In our recent series of articles, we’ve been looking at how young cyclists can take their interest in the sport to the next level.
To find out more, we spoke to James McCracken, a young athlete who recently finished in first place in the U18’s Men category at The Three Peaks Cyclocross race 2019.
He’s been training at Salt Ayre Cog Set with Paul Edwards, the cycling coach we recently interviewed.
Here’s what James had to say about being a young competitive cyclist.
How did you first get into cycling?
I originally got into cycling in order to be a triathlete. I was born into a family with a passion for triathlon, so when I started with Cog Set as one of the first fifty members, my intention was to get better at riding in order to perform better in the triathlons I was running at the time.
I wanted to get fast and Cog Set helped me do this. That’s how my cycling journey started, really.
How old were you when you started taking cycling seriously?
When I was about 14 years old I went to Denmark with the International Youth Games to compete in the triathlon there. While that was the peak of my triathlon career, it was also the end, because in Denmark I realised I was a much better cyclist than I was a triathlete.
When I came back to the UK, I stopped swimming and running training and instead began to focus on my cycling. Within a month I noticed huge improvements in my performance, particularly on weekly time trials.
Once I started to improve, I decided to try racing the crits all over the Northwest. I started out with just Regional races at first but by the end of the season, I had signed on to The North-West Youth Tour, my first-ever national three-day stage race. I had to train hard up to this event and ever since I have just had the commitment and drive to keep the training going.
What is the most valuable thing you have learnt since joining Cog Set?
Never give up and don’t give in.
Cog Set has taught me that no matter how hard it is or how far off the pace you are; you put your head down and dig deep. I don’t only use this in my cycling but also at college and at work.
What type of cycling do you enjoy most?
I do a whole host of different types of riding. In the winter, I do a lot of cyclocross, while through the summer, I focus on time trials.
Each type of cycling has its good bits and bad bits. Crit racing has always been hard for me as I’m not a sprinter — I’ve never had great results in those races, which, as you can imagine, is disheartening.
On the other hand, I perform well on time trials, so I tend to enjoy those the most — I’d say it’s my favourite type of cycling. I can push myself to my limit and don’t have to worry about others, unlike in a crit race.
That said, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of smashing around a circuit with 40 other athletes. That’s something you can miss when all you do is time trials.
Who are your cycling heroes?
My cycling hero is nobody and anybody at the same time.
The heroes of bike racing are the people on the attack because they are the people who are trying the hardest, taking a risk and believing in their ability.
James is a junior racer who recently finished in first place in the U18’s Men category at The Three Peaks Cyclocross race 2019. He mainly rides his bike because he enjoys it and has a great group of friends and family to ride with.
You can learn more about Salt Ayre Cog Set on their British Cycling profile.