racing so we’re in with the Elite riders, you get used to riding near the front in your races but that’s not the case when you’re racing at that level – but it’s good experience and preparation for the future.”
Since last we spoke you’ve had a Worlds top 10 finish.
“Yes, in Dubendorf in Switzerland where Kamp won; it was a good day for me and I was super-happy to confirm my potential.”
And you’re still based near Brussels?
“Yes 20/30 minutes outside the city, we have a Trinity Racing team house there which I share with Tom Pidcock.
“It’s a great atmosphere to train and race from; Tom has been at the top for a number of years now and I’ve learned a lot from him – he’s a year older than me and we both just love riding our bikes.”
You’re still on Specialized for this season?
“Yes, all of our equipment sponsors have remained consistent; that’s a big thing with ‘cross because it’s so demanding on your equipment – familiarity with and it knowing it’s reliable under stress is a big factor.
“We run SRAM etap wireless groupsets, one x 12 which keeps things simple and the front end of the bike uncluttered – we have the full range of Challenge tyres on Zipp wheels to chose from.”
Do you and Tom engage in the famous Lichtaart Forest, Wednesday afternoon training sessions?
“Not every Wednesday, although Lichtaart is a great training venue with varied terrain including sand sections.
“We do technical train once each week but we go to Dendermonde and Hofstade too where they have park facilities which are ideal for training – but 90% of our training is on the road.”
And is Kurt Bogaerts still coaching you?
“Yes, as you know his background is the road, he managed the AN Post team for a lot of years but Tom pushed him into the ‘cross side of things four or five years ago.
“He really knows his stuff, all the in’s, out’s and complications of organisation and dealing with the staff.”
How’s the programme looking?
“I started at the Kopenberg, then the Euros, Niels, Leuven – I’ll be racing once or twice each week right through.
“The World Cup in Tabor in the Czech Republic at the end of November is one that I’m looking forward to then we have a very busy period over Xmas and New Year where we’re racing nearly every day.
“The World Cup had a very ambitious programme this year with new venues but has been badly hit by Covid, down from 11 races to just five.”
The Worlds are on ‘home ground’ for you this season, Ostend.
“I guess you could say, Belgium is my second home and travel arrangements will be simple; it’s one we’ll be preparing well for but will require a specific skill set, at Ostend on the North Sea coast there’s going to be a lot of sand involved!
“It’s a type of parcours we don’t really have in the UK but is popular here in Belgium and The Netherlands.”
Will we see you on the road in 2021?
“I’ll be with Trinity Racing again in 2021 and the plan is to have a mixed discipline programme, road and MTB – I had a similar programme mapped-out for this 2020 season but then along came Covid…”
Indeed; with no Six Days to pontificate about or work at we’ll be paying even more attention than usual to the ‘crosses and will be keeping an eye on Cameron’s results in those ‘Veldrijden.’