Three-time reigning British cyclo-cross champion Ian Field enjoyed his best season to date last time out and is relishing kicking off the new campaign.
Field will be leading an all-star cast in an elite cyclo-cross race at The Cycle Show, at Birmingham’s NEC Arena, which opens to the public tomorrow (Friday September 26).
The race, which takes place on Sunday, will serve as a form finder for Britain’s lone male representative on the UCI World Cup as he prepares for a season which includes a round of the prestigious World Cup at Milton Keynes.
And Field is keen to improve on a consistent showing last time out as he continues to establish himself in cyclo-cross’ top tier.
“My target for this season will be improving again in the World Cup series, with a big emphasis on the round in Milton Keynes because it will be a big deal,” he said. “I’m just looking for another consistent season with top-20 World Cup results along the way.
“I’m feeling alright. Training’s been going pretty well. I’ve had a decent summer and I’m just looking forward to that first race really to see where I am and get going with the real racing.
“I did four/five mountain bike races and a few road races over the summer, and the mix of the two is ideal really. Mountain biking gets the strength and the technical skills, while I get my speed and stamina from the road racing.”
Mountain biking gets the strength and the technical skills, while I get my speed and stamina from the road racing.
Milton Keynes will host the cyclo-cross elite on Saturday November 29 and – while it is not the first major event to be held on these shores – Field believes it is a marker of the recent boom in popularity of the discipline.
It is more than two decades since Leeds hosted the World Championships – following previous events in Birmingham and London – and Field hopes the Milton Keynes World Cup round will herald the start of a new era of elite racing in Britain.
“Having the World Championships was huge, but to put it into perspective I was five at the time of the last one! It was 22 years ago so it’s only really the veterans who were involved or even remember it.
“There’s no one riding who would have been competing back then, so the World Cup round will be really big. It will mark the progress that ‘cross is going through at the minute, it is a step in the right direction.
“I haven’t been down there. It’s all well and good to go down and have a look a field but until the course is set up and you can see the features and ride around it, you can not really gauge it.
“I’ve seen some pictures though and it looks like there will be a big gradient change, so I know it’s going to be hard. I’m just looking forward to it really.
“To a certain extent you need to see it as just another race and not put too much emphasis on it but I think the main home advantage will be the crowd rather than local knowledge.”
And Field, who is looking forward to taking cyclo-cross to the public during Sunday’s The Cycle Show race, has implored on the British public to come and support the event.
To a certain extent you need to see Milton Keynes as just another race and not put too much emphasis on it but I think the main home advantage will be the crowd rather than local knowledge.
“I think, over the past couple of years, cycling in general has taken a step forward and ‘cross is part of that,” he said.
“At the start of the season we have seen huge numbers at local league events, almost to the point where there’s so many people taking part they’re having to find new categories and new races. It’s a nice problem to have but it shows the sport is exploding.
“I really hope the Milton Keynes round is the first of many. It really depends on everyone involved in ‘cross buying a ticket, going down and showing how big ‘cross really is in the UK.
“To be honest, I think that’s what the UCI are looking for. The World Cup races last year in Holland, France and Belgium were good but the Rome one was just pathetic.
“There was literally one man and his dog watching. It was a huge anti-climax and it doesn’t look great on TV either. And so, you can see now, we aren’t going back there.
“I think if everyone turns up to Milton Keynes and shows their support, and the sponsors are there and can see that, it will really secure its future and possibly even get a look-in for having the World Championships again.”
First up though, national pride is at stake at The Cycle Show as Field dons the blue, red and white jersey for the first time this season.
And, he concluded, he is hoping a high-profile season will be the ideal curtain raiser for a big season in the offing.
“I think The Cycle Show will be nice to bring ‘cross to the people,” he added. “There will be a lot of guys from the industry there, but we can show it off – hopefully – in a glamorous setting to the public. It will be good.”
It is not too late to buy tickets for The Cycle Show, and RoadCyclingUK readers can use the discount code RCUK to get in for just £11.50 when booking in advance online.
Tickets are also available on the door for £16 per adult, with children aged less than 14 able to get in for just £1 with an adult. Concessions are also available.