What have Geraint Thomas, Adam Blythe and new sprint star – he was only narrowly beaten by Boonen at Kuurne – Moreno Hofland all got in common?
There’s a clue above in the place name: they’ve all won the junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
And adding to that illustrious list is another Englishman; 17 year-old James Shaw from Heanor in Derbyshire, he rides for HARIBO Beacon Cycling Team in the UK and took the honours with a perfectly timed move in the finale of one of the world’s premier junior races.
We caught up with James a day or two after his great ride; here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas…
Congratulations, James – please tell us how you got into cycling.
“I got into it when I was six years-old, I used to go down to the local club on a Wednesday night and do a cyclocross session.
“I was just a little kid who liked to get dirty and had a need for speed on a bicycle.”
Tell us about your UK performances.
“I rode most rounds of the Junior National Road Series with probably my best ride being second place on stage three of the Tour of Wales.
“But I did a lot of Belgian racing – and that’s down to John Barclay, he’s been taking young riders out to Belgium for years.
“He took Geraint and Adam out and Ian Stannard too, when he was third.”
Do you have a coach?
“Chris McNamara from TrainSharp looks after me; that’s Jon Sharples’ and Sean Yates’ coaching company.”
[TrainSharp also work with VeloVeritas regular and former Gent Staden winner, Douglas Dewey, ed.]
How did your participation came about?
“Mr. Barclay is my ferryman; he helped me out a lot last season taking me to the Flanders Trophy and races in places like Reningelst and Koksijde.
“He saw I was getting good results at the end of last year and in January asked me if I’d like to do the junior Kuurne.
“John selected a five man team and went out there late on the Saturday but took time to do a quick course recce – we checked out the finish loop and finish straight.”
Did you try to peak for the race?
“Not as such but I knew what the race was all about and knew that if I did a good ride then it would be a massive boost to my confidence.
“Really I just tried to keep well, fit, healthy and lean ready for it.”
What’s the gear restriction?
“52 x 14.”
Does it use much of the pro parcours?
“Oh yes – we rode cobbled sections, climbs like the Cote de Trieu and the finish loop and straight are identical.
“It was actually on the Trieu that the real pressure went on; it separated the men from the boys. After every berg the peloton just got smaller and smaller.
2On the cobbled sections it’s great to be bombing along knowing that you’re on the same roads which Boonen will be on in just a few hours.”
Talk us through your race.
“The weather was a big factor – there was a cross wind, from the south, I think.
“Coming in to the final 20 K there were about 25 riders left, including me and two others from the South East team I was riding for. But there were four riders there from the Club Bretagne so it was a bit of a tactical battle with them.
“There were breaks of four and five going away then getting caught – I saw my chance and went away in a break of five. It was a good move and we soon had a minute.
“In the final eight K it dawned on me that I was doing a lot of work so I eased up and started to plan my attack. In the last 1,500 metres the cross wind hit us after a corner so I attacked, stuck it in the gutter and drilled it.
“I instantly got 10 metres and could see that some of them were hesitating behind. The four behind became two groups of two so I knew I was causing damage and kept going, getting my gap out to about 15 seconds at the red kite.
“At 500 metres to go I still had my gap and at 100 metres I could see that I still had the gap and was going to win – so I tried to enjoy the moment.”
What was the podium ceremony like?
“It was great, the Belgians are great – I love them, they really make a fuss of you; it was a cool protocol and I got my Kuurne donkey!”
What’s the next adventure?
“I’m not sure, I’ve not planned ahead that far ahead; but I hope to ride the junior Paris-Roubaix that would be amazing.”
Has British Cycling expressed interest?
“After a fashion; I’m not on a programme at the moment but was on the U16 programme previously.
“I do have training camps with British Cycling coming up and I’m looking forward to those.”
What are the main goals for 2014?
“I’d like to win the Junior National Championship – I’ve never worn one of those jerseys with the red and blue hoops on so I’d like to try one!”
VeloVeritas was happy to explain to James about the ‘Kuurne Donkey’ – it’s no joke or derogatory symbol, quite the reverse; It’s a symbol of the personality of the people of Kuurne – stubborn and hard working, just like a donkey.
We’re always happy to help out.