‘Photographer to peloton – One teen’s journey to race’ is the story of James Huntly. James is currently the photographer for the Ribble Weldtite Pro Team Photographer. But he has a different dream – to one day ride for the team.
It’s a three-hour drive up to Northumberland. For someone that doesn’t really like driving that’s a long drive. But for James Huntly, the 19-year-old I was about to go and meet (socially distanced of course) that was everyday life.
The teen has spent the last year travelling the world as the official photographer for the Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling Team. He was right in the mix of the highs and the lows during the past 12 months – which he later tells me was his dream job. But this was about to change as he has set his sights on a bigger goal; a more personal challenge.
As I drive into the stunning market village of Alnwick – James’ home town – I’m staggered by the beauty of the rolling countryside. It is the perfect training ground for any cyclist.
I pull up outside James’ home which he shares with his mum and girlfriend. His mum bounds out of the front door to greet me and thank me for coming to interview her son. Her face beams as she tells me how proud she is of what he is doing.
Then James comes out, rolling the Endurance SLe, wearing full Ribble Weldtite kit. He tells me that he is just finishing his breakfast and then we can head out on the beautiful rolling roads.
Riding is fairly new to James after he admits only ‘taking it up properly’ in the past two months. Despite being only 19 he is incredibly mature and thoughtful as he talks about his love of the sport and how working so closely with the team has really inspired him to make a change.
His goal is to race. But he says there’s a few kgs standing in his way.
Despite only riding for two months, he has already dropped a staggering 11kg and is aiming to lose even more as the months go on.
He said: “My personal goal for this year is to lose some weight and get out on the bike to eventually start racing. I was 130kg when I started but with the help of the Endurance SL e, I’ve already lost 11kg already.
“It’s allowed me to go further afield because the worry isn’t there anymore of getting home after doing some efforts. I can explore more.
“It’s so nice as it gives you that little bit extra on the climbs especially when you’re a big lad like me at the minute.”
While we are out riding he tells me how much he loves the frame as it’s the same as the team use and is stiff enough when he really wants to ‘give it beans’. He can sure smash it out on the climbs as well.
But this energy hadn’t always come easily to James. He was forced to leave secondary school at 14 after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). He spent the next four years housebound. It was during that time he taught himself photography.
After covering around 20km we stop for a quick brew at the harbour.
James explains how difficult the period was for him and it was cycling that eventually got him out of that period of his life.
He said: “It was one of, if not the most difficult time in my life. But it put things into perspective for me. I learned photography and it got me outside again after four years literally just being in bed.”
His best friend was involved with a local team and got him outdoors and started taking photos of the team. He then got the job with the team as the team photographer.
James added: “The team have been phenomenal throwing loads of ideas at me; training, nutrition and getting aero. Although it was pointed out I still have hairy legs so might have to do something about that.
“Cycling has helped me overcome CFS because it gets me outside and clears my head. If I do get tired I can use the bike to get me home. But my fitness is increasing all of the time and I’ve lost weight and it’s all going in the right direction.”
We cycle back to his house and he tells me that he has a regular route to see how he is progressing. He proudly explains he gets more and more PBs on the course every time he does it.
Back at the house, we talked about racing again. He added: “Realistically if I can get around any race I would be happy. But from where I’ve come from, just getting the pure delight out of racing a bike would mean more than anything to me. I’ve never felt better and fitter than ever. I’m so excited for the future.”
Photographer to peloton, watch Jame’s story below.
If you want to learn more about getting aero from Ribble Weldtite Pro rider, Dan Bigham, here.