Ian Field is one of Great Britain’s most successful bike racers, and one that you’ve probably never heard of. Because he’s a cyclo-cross racer.
The two time UK Cyclo-Cross Champion is now competing on the world stage in Europe and has also represented his country in the World Championships, you may have missed that too. Ian “Fieldy” Field, or “Field de Brit” is the only British male competing at the top level of ‘cross racing and the Man of Kent has upped sticks to live in Oudenaarde in Belgium so he can be closer to the mud and sand action mixing it with the big boys, and it’s paying off with some solid Top 20 results.
We managed to get in touch with him after his impressive performance at the recent Koppenbergcross where he led the field for a couple of laps before coming victim to a puncture and finishing a still credible 13th.
Firstly, congratulations on your performance the other weekend, did you hear the whole of the UK CX supporter’s scene shouting for you?
Thanks very much, there were in fact a lot of Brits in attendance at the Koppenberg so the support was really good at the actual event. Then afterwards once I was home I began to realise how many people were following proceedings on the internet via any means how as the normal live feeds seemed to be down.
Actually, let’s make that the first question. Has the increased support for cyclo-cross in the UK made a difference to you?
It hasn't made a direct difference to me but it is nice knowing that there are a lot of people supporting albeit from a far watching on the net etc. That said more and more people are making trips across the channel to watch the biggest races in the World and the fact that I am towards the front of these races hopefully makes the experience a bit better for them, they are certainly making more noise for me than ever before!
Has moving to Belgium helped or is it still an alien environment; different countries, different languages, different cultures, is it another challenge on top of the racing?
This is my 5th season of trips or living the winter months in Belgium so I am pretty used to it now. It does make things tougher being away from friends, family and 'home' but I see it as part of the job. It took a while to adjust to the pace of life in Belgium as I find it slow and a little dull however this is kind of perfect for the cyclist life style I lead during the winter months. Able to concentrate 100% on the job in hand no distractions makes life easy. Everyone is Belgium pretty much loves cycling and therefore the cyclists involved so help and support is never far away which is always nice.
Just how much better is the quality of competition in Europe compared to the UK or even the USA?
Ian Field - It's almost a different sport, the courses the atmosphere the level of competition just is all on a different level. It’s the absolute pinnacle of the sport and therefore you have to adapt to fit in and 'make it'. The sport is a business and very professional environment in Belgium. In the UK and USA it is a participation sport, in Belgium it is a spectator sport. The World Cups, Superprestige, Bpost series' contain the best riders in the World guys from the top of the sport in USA come in and aim for top 20 with the top of UK racing coming in aiming for top40 top 30.
And as a virtual privateer without the massive support the top Euro CX racers have, how tough is that?
In many ways it has been tough over the years without the support of the 'big' team however with the continued support from Hargroves Cycles and Specialized this season I have setup 'Team Fieldy' around me so I have the support to try and succeed at the top of the sport. It just means I have to be more proactive off the bike to get organised before the season starts to make sure the infrastructure is in place for me to be able to fully concentrate on the racing once the season kicks off.
You’ve slowly worked your way up the European results table, is it hard to remain motivated when it’s a hard race each weekend?
In previous seasons it has been hard to stay motivated getting my head kicked in week in week out. However sporadically I had a glimpse of a big result which kept me hungry to keep going. This season though every race has just been in my eyes an opportunity to show how good I am and to get a 'result'.
As a lone gun and lone Brit do you go into races with any particular tactic, was leading the Koppenbergcross planned or did it just happen, for example?
It totally depends on the race ahead of me to which tactic I will try and use and as I am really getting to know each individual race now my experience and persistence is starting to pay off. Down to stuff like where the crashes occur every year, therefore where I need to be on the grid for that all important star! At the Koppenberg there is always a good opportunity to lead the race even from a third row start as everyone waits for the climb of the infamous climb before really hitting the gas. I had an idea of what I needed to do but when things opened up for me I didn't even think about it I just went for it and tried my luck over the first few laps.
What did it feel like leading at Koppenberg, with Belgium breathing down your neck?
It was a surreal experience, I don't know how many people were there, 20,000 maybe more. The noise on the first lap is unreal. Everyone screaming and shouting for their favourites. I just kept telling myself to remain calm and remember that you always need something towards the back end of the race as that climb is so tough after an hour of racing. I didn't really have time to think about what was happening as I was just concentrating on the effort and technical side of things but thinking about it now it was pretty cool and something I want to experience more of rather than just see it as a great one off memory.
Not taking away from your performance, but those UK cyclo-cross ladies, three in the top ten at the European Champs, not bad eh?
The GB women have been up there for a number of years now and I think people have kind of just accepted their success and don't see it as stand out performances anymore which is a shame as they are right at the top of their sport doing it week in week out!
Why cyclo-cross and not road or mountainbiking?
I compete on the road and MTB throughout the summer months but nothing is as exciting as cyclocross for me. Its like a combination of the two, the pure fitness and strength from the road with a skills set needed like in MTB. I just find the combination a real challenge and it obviously helps I seem to have a talent for it.
Discs in cyclo-cross, yes or no?
I think eventually everyone will be on discs but as of yet things are still very much being developed with a number of different systems being used at the moment. Pads, discs and finishing touches are still being tweaked this season....
Your one top tip for a cyclo-cross racer?
Do it with a smile on your face and enjoy it! That's why I started and ultimately why I continue.
There you go, now you know who Ian Field is and bit about him.
Give him a cheer.
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.