Track Cycling

My First Race: Jake Stewart, the next sprint superstar? – CyclingTips

Jake Stewart may not be a name you’re all too familiar with, or at least probably wasn’t up until this year Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Shall we call it the season’s true one-day opener? 

Actually scrap that, since writing that introduction on Friday afternoon, Jake has more than likely popped into your news headline feed and your consciousness because of a certain Nacer Bouhanni who ended up doing a classic “Bouhanni” in the closing meters of this Sundays Cholet-Pays de La Loire on Jake.

Jake is in his first full season with the World Tour team Groupama – FDJ, and he’s hit the ground running, or sprinting, shall we say! Second place behind Davide Ballerini of Deceuninck – Quick-Step at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and before that finishing fourth on GC at the Étoile de Bessèges stage race as well as taking first in the youth classement. These early-season results had many taking note of the British neo-pro. 

Jake finished second behind Davide Ballerini at the 2020 cobbled oppener, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Since 2019, Jake has been doing the groundwork and cutting his teeth with the continental Groupama-FDJ team, in essence, the World Tour’s feeder team. Come August of 2020, Jake stepped up, dipping his toe (quite successfully) with the World Tour squad riding as a stagiaire.

Back then, as Jake tells, the team needed all hands on deck due to the rescheduled and overly busy schedule, that along with a few of the WT team out due to injury and the team needing a full roster of riders, saw Jake line up to some auspicious races. Normally, stagiaire’s aren’t thrown too far in at the deep end.

For instance, if 2020 hadn’t been the wild calendar, it was the first outing for Jake with Groupama – FDJ at the Tour du Limousin would have been a relatively low key event. But last year, with the way it saw the race stacked with big-name talent, teams and riders lined up looking for extra days racing due to the reduced calendar. In the south-central farmlands of France, Jake finished second on GC behind Luca Wackermann of Vini Zabù – KTM and shared a podium with 2013 World road race champion Rui Costa who came in third on GC. Not a bad start to impressing the top dogs within the French squads managerial set up. From there, the northern classics beckoned, Jake was thrown in at the deep end, lining up at all the major rescheduled Flandrian Classics, Gent-Wevelem (35th), Scheldeprijs (20th), Ronde van Vlaanderen and finally finishing the season with Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne.

A young british talent, not snapped up by Ineos!

Unlike many British professionals, Jake cut his own path through the lower rankings to work his way up to a WorldTour contract. More often than not, the British names that stand out on a result sheet have come through the British Cycling development structure; Jake spent a small amount of time with British cycling, racing on the track and road, but he’s clearly cut from a different cloth, it’s a rarity to see a young British talent get snapped up by a french World Tour squad. And even odder to see a British professional stay in the UK full time for training once they’ve joined the World Tour. 

Kake finished fourth in GC at the 51st edition of the Etoile de Besseges. His first 2021 race as a WT rider.

His cycling story starts back not too long ago in 2012, at the age of 12, where the action that unfolded inside the London’s Olympic velodrome sparked an interest. In this new video series, I’m going to aim to chat to riders about their first race, and well, I thought Jake would be the perfect rider to kick us off. After all, 2012 isn’t that far back in time for someone to recall their first foray into racing. We’ll find out if that first race was a success or far from a sign of what would come. Plus, we’ll delve into the first races of their pro careers, again something that should be very fresh in Jake’s mind. 

Nine years on from his first race, and he’s already taking some monumental finishes, so much so that he’s already being touted as one of the next batch of riders to watch out for. I think it’s safe to say it won’t be long till I email Jake again to ask about his first pro win.