This year the 24 year-old from Kent, England has moved to the Flatlands to see how far he can go in a sport where it now takes (at least) half-a-million Euros to sign the world champion.
PEZ: Why cyclo-cross, Ian?
Ian Field: I first got into cycling when I was 12/13 and ‘cross was the first form of racing that I did – I’ve always enjoyed it and when my time at the UK Cycling Academy was over I decided to focus on ‘cross with the backing of Hargroves Cycles.
PEZ: Do you get much support from British Cycling?
IF: Not really, we get taken to the Worlds but have to get to the World Cups and Superprestige races under our own steam.
PEZ: How do you pay the bills?
IF: I couldn’t do it without the support of Hargrove Cycles, my sponsor.
PEZ: Have you had any interest from Belgian teams?
IF: A bit, but when push comes to shove it’s a lot cheaper and easier for them to sign a Belgian guy.
PEZ: Tell us about the hardware.
IF: Shoes, helmet and gloves are all by Specialized. The frame is a Scott with a Dura Ace groupset – 39/46 rings with a 12 to 25 cassette, 27 if it’s muddy.
Shimano don’t do cantilevers so I’m on Frogs Legs brakes with Koolstop blocks. Pedals are Shimano XTR, I’ve found them to be best.
Wheels and tyres – I have a selection to suit the conditions; Mavic and FFWD, carbon/alloy/deep/shallow with Dugast or Challenge tubulars.
Challenge tyres are like Dugast – but cheaper!
The UCI rule now is that the tyre width can’t exceed 33mm – but you only run them on ice or in sand.
Disc brakes are legal for ‘cross this season, but until now no one has come up with a commercially available lever that can work with indexed shifting and hydraulic braking – you wouldn’t want to use cable operated discs.
PEZ: I heard that former world ‘cross champion Mario De Clercq was been helping you with training?
IF: He’s been helping me a little, yes. I’ve done a few sessions with his Sunweb team and I’ve had a few one on one meets with him.
PEZ: He’s not ‘Mr. Happy’ is he?
IF: He’s a bit of a closed book but once you get to know him he opens up a bit, his English is perfect but we only ever talk about cyclo-cross!
PEZ: Those ‘cross starts are like a track handicap – how do you train for them?
IF: You can’t train for the starts; but you can train for everything else.
There’s so much technique to practice, particularly cornering and getting on and off the bike – the Belgians have all been doing it since they were nine or ten years-old.
Mario has been helping me with technique; that is a weakness.
There are the physical demands too, of course – the running and cycling.
The Belgians break the whole course down and look at every corner – they’ll figure out how to take every one flat out and do that for the whole course.
PEZ: What’s your favourite type of course?
IF: I like a decent hill, I like it muddy and quick, not too muddy; but I don’t like when it’s very fast – like a road race.
If it’s really muddy then it’s down to straight power and that’s not best for me.
PEZ: You’re not riding a strong road programme like Nys, Albert and the rest – isn’t that a big disadvantage?
IF: I’m desperately trying to get on a Belgian road team for next season – it is a disadvantage.
It’s riding a solid road programme that gives you that deep down strength.
Next year I won’t be riding mountain bike in the summer, I want to be riding Belgian ‘Top Competition’ road races and stage races.
Its good stage races that are the key to building strength; the UK road scene is on the up but there are no stage races and so much travelling – the Belgians moan if they have to drive more than an hour to a race.
PEZ: What’s your best ride, this year?
IF: I was 13th at in the GVA (Gazette van Antwerpen, newspaper which sponsors the series) I beat Vanthourenhout and I was sprinting for a top 10 place.
PEZ: Are you assimilating that Flemish culture?
IF: I’m trying to – it’s a lot quieter in Flanders than in England; that’s good if you’re a cyclist because it’s easier to concentrate on your training and racing.
Everybody knows about cycling which is good – but it can be bad because they’re not slow to tell you if they think you’ve not done a good ride; they understand the sport.
PEZ: How about supporters?
IF: I have quite a few, I had good support at Koksijde, not just from the British folks that were over but from Belgians, too.
I think folks respect what I’m trying to do – I got a little interview on TV a month or so ago and since then the commentator picks me out and gives me a mention, that’s helped.
PEZ: And can Sven win the Worlds?
IF: If it’s icy I think he stands a good chance – he’s one of the very best in those conditions.
He normally doesn’t get his timing right for the Worlds but this year it looks to me like he’s holding back a little – he’s won at Saint Wendel (Germany) before and stands a good chance.
PEZ: Your goals?
IF: Short term – to win at Bradford (England) that’s a UCI race and carries points; UCI points are crucial because they decide your position on the grid.
I won at Southampton (England) and if I can win at Bradford too (which he did) it could move me up from the fifth or sixth row to the third row of the start grid.
Then I want to be consistent over the Xmas races to set me up for the British Championships in January
I really want to win that – people ask me why I’m not wearing the British champion’s jersey.
And I want a top 25 finish at the Worlds – that would be good progression.
We wish Ian well and will be keeping an eye on his performances between now and the Worlds.
To keep up with Ian, check out his website: IanField.co.uk.
Don’t forget Twitter!