British cyclo-cross champion Ian Field believes that the unique nature of the world championships race presents an opportunity to produce a ride that goes against the run of form.
A blossoming relationship with a new coach has given Field newfound belief that he can take his results to the next level and, speaking after the successful defence of his British title, it was clear that the national champion’s jersey is a talisman for the 28-year-old to take to Hoogerheide on 2 February.
"National champs is always special for me,” said Field. “It always means a lot to sponsors and myself to retain the jersey and to be able to wear it at the biggest cross races in the world each season.
The Hargroves Cycles/Specialized Trant rider is Britain’s top-ranked male international cyclo-cross rider and comes into the worlds on the back of a successful early season.
Field has registered two top-20 finishes in the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup and an impressive 13th place in the Koppenberg Trophy, a monument on the calendar, which saw Field lead the race early on before a puncture led to him slip back.
"I've been going well for the majority of the season really. The final two weeks into worlds are another few weeks of hard work to hold onto form or even build a little bit."
Field has been working a new coach, Dan Fleeman of Dig Deep Coaching since August; a relationship which, although in its infancy, is giving him a fresh focus and greater emphasis on intensity of training.
“It's given me a new hope, someone to feedback to,” said Field. “I wasn't just doing it for myself each day; uploading my files and what have you.
“We didn't actually have all that much time just before the season really, so it's going to be really interesting - a whole summer working together trying to step up another level.”
The early effects of Field’s new coaching regime have already been witnessed on the world cup circuit and at Koppenberg. However the big test will come at the world championships title race, a pressure cooker environment which can yield results that often don’t follow the world cup form book.
“It's literally just one hour, once a year and it just means so much to everybody,” explained Field. “Normal tactics go out the window because everyone's so nervous and so built-up for it.
“An analogy would be like football, when two really good teams get to a cup final and the cup final's really disappointing because no-one wants to lose. They don't play their normal game.
“There's always an opportunity at worlds to pull out a big ride for someone who maybe isn't a favourite because they haven't got the pressure of being a favourite."
Hoogerheide is a familiar stop for the cyclo-cross caravan, a venue which can be radically different dependent upon the weather.
“I've raced there in deep mud, I've raced there in pretty fast conditions and then last year at the world cup it was snowy and frozen so it really depends on the weather,” said Field. “It can totally change the course overnight really.”
Field’s preferred conditions? “When it's a bit muddy but still quite fast it suits me the most really,” conditions that the rider hopes might yield the top twenty finish he aspires to. “I really just want to get a solid top 25 under my belt," he added.
The UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships take place on 1-2 February in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. Reports and results will appear on the British Cycling website.