One minute the laddies are riding their local track league – then the next they’re gone, wheeched off to Manchester to become part of British Cycling’s master plan.
Some, like Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner go all the way to the top – World and Olympic honours.
But there’s a limbo stage where the youngsters have to train hard, don’t race much but are constantly appraised to see if they can ‘make the grade,’ – which is all down to watts and times.
For friends and family it’s a bit of a strange time; not like the lad has gone to Belgium or France to road race where one can chart his progress on the kermis circuit or in the French Grand Prixs.
We caught up with one such ‘disparu‘- 18 year-old Killearn man, Lewis Stewart at the Bremen Six Day – one of the rare occasions when the sprint academy riders actually get out to race.
Germany has a fine history in sprinting with one of their all time greats, Rene Enders choosing Bremen to say ‘farewell.’
Despite me almost dropping Lewis as I held him up at the start of one race, he still took time to speak to VeloVeritas about being a young sprinter in the GB ‘system.’
How did you get into the bike, Lewis?
“I got into cycling through my dad, he used to race; I started racing on the Glasgow velodrome – I was there for the very first session.”
How did you get picked up by British Cycling?
“I guess they first noticed me at the 2015 British Champs where I was third in the sprint and fourth in the scratch.
“I was on the “Apprentice” programme where we met as a group every couple of weeks to train.
“I’m on the “Sprint Academy” programme now which is one down from the “Podium” programme which has the likes of Jason Kenny and Callum Skinner on it.”
You rode everything in Bremen but what’s your speciality?
“Team sprint as man three and the keirin.”
Tell us about your training.
“Typically, I’ll be in the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings with track training sessions those same three afternoons.
“Tuesday is track training and on Thursdays we have a double track training day.
“Saturdays we have off and Sunday is a road recovery ride.”
No blocks of road miles?
“Not at this stage; it’s not something the coaches have found to be beneficial.”
I believe you team sprint guys have to watch the weight for getting off the mark quick?
“Finding your optimal power to weight is part of it, yes.
“I don’t know if I can lose much weight so improvement will have to come from generating more watts.
“The thing with the team sprint is that you need the upper body strength for the start – you have to get off the line quickly.”
All this training – wouldn’t you like to race more?
“Yes, but after the British Champs at the end of the month there’s very little on the calendar until June.”
[Whatever happened to the Easter weekend when a rider could compete at four different meetings in four days, including the famous Good Friday meet at Herne Hill ? ed.]
Did you enjoy Bremen?
“It was amazing!
“Definitely an experience, I’ve raced at Revolutions and Championships but never experienced anything like Bremen with the shows and all the other halls on the site where there’s music, clubs, bars – a terrific atmosphere.”
What will you be riding at the British Champs?
“Everything – sprint, keirin, kilometre and team sprint as part of the North West ‘B’ squad.
“Going to Bremen means that I don’t really have a structured taper into The Nationals so I’ll just have to try and freshen up between Bremen and the Champs.”
[Lewis subsequently gained a bronze in the Team Sprint at the Nationals. ed.]
What are your personal bests?
“I have a 1:04:2 kilometre and my 200 best is 10.51 but neither time came off a taper, just normal training commitment, in fact the 200 time was at a Revolution.
“If I was preparing specifically for a competition then I think I could safely shave that time.
“Our times and wattages are reviewed every three months – they’re not necessarily looking for great performances, more steady improvement.”
What about Commonwealth Games selection?
“Selection will be tough with riders like Callum Skinner and Jack Carlin in the frame.
“The team sprint is one where we have great men one and two in Jack and Callum but man three is the stumbling block.
“I don’t think that we have anyone quick enough to get on those two at the moment.
“But for the Games in four years time I think Scotland will have a very strong squad for team sprint.”
Commonwealth Games apart, what’s the focus for 2018?
“I’m very motivated by the thought of the European U23 Track Championships in the summer.
“The thing about the Nationals is that you go straight from the Junior to the Elite competition, so the Europeans have much more opportunity for riders my age.”