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Downhill

Bulletproof Talent – Meg James

Downhill superstar in waiting

If you think the Athertons are British cycling’s first family, you may want to think again. Abergavenny’s James family have plenty of road and track silverware and, thanks to Meg, look poised to shake up the world of downhill too.

Meg is the younger sister of Becky, who last year won two Olympic silver medals after recovering from a cancer scare, Ffion, a cyclocross champion, and Rachel, a gold medal winning  tandem pilot for the British Para-cycling team. Cycling is simply in this family’s blood and it is in downhill and enduro that Meg has found her niche.

Meg has been the stand out force in the debut year of the junior women’s World Cup series winning both Fort William and Vallnord with daylight between her and the competition. She could well have won more had she not fractured her back in Lenzerheide. Thankfully she’s ok and is already back on the bike looking forwards to more success next year. We caught up with Meg for a quick chat about the stellar start to her downhill career.

What is your first cycling memory?

My first race is probably what I remember first. I was four and I did a cyclocross race. I hated it on the start line but when I was there I got hooked on it and I’ve been riding ever since.

How has your family helped with your riding career so far?

Well, every person in my family has done cycling, everyone just loves it because the family can just get out on rides together, we’re all kind of addicted to it.

I went to watch Becky at the Olympics last year and that was so inspiring what she’s been through to get there. It was amazing to watch her medal, that inspired me more than anything.

Becky is on the track but you seem to prefer the mountains more? Why is that? Have you ever tried track?

All my family have done mountain biking at some point, including Becky. I did a bit of track when I was younger but I never really enjoyed just riding in circles so I gave up on that pretty quickly.

I did a lot of cross country racing and then I realised that where I was making my time up was all on the downhills – I kept getting dropped on the climbs and then catching up on the descents and I got into downhill that way

When did Tracy Moseley end up supporting you?

It was about two years ago, I went on a women’s weekend that she organises and I got to ride with her a little bit. I think she was quite impressed and then started to help me out. She got me into some races and since then we’ve been doing everything together.

She’s probably my biggest inspiration. I get to follow her down all the trails and if you just watch her ride she makes everything look so easy.

She got me some kit from a few sponsors and Trek then got me a downhill and enduro bike as well as entry for races and things like that which really helped because it’s such an expensive thing to get into. 

How are you finding your first season of World Cups?

I love doing the World Cup series, it’s so much fun being around my cycling idols and like sometimes I’ll see them on the side of the track as I’m going down.

The Hope Factory Team have been so nice. When I was with them in Andorra and Lenzerheide I was super nervous because Tracey wasn’t there and I was on my own but they helped me so much. They showed me the lines and Vaea [Verbeeck] let me do some practice runs with her that helped so much.

Were you expecting to do so well?

No, not at all really. In the qualifying I realised that I could be pretty far ahead because I just rode smooth and that made me faster. I just didn’t expect it at all.

How have you found the junior women’s competition?

It’s pretty cool, it’s not a massive category, we’ve had seven girls do some of them this year but it’s pretty good to do your own race and at Fort William especially it was cool to be on a podium with so many people watching. It inspires you to keep going and it’ll help me transfer into elite later on.

I’m looking forward to racing Mille Johnset and Vali Holl next year, it should be close racing between the three of us, we can push each other on.

What does the next 12 months hold for you? Enduro or downhill?

I’d like to try and do both at the same time. I’ll probably focus more on downhill but keep doing enduros because I just love doing them for fun. I’d like to do an EWS or two as well next year. I’m still going to do cyclocross in the winter as well.

Any shoutouts you want to make?

Thanks to Trek, Mojo Suspension, Hope Tech and Bike Park Wales.

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