Journals Riders

Rider journals 2021: introducing James Jenkins

The fast-improving Richardsons-Trek rider, 21, is 2021 journal contributor number six

We are lucky enough to be welcoming a new batch of riders to our rider journal series in 2021. We have picked ten riders to give us an insight into life at the Continental and elite-levels of racing, both at home and abroad. We’ll be introducing each rider through December. So far we have revealed Abi SmithRed WaltersCharliiy Berry, Joe Nally and Charlotte Broughton. Rider number six is James Jenkins…

James Jenkins was a rider that made us sit up and notice in 2019. Riding in the orange of Richardsons-Trek, and just 20 years old, James was one of the strongest elite riders in the domestic peloton.

At the beginning of that year I didn’t really know any of the top guys in the race and then by the end of it we were all in the same front group together

7th at the Ryedale GP, 9th at the Lancaster GP and 11th at the South Coast Classic all showed that he wasn’t far off competing for the podium in National Road Series events. Add in two second places in Belgian kermesses, a win in the Saffron Walden GP and 12th overall at the Three Days of Cherbourg and it all amounted to a very fine season for the fast-improving Essex man. He was a rider we were quick to place in our ‘one to watch’ file.

James will remain at Richardsons-Trek in 2021. He’ll be balancing study, work and racing, a juggling act he says he’s managed before, but it will likely mean he won’t be at his best until later in the year once university is behind him.

As with all our prospective journal contributors, we caught up with James to help us get to know him better…

Photo: Stuart Clapp

How would you describe yourself as a rider?

It’s a bit of a difficult question. I’m too heavy to be a climber (in the true sense), but I can get over most climbs in the UK with the good guys. I’m also not powerful enough to be a real sprinter, but when it comes to a sprint from a reduced bunch on a tough day I usually go well. My 20-minute power is probably my strongest figure so I’d say I’m a bit of a tester, but not really strong enough at that yet to be classed as a specialist. I guess I could be described as a swiss army knife, or maybe, what’s the phrase, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’?

Where’s home for you? What are your training roads like?

I grew up in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, which is coincidentally the same small town that our title sponsor, Richardsons Cycles, is based. However, I have studied in London since 2017 so it is becoming more and more of my base. In regards to training roads, I’ll go out to the lanes in Essex from both locations. Roads are between flat and rolling with grippy surfaces. Far better than Kent – my other training option, south of the river – since in Essex you can keep on the pedals all day and it isn’t just up and down.

What’s your proudest cycling achievement so far?

It would probably be my seventh place at Ryedale in 2019. It’s my favourite ‘prem’ to race and to be at the pointy end of it was very nice for me given that the previous year I lasted only 50 kilometres or so. To see my improvement not only in that race but throughout the 2019 season wasn’t lost on me. At the beginning of that year I didn’t really know any of the top guys in the race and then by the end of it we were all in the same front group together.

James wins the 2019 Saffron Walden GP. Photo: Dom Romney

Another couple of results I’m very proud of came in crits. Finishing seventh at the national circuit championships and winning the Saffron Walden GP were nice. The former was special to me as it felt like everything I was working hard on was finally paying off and I could see it from the riders in the group around me.

One of us not winning was not worth the bollocking that Andy would definitely have given us

The Saffron Walden win was one of my few decent-sized wins and to do it with the whole team there around me was something else. There were three Richardsons-Trek riders in the front group (Isaac Mundy, Joe Sutton, and me) along with Alec Briggs (Tekkerz CC). I hit out with a lap to go and finally broke the elastic. I found a lot of relief crossing the line as one of us not winning was not worth the bollocking that Andy [Ed: Lyons, team manager at Richardson’s Trek] would definitely have given us.

Tell us a little bit about juggling work and study alongside your racing and training

During the week my days can be quite busy. I work part-time as a data analyst for a mobile ordering company. I’m also studying a Masters at UCL in Environmental Engineering. And, of course, there’s cycling.

My general rule of thumb is to get the cycling done first thing, otherwise, it hangs over me for the whole day. With the university being fully online this year, it is easier than it was in the past. Since I don’t have to physically be at university I can watch lectures in my own time and will complete these by around 3 pm, then it’s onto the data work until 6 pm or 7 pm maybe.

I recognise that this is quite busy and some may say it is not sustainable but I’ve been doing something like this for my undergrad too, so I’m used to it. This year I’ve decided to weight my first term to contain more modules than the new year, which will give me a bit more time for training and, crucially, recovering. This is something that I do miss out on and my results show it. Once my exams are done in June time I have a lot more time to rest. My hours on the bike don’t particularly increase but the time I can get my feet up does and results follow from that.

Photo: Will French

What might your race programme look like?

This is a very hard question to answer at the moment given the amount of uncertainty, but hopefully will be a balance of time trials and road racing. I’ll aim to race all the Prems (the National Road Series races), get over to Belgium (Brexit dependent) on the weekends there is no racing, and then finish the season in France doing a race that the team has been invited to.

I’d like to try and cement myself in the top ten in all of the Prems that suit me

What would a successful 2021 look like for you?

To continue my upward progression from the last few years. In 2017, I couldn’t get around a prem, in 2018 I could, then in 2019, I was competing for the top ten or fifteen. I’d like to try and cement myself in the top ten in all of the prems that suit me, along with some results in Belgium and France. I came 12th in the Cherbourg 3-day so to improve on that result would be great too. On the time-trialling side, I’d like to challenge for top-fives in the National 10 and National 25 Championships, along with course PBs on all my local 10s. I spent a little while at the end of this season doing some time trials (since nothing else was on) and broke a few of my long-standing PBs. I plan to focus on that over the winter so that once the season starts I can give them another real crack.

Find out more

Follow James on Twitter.

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