With the preparation for the 2015 Calder Stewart Elite National Road Championships in full swing, we took time to catch up with Pure sponsored athlete James Williamson as he focuses on re-claiming his 2012 National Champion title. James is a talented cyclist representing NZ in road, track and mountain biking disciplines and will also be aiming to defend his Contact Lake Hawea Epic MTB title next year.
Let's start with an update on your cycling career - how did you get started?
It all started when I was a kid and spent a lot of my weekends following my parents around to the local Central Otago – Wakatipu Cycle Club races, as soon as I was old enough I was lining up getting amongst it. Starting off with a massive head start on my MTB my first race took in one of New Zealand's most iconic climbs, the Crown Range. From there it just kept growing, I did as much as I could, soon we were travelling the country chasing the races around. The Central Otago area is a haven for mountain biking and my first national title came at the U14 NZ secondary schools MTB champs, this sparked an interest for me but deep down I always knew I really wanted to be a pro on the road. We used to get videos of the Tour de France from England and would watch them over and over again, getting to know all the legends and historic places. While at high school I tried out track cycling, but living 2.5 hours away from the nearest tracks it was hard to put in the necessary training time to keep up with the other kids. But the next year I was selected to compete at the junior worlds in all three disciplines (road, track and MTB) and so was forced to make a decision as to my path for the future, I decided to keep following my heart and passion and opted for a road racing buildup to the road worlds. This meant I was also able to compete in the MTB Worlds the following month. Soon it became too much to keep the mountain biking going at a competitive level due to the constant clashes in the season and so my focus was fully on road.
What would be your major career highlights so far?
There have been a number of highlights but in 2011 it was, and probably always will be, the most fun I will ever have as a professional cyclist. Being part of a full New Zealand setup in the PureBlack Racing team with great team mates and ambition, we raced hard and well and really made a massive mark for NZ cycling on the international scene. I really started to feel like a pro cyclist and it started paying off as I was given opportunities to perform to my full potential. What is still one of the highlights of my career was getting 6th at the UCI1.HC Philadelphia International Classic (USA) that year, a 260km race that is one of the most historic in USA cycling. But the biggest win of my career was taking out the men's NZ Elite Nationals Road Championship in 2012. [caption id="attachment_3677" align="alignright" width="223"] Elite Nationals 2014[/caption]
You have changed your focus away from being a full-time athlete. What have been your biggest challenges in the past 6 months and how have you dealt with those?
Biggest challenge for me these days is having the time to be able to get the volume and quality of training in that I used to. As a cyclist who is also studying, working and coaching I am keeping really busy and so don't have quite the same level of commitment to getting out and doing those back-to-back-to-back big days on the bike. Now I have to be more specific in my training and pick my goal races more carefully as its harder for me to get to form and stay there.
What have been your sporting highlights this year so far?
Getting 5th in the NZ Elite Nationals Road Race at the start of the year was a good strong result for me considering my shift away from being a full time athlete. Since then I have won the Milford Mountain Classic and the Contact Lake Hawea Epic MTB race both of which are really tough events that showcase the South Island. Over in the US I had several top 10 results but the highlight was taking 3rd at the Intelligentsia Cup Crystal Lake Criterium (July 2014).
What's your focus for the summer season?
2014 has been such a massive year for me already on the bike so for the rest of the year I am more focused on recovery, and putting a bit more energy into study and work. As the weather starts to warm up a bit more I'll be back out on the bike getting in some quality training so that I can hit the ground running with the L&M Group Ricoh NZ racing team in 2015.
What events do you have coming up in 2015, and what are your goals for each of those?
My key events for 2015 are really similar to the ones I have done this year. Firstly the Elite Nationals where I will try to improve on my 5th place and aim to take my 2012 title back. After that I will aim to defend my title at the Milford Mountain Classic and Lake Hawea Epic. [caption id="attachment_3678" align="alignleft" width="184"] Milford Mountain Classic 2014[/caption]
Who or what has been the most influence on your sporting career so far, and in what ways have they influenced you?
My parents have always been the most supportive and encouraging influence for my cycling career. Both enjoy cycling themselves, they share the same passion as me for the sport. Now my good friend and the creator of the NZ Cycling Project (L&M Group Ricoh NZ Racing Team) James Canny always helps get me motivated and has given me a great opportunity to be able to continue to keep the enjoyment in the racing and riding.
How do you deal with those days when you just don’t feel like training, or if an event hasn't gone as well as planned?
That is one of the hardest parts of cycling. It's really tough as you have to be massively self motivated and disciplined, no one else can go out there and do the training for you, I usually ride my bike because I enjoy it now so if I'm not enjoying riding I won't make myself do it and start to hate it. In terms of events you have to be really mentally strong to not get knocked down when things don't go to plan as this happens 9 times out of 10. For myself I find it is really helpful to have clear goals for racing but also having other important things in my life such as a fiancé, study and work which i can focus on if the racing hasn't gone to plan rather than just getting down on it and un motivated.