Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games MTB Race: Just around the Corner.
After the success of the Olympics in London, in particular the Cross Country at Hadleigh Farm, all eyes now turn to Glasgow in 2014 for the Commonwealth Games. Xcracer.com caught up with Scottish Mountain Bike Coach Paul Newnham about the preparations for the event to ensure the Scots are well represented in the XC races.
Scottish riders trying out Hadleigh Farm course
Paul, it's been just over a year since we last caught up. 2012 certainly didn't slow up on the results for the Scots?
Yes it was a really good year. Kenta and Grant are really progressing well within the British Cycling setup at World Cup level and domestically we had a real highlight with Lee Craigie winning the British Elite Series. Two of the Elite boys, Dave and Gareth made it onto the podium in the BMBS and Rab Wardell has shown that he is back to form and mixing up in the top 10. Tom Evans had a mixed year but rode well in the final round to show his future potential by winning the British Junior series. The Youth boys showed promise with the likes of Calum McGowan winning a round and a Harry Johnson improving all time. The good thing with the young guys is that they have another year in their category so they should move forward as bike riders again next year.
I was also really proud of how the girls have progressed, with Lucy Grant winning the British Champs and Isla Short winning the British Series. We put a lot of work into the girl's only skills development project last winter and have continued that again this year and it is good to see that it is producing results.
It's seems to be a long list of riders all going for games selection in 2014 Can you give us a run down of the squad for 2013.
Yes it is a very exciting squad this year; here is a quick rundown of Scottish riders:
British Cycling Olympic Academy Riders:
Grant Ferguson: British under 23 Cyclocross Champion and current Scottish MTB Champion.
Kenta Gallagher: British Under 23 MTB Champion, 2 x top 10 World Cup results under 23 men.
Olympic Development Programme:
Iain Paton: 4th ranked junior, selected for World Championships 2012.
Rab Wardell: 6th ranked Elite XC 20132 and current Scottish Cyclocross champion
Dave Henderson: Podium finish at round 4 of the British series and 10th UCI stage race Andaluc�a
Tom Evans: British Series champion Junior 2012
Lee Craigie: British Series Champion 2012, 44th at the World Championships
Jessie Roberts: 3rd Ranked Elite rider in the UK Jessie is new to the squad for 2013
Katy Winton: 2nd Under 23 British Championships, 2nd Scottish Downhill Championships, 2nd Scottish Road Race Championships.
Stuart Wilcox: Current Scottish Cyclocross Champion.
Isla short: British Series Champion youth, 2012.
Scottish riders try out their new GB kit
The Commonwealth games track is scheduled for an early finish. Details are thin on the ground, are you planning a grand unveiling?
Cathkin Braes is Glasgow's first international-standard mountain bike course which is nearing completion and open for the public to ride. There will still be some tweaks made in two phases before the games in 2014. Glasgow City Council and South Lanarkshire Council have been brilliant in involving Scottish Cycling and other stake holders in the design and I have been over to the course a number of times during the build to add my comments and help shape it into being a brilliant race track and also fun trail to ride at the same time!
Rab Wardell tries his big wheels on the course at Cathkin Braes. Photo: Glasgow 2014
As an occasional (slow) mtb racer myself, can I come and ride the course and even better, can I race it this year?
Yes as I say the beauty of the course is that is located in the Country Park so anybody can get across and ride it! It's a great legacy for riders in Glasgow and you can ride to it from the city centre! It is already getting a good amount of use and it is going to be an excellent facility for developing up and coming riders in the future. I have done around 10 laps on it myself and I imagine by the end of the year the squad will know it pretty well! We are going to be doing some course profiling and equipment testing on the course later in the year as we build up to the SXC Round 3 on the 12th May and British Championships taking place on 20th and 21st July.
Race entries for the SXC Series and British Champs are now open, information and press releases available here:
We are currently working with a pool of talented riders providing them with the training and support to help them meet the selection criteria for the Commonwealth Games. We are aiming to select the most competitive team possible for the Games. Final selection will be made by commonwealth games Scotland following nominations by Scottish Cycling. There are three places for men and three for Women. It has always been an ambition of mine since I took on this project that we would field a full and strong team at our home games.
Will the added pressure and internal competition help or hinder the group and are you doing any specific psychological preparation for the younger riders?
There is a wide selection of riders going for qualification from seasoned Elites to first year under 23's and even some of the juniors could be in contention if they really step it up a level. I think this competition will be key to achieving good performance on the day in 2014 as it creates a real focus and intensity to people training and racing as they are all trying to get the best out of themselves. The hard bit is to manage each rider's personal ambition within the squad context, the squad is very mature as a collective and I know they all see it as a positive process.
The Scottish MTB Series continues to deliver great courses and a great platform for all levels of rider. How important is it that this series keeps delivering amid the myriad of other popular options (sportive, enduro mtb, cross etc)?
The SXC has a massive influence on the XC racers coming out of Scotland. I think if you take any of the riders in our squad they would have all grown up racing SXC's.
They are a great breeding ground for future champions. Obviously now with so many other events the series has struggled a little in the last couple of year but we are having a big push this year to advertise the series on a wider scale and get new riders into the system. This season promises great racing opportunities on exciting courses, including the Highlands, Dumfries-shire and the newly developed Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games course at Cathkin Braes.
Two riders in particular have been in the news recently. How important is it for the development programme to see talented riders progress through to the world circuit?
I think it is hugely important as the young riders can see that they have come through exactly the same pathway and that it is possible to make it to the top level if they put the work in! It's great to see Kenta and Grant on a pro team and are still being looked after by the British Cycling Academy. I think this year Annie last has proven that the system works and that if you put the ground work into the development side of things you will get world beaters out of the other end! I can see the two boys really stepping it up this year. We saw flashes of brilliance last year from both of them and I think you see them fighting for podium position this year in Under 23 World Cups.
Grant Ferguson takes tips from Julien Absalon (or perhaps the other way round?!?)
Sponsorship is increasingly difficult just now with the general reaction to the economy. What do riders or events have to do to attract commercial interest in the run up to the games?
It is the hardest thing that the riders have to face for sure. There is very limited money in XC right now unless you are at the very top of the sport and the riders have to really work at it to get the support they need to race at a high level. I think it takes time to build a relationship with a sponsor and fundamentally riders and events need to offer them a return on their investment and be very proactive in terms of media and promotion.
One of the most impressive showings at the British XC Series is the Scots in the youth/juvenile and junior categories. How do you garner such support to travel the long distances required to compete?
We do a lot of development work with our young riders in smaller groups, it gives them a chance to get to know one and other and develop alongside their peers. The parents are fantastic and club together and they make a weekend camping and traveling together so for them it becomes a fun weekend away!! I think having events like the Inter regional MTB Champs and the European Youth MTB champs makes a big difference as they all have to race at a British level to be considered for selection. I think we try to set the bar high and say this is the level you need to be competing at if you want to progress.
Scottish riders celebrate riding at Hadleigh Farm
How do the long distances impact rider's preparations? Any tips to overcome the distance covered by car?
Well one of our juniors probably deserves a medal as he lives in Golpsie which is 4 hours north of Edinburgh so he and his family do a of a lot of driving during the season! The obvious top tip is to stop regularly and mobilise your limbs and get the blood flowing and drink plenty of fluids. Of course there is always the option to fly which I think a number of Scots will be doing down to the Cornwall round this year!
Any advice for budding Scottish Youth riders and their parents when first getting into the sport?
Well the first step would be to contact Scottish Cycling and find out where the nearest club is. We have a great network of Go ride clubs and volunteer coaches now and a dedicated team of Regional Development Officers to help promote the sport. A club can offer coaching and access to local competition and also the chance to meet likeminded people. The SXC series is very friendly so don't be afraid to ask questions before committing to a race. There are categories for every level of rider so start with the beginner or open category and work your way up!
There is a great video series covering the Scottish cross scene, do governing bodies need to be as supportive to media coverage as they do the actual events?
Yes is something we are working hard on and we have a new communication officer who is very proactive on the media side of things and we are always looking to facilitate creative thinking on how we promote our events and the sport in general.
Strava hunting! �.. Only joking! I would say race paced efforts off road on a small circuit, basically you are miniaturising all the skills needs to Race MTB into a small circuits and you get lots of attempts to get it right it you are doing multiple laps at race speed.
Train on road or off road?
A mix of both, strength and endurance on road and anything race specific off road. You need to road for the steady zone 2-3 rides. If you just rode off road you would be a wreck in a month!
29 or 26?
I don't know if this is even a question anymore for XC? 29 of course!
Aberfoyle or Drumlanrig?
Cathkin Braes !!
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