Rider Interview: James Shaw will be back in the top league of cycling in 2022 with the US based EF Education-Nippo team. Ed Hood caught up with James to hear of his ‘up and down’ trajectory back to the WorldTour.
James Shaw – Back to the WorldTour, this time with EF Education-Nippo
The ‘self help’ and ‘Positive Mental Attitude’ manuals will tell you that one of the main qualities required for success in life is: ‘PERSISTENCE.’ James Shaw must have read them all, that man doesn’t know the meaning of the word, ‘quit.’ Riding stagiaire with Belgium’s Lotto Soudal at the end of 2016; the next two years saw him on board their WorldTour team for 2017 and 2018 but there was no renewal for 2019. The 2019 season saw him ride with British continental team, Swift Carbon Pro but in 2020 he bounced back up to ProTeam level with the Danish Riwal Securitas team. Sadly, the team’s ProTeam status was another victim of the pandemic and for this season Shaw was back in the UK at continental level with the Ribble Weldtite team. BUT – for 2022 he’s back to the WorldTour with EF Education – Nippo; you can’t keep a good man down.
PEZ: You’re a persistent devil, Mr. Shaw.
James Shaw: Some might just say ‘stubborn,’ but yes, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster.
PEZ: How’s that house you’re restoring in the Peak District coming along?
It’s going well, we immersed ourselves over the times there was no racing.
TT Shaw with Lotto
PEZ: Third in the British individual time trial championship, James the ‘chronoman?’
The time trial isn’t my forte but I was pleased to beat a number of out and out TT specialists to get onto the podium. I had time off the bike with illness after the Tour of Britain so I wasn’t expecting much, but when I rode the course I could see that it suited me and just rode at my own tempo. I was pleased that I hadn’t lost form.
PEZ: We saw you in action at the British Road Race Championship in Lincoln, you looked very strong, but seemed to spend much of the race chasing?
Yes, I did make life hard for myself, the trouble in the National is that it’s difficult to know which move will stick – and I had team mates up the road and didn’t want to take folk across.
PEZ: That was a very impressive ride you did in the Tour of Slovenia, fifth on GC in the company of the likes of Pogačar, Ulissi and Majka.
That was my best race of the year and Ribble Weldtite came away from that one with our heads held high. Training and generating such and such watts is one thing, but it doesn’t mean anything until you’re in a race situation and we definitely performed well there, punching above our weight.
PEZ: You repeated that GC position in the Tour of Norway.
We got that invite on the strength of how we rode in Slovenia. Norway wasn’t as hilly as Slovenia, the climbs were shorter and sharper but it was good to prove that my ride in Slovenia wasn’t a ‘one off.’ That’s a nice race, the roads are good and we had sunshine much of the time; I’ve ridden in Norway before, the Tour of the Fjords, so I knew what to expect and that’s always helpful.
PEZ: Perhaps you would have expected more from the Tour of Britain where you finished 14th on GC.
I had hoped for more but had mechanicals and bad luck early in the race which put me on the back foot so I had to try and make the best of it after that.
PEZ: EF Education Nippo for 2022 and 2023, that’s a nice outcome, did your agent negotiate that for you?
I don’t have an agent, there was no third party involved, I did have an agent but we parted company by mutual agreement at the end of the 2018 season. What I did was basically to send out my details to anyone and everyone. It was Charly Wegelius from EF who got back to me initially and then Jonathan Vaughters became involved as things progressed. They were easy to deal with, we agreed terms and I’m glad to have another opportunity on the World Tour.
PEZ: Where will you be based?
The majority of my races will obviously be out-with the UK, but I’m going to continue to live here. Communications are good for me with East Midlands, Manchester and Birmingham airports all within easy reach. The team is happy with the arrangement, it was something we discussed during our contract negotiations.
PEZ: EF are very much into ‘alternative’ forms of racing and/or generating publicity, will we you on the gravel?
The road comes first, that’s what I’ll be paid to do but once my race programme is firmed-up, we’ll see. There’s also still the aspect of the pandemic’s effect on the calendar?
PEZ: That first Grand Tour?
I’d like to think so, it’s my childhood dream and what I’ll be training towards – but which one it might be I’m not certain about.
PEZ: When’s your first training camp with the team?
That will be January, the team used to have a pre-Xmas camp but Covid has made travel arrangements complicated, especially for the guys outside of Europe. I’m having my break off the bike right now, but plan to do my own camp in Spain in December.
PEZ: Will you still be working with trainSharp for your coaching?
Yes, that’s the plan, I have a good bond there and their methods work for me.
PEZ: Going back to Lotto, 2017 – too much too young?
Yes definitely, but at that age when someone puts a WorldTour contract on the table in front of you then you’re not going to say, ‘no.’ My advice to a younger me would be to have more patience.
PEZ: Riwal folding must have stung?
Very much, it seemed like the perfect step back up for me, they had everything in place and it was a good, supportive set up. The team was certainly on an upward trajectory before the pandemic and as the only Danish team at that level and the Tour de France starting in Copenhagen it seemed like a great opportunity. I had planned to spend a couple of seasons there but of course had to step back down to Continental level instead.
Continue my rate of progress, learn, give to the team and grab my opportunities with both hands. The Ardennes Classics were something we discussed during my contract negotiations and races I have a lot of motivation for.
# Good luck to James with his new adventure. #