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Stuart Balfour’s win in the supporting u23 race to the GP Ouest France Plouay, one of the most prestigious amateur in France, was special. The Dave Rayner Fund thought so too and made him their ‘Rider of the Year.’ As well as his Plouay success he won in Montpichon and at the Ronde Briochine; he was top 20 in the tough Kreiz Breizh UCI stage race and top 10 in the Tour de la Manche. Nice results in what is still one of the sport’s Heartlands and races are hotly contested. We thought we best have another word with the 21 year-old from Heriot in Scotland.
Up there on the list of ‘cult’ races is the GP Plouay, now known as the Bretagne Classic Ouest France; not a race that’s high in the cycling public’s consciousness outside of Brittany but always hard fought on a tough parcours by a quality field since 1931. This year the winner was Belgian hard man Oliver Naesen (AG2R) who shrugged off the rain and took the laurels. The supporting u23 race is one of the most prestigious in France and the 2018 edition fell to 21 year-old Scotsman, Stuart Balfour who rides for Cotes d’Armor-Marie Morin-Veranda Rideau. It’s not long since VeloVeritas last spoke to Stuart but the man is making it difficult for us to ignore him; he’s certainly making the most of his David Rayner Fund scholarship which helps young British riders abroad realise their dreams.
Ashton Lambie recently slashed three seconds off Jack Bobridge’s Pursuit World Record at Aguascalientes on 31st August of this year in the Pan Am Championships with 4:07:251. His progression is an interesting one – from ‘ultra distance’ to gravel racing to grass track and now, the fastest track endurance rider in history. Here is his tale...
In the car on the way down to Irvine on Sunday morning it never occurred to VeloVeritas editor Martin and I that we’d soon be witnessing anything other than Marcin Bialoblocki (NOPINZ) making it a clean sweep of RTTC titles from 10 to 100 miles. Not for the first time, we got it wrong. Commonwealth Games pursuit silver medallist, John Archibald (Ribble Pro Cycling) relegated the big Polish power house to second place by three seconds with a sparking 18:18 – Big Marcin looked a tad stunned when the news broke that we had a Scottish winner of a British title on Scottish roads.
The last time we spoke to Callum Johnston he’d just completed his first season in Italy under the tutelage of that colourful gentleman, Flavio Zappi. This year Callum has stepped up a level on squadra Zappi and was Scotland’s sole representative in the ‘Baby’ Giro d’Italia – a race which boasts on it’s role of honour names like Carlos Betancur, Danilo Di Luca, Gilberto Simoni and Marco Pantani. We caught up with Callum after his ride to get the insider story of what is, along with the Tour de L’Avenir, the biggest u23 stage race in the world.
We spoke to Scotland’s Stuart Balfour at the start of the season but word has been trickling back that 21 years-old from Heriot who is a Rayner Fund rider with Cotes d'Armor-Marie Morin Veranda Rideau, ‘en France’ has been ‘doing the biz.’ Best have another word, we thought to ourselves...
There’s a new kid on the Team Pursuit block, 17 year-old winner of three national championships in 2017, author of a 1:02 kilometre and in the Welsh team which twice recorded 4:01 rides in the recent Commonwealth Games, Mr. Ethan Vernon - another man to benefit from riding with Dan Bigham’s KGF track squadra. Here’s what he had to say to us just the other day...
You ride your first race in March 2015 and by 2017 you’ve won the U23 Gent-Wevelgem. Promising? Yes, that’s what we thought. Jacob Hennessy is only 21 years-old and has left the shelter of the British Cycling plans and programmes for the rough and tumble of the Continental Teams and the UCi Asia Tour. Mitchelton-BikeExchange is his home for season 2018.
‘Jake Stewart, Great Britain?’ Second in the u23 Gent-Wevelgem and third in the Trofeo Piva in Italy, strong results – but we know that name... Ah! Yes, he and Fred Wright won the Berlin Six u23 race in 2017 and VeloVeritas was their official photographer for the day best have a word with the man...
It was the end of 2016 when we last spoke to Gabriel Cullaigh, he’d just signed up with top Dutch development squad, SEG Racing. We’d expected great things after a 2016 season which saw him on the podium of the u23 Gent-Wevelgem and fifth in the u23 European Road Race Championship but his season petered out mid-summer due to health problems. But he’s back, with Team Wiggins and just days after he spoke to Velo Veritas he won Stage One and took the yellow jersey in the Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal.
In 2016 in Belgium Ethan Hayter won the tough junior races, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, GP Serge Baguet, De Klijte-Heuvaelland, was in the winning team in junior European team pursuit champs and was British Madison champion with Joe Holt. Last year he won the u23 Berlin Six Day with Matt Walls, took a medal in every British track championship he rode and was part of the winning u23 Europeans team pursuit squad. This season he began training with the senior team in January and was world champion within weeks, at 19 years-of-age.
We caught up with 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. The Bremen Six Day fans – as with those in Berlin and Rotterdam – like their sprinting with match races, keirins, flying laps and team sprints all included for the big guys. 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.’
Time for VeloVeritas to catch up with Scottish, David Rayner funded rider, Stuart Balfour. It's been a year since last we spoke to Stuart so a wee bit to catch up on.
The David Rayner has been helping young riders realise their continental dreams since 1995 with David Millar one of the first to benefit, and Theo Hartley from Bolton in Lancs will be one of the grant recipients in 2018. He'll be joining the Belgian Illi Bikes squad, run by long term Six Day soigneur and track aficionado, Etienne Illegems and his son Ken who was for a time a mechanic with Team Sky but could get round a tough kermis on his good days.
It’s not just the boys which the Rayner Fund supports, the young ladies get their opportunities. Here’s what 19 year-old Miss Henrietta Colborne from the north of England had to tell us...
He may be best known as a cross country MTB man but on a course at Hetton Lyons Country Park, Sunderland which included a little of everything, not so far from his Peebles home in the Scottish Borders, 24 year-old Grant Ferguson ran away with the British Elite Cyclo-Cross championships. Beating into second place the man mostly closely associated with the title in recent years, five times champion, Ian Field. The look on Field's face reflected the fact that a British champion's jersey is worth around 1,000 Euros in start money in any big continental 'cross.
John Archibald has proved to us during season 2017 that he’s the fastest man in the country against the watch with fastest rides ever at 10 and 25 miles in Scotland. With a series of quality four kilometre rides in Portugal and Switzerland, Archibald has proved that he can indeed adapt to the boards, bankings and all that time sitting about waiting...
Continuing with our series of interviews with the Scottish riders who we hope will be making the headlines on The Gold Coast in Australia come the spring, we speak to 20 year-old Paisley rider, Jack Carlin who’s rapidly making a name for himself in that shortest but most savage of disciplines, the team sprint.
The last time we spoke to 22 year-old Scotsman Mark Stewart he’d just ridden a cracking U23 Road Worlds in Bergen – cue total contrast from big blue skies, solitude, fjords and fresh air to The Kuipke with light about as artificial as you can get, wall to wall people, scary steep boards and the smell of burgers frying ... and Jupiler pils. Mark’s partner for the six nights of Europop and autograph requests was Worlds U23 road race fourth placed man and GB team mate, Ollie Woods. The interview was conducted in the authentic but cramped surroundings of his trackside cabin at the Kuipke.
If you’re a VeloVeritas regular then you’ll have seen our interview with Flavio Zappi, the man who transforms promising U23 riders into World Tour performers. Will Scot, Callum Johnston be pulling on a QuickStep jersey in a year or three?
Here at VeloVeritas we try to keep abreast of what’s going on across in Europe, one result which caught our recently eye was young Mark Donovan winning the Aubel-Thimister-La Gleize junior stage race in Belgium. Never an easy thing to do against all those would-be GVA’s. Best ‘have a word.’
What’s the best thing an aspiring world class athlete can do? Pick their parents carefully, of course. The hottest U23 property in the world right now, Pavel Sivakov did that very thing; dad Alexei was a pro for 10 years with Roslotto, BigMat, CCC and Auber 93. As an amateur he won the Tour of Serbia and as a pro the Circuito Montanes; he rode the Vuelta and three Tours de France.
Italy’s Bassano-Monte Grappa U23 Classic has been around since 1930 and lists Italian Legend, Gino Bartali as a winner in 1934; with Leonardo Piepoli, Giro winners Ivan Gotti, Gilberto Simoni and Damiano Cunego, not to mention Fabio Aru all on the more recent role of honour. It’s a beast of race, flat then rearing up the feared Monte Grappa climb – of Giro fame - to finish at over 1700 metres.
A few weeks ago saw the last of the Spring Classics with ‘La Doyenne’ – Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest and arguably toughest of them all with barely a metre of flat road in it’s 258 kilometres. Before that, the U23 version of the race took place over 166 kilometres but taking in many of its famous big brother’s climbs, such as La Redoute. Our colleague from the Six Days, soigneur Martyn Frank put us in touch with James and here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas.
Despite his flyweight 56 kilos Eddie Dunbar has already established himself as one of the worlds' best U23 riders with top ten finishes in the European and World U23 Time Trial Championships - and riding for the Irish team rather than his usual US Axeon Hagens Berman team he took Ronde victory in that bike riders’ Mecca, historic Oudenaarde.
We first spoke to Harry Tanfield a couple of years ago having seen him ride well in the Gordon Arms time trial – most recently we spoke to him after he won the David Campbell Memorial road race in Fife back in the spring of 2016. So when we opened this week’s ‘Cycling Weekly’ and there he was spread across two pages as the UK’s number one rated Elite rider we thought we best ‘have a word’...
Following in the footsteps of Scottish track stars Mark Stewart and Katie Archibald, we believe Scotland’s Joe Nally to be the youngest ever winner of the British Senior Points Race Championship at just 17 years-of-age. The race was held at the Manchester Velodrome but Nally is another product of Glasgow’s beautiful indoor track; taking bronze in the team pursuit to go with his points gold. ‘Best have a word with the man,’ we thought ourselves here at VeloVeritas.
The last time we spoke to Scotland’s top endurance track rider, Mark Stewart he’d just added to his growing medal collection at the European Championships with bronze in the team pursuit and silver in the scratch. Some nice road results in the Ronde van Oost Vlaanderen followed where he made his breakthrough from riding as a domestique and/or ‘getting round’ to being a serious contender for stage and overall honours.
Young Scot, Stuart Balfour is off to France again for season 2017 – VeloVeritas decided we needed to hear this young man’s story...
The last time we spoke to Dan Gardner he’d just ridden the 2015 Worlds TTT in Virginia as part of the American Astellas team. This season saw him back with Astellas for the first part of the season before a mid-season move to the Heartland – Flanders – and a ride with the Baguet Bicycle Center Cycling Academy. The man behind the team, Serge Baguet is a Belgian ex-professional who rode for Lotto and QuickStep and can count a Belgian Elite Road Championship and Tour de France stage among his palmarès.
Snakes and Ladders; Let’s be positive and start with the guys on the way up; 17 year-old Englishman Thomas Pidcock for instance, who won the European Junior Cyclo-Cross Championship in France recently. He’s now one of the favourites for the Worlds in Luxembourg come late January; he was fifth in the Worlds last year and is a year wiser and stronger. But if there are ladders then there are snakes, too. It’s over Matt Goss; he won a World Team Pursuit Title, Grand Tour Stages, a Worlds Elite Road race Silver, Plouay and – The Primavera. That last result means he’s a Legend.
It was Mark Stewart suggested we have a word with this young man, Gabriel Cullaigh; he’s been riding strongly for the GB U23 Academy in Italy but recently decided to make his own way in the tough world of continental bike racing, joining strong Dutch Continental outfit, SEG Racing Academy. Here’s what Gabriel had to say to us just the other day...
VeloVeritas senior mentors and pundits Dave and Vik are always quick to let us know if there’s a name to be chasing over in the Flatlands – step forward Irishman Conor Hennebry who’s making a name for himself in the Kermis School. In time honoured VV fashion we tracked the man down and ‘had a word.’
According to our research, the village of Plockton in Ross and Cromarty has a population of 378 – but it should actually be ‘377 and one would-be Kermis King.’ And you thought Plockton was only famous for ‘Hamish Macbeth’ and one of VeloVeritas’s favourite movies, ‘The Wicker man.’ Enter young Angus Claxton...
Four Scots have been selected for the Great Britain Cycling Team heading to the UEC Junior and Under-23 European Track Championships taking place in Montichiari from 12 – 17 July. Under-23 riders Mark Stewart and Jack Carlin will be joining Juniors Lewis Stewart and Jenny Holl – who were also selected for the UCI Junior Track World Championships earlier this month.
It was the end of 2013 when we last spoke to Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon Hagens-Berman). He has a name that's hard to miss, Tao Geoghegan Hart; with 2013 results to match - two of Europe's premier junior stage races and a podium in the junior Paris-Roubaix. Since then a lot of races have flowed under the bridge and he’s had strong results in more than his fair share of them. Sunday saw him take arguably the biggest result of his career; finishing sixth behind Messrs. Blythe, Cavendish, Fenn, MvNally and Thwaites in the British Elite Road Race title event – and taking the U23 jersey champion’s in the process.
It’s a while since VeloVeritas last spoke to Steve Skuse; Vik and I used to bump into him on our trips to the kermises. Steve got in touch the other day to tell us about another young man he’s looking after and who’s pulled off that difficult trick of winning a kermis in the Flatlands. And the better news is, he qualifies to ride for Bonnie Scotland... Jez McCann is the man; 19 years-old, raised in Gravesend, riding for Richardsons-Trek.
It’s wee while since top Scottish trackman, Mark Stewart featured in our pages but he was home recently from GB squad duties and his base in ‘la Bella Italia’ for his brother’s wedding and has been taking in a few local time trials in preparation for next Thursday’s British Cycling Time Trial Championships at Stockton-on-Tees. We thought we best ‘have a word’ before he’s off around Europe, again.
If there’s one negative you can fire at British Cycling’s hugely successful track cycling campaign over the last decade it’s that perhaps the young talent hasn’t come through as fast we’d expected but this season team pursuiter and now World Cup omnium silver medallist, Chris Latham has shone. VeloVeritas caught up with after his return from New Zealand...
He's been making the headlines again, that Mark Stewart laddie. We last spoke to him after his wins in the British scratch and team pursuit championships - not forgetting his silver in the points race. This time it was success in the second round of the UCI World Cup in New Zealand where he won the scratch race.
Evan Oliphant's going to have not one but two new chums to chat to at Raleigh for season 2016. We've already spoken to Aberdeen's Craig Wallace and now it's time for Perth man Fraser Martin - who also pulls on the jersey with the famous name - to give us his story.
Here at VeloVeritas we rate 21 year-old Englishman Hugh Carthy; not for him a ride with a team where the lingua franca is his native tongue – no sir, Spain’s only Pro Continental team, Caja Rural is who he signed with after his excellent Tour of Korea win for Condor, last season. He’s had a busy baptism of fire - the pre-season Mallorca races; Ruta del Sol; early season hard man’s races in Belgium and France; the Pais Vasco; Trentino, Beauce, the Volta, a strong ride in Colorado then some good late season form in France and Italy.
Last year it was the British points race jersey which Mark Stewart came away from the National Track Championships with; this year he was runner-up in the event – but he did win the scratch race and was in the winning team pursuit squad - so not a bad old ‘British’ for the Dundee man.
It was last Autumn when we last heard from Robert Smail, one of those ‘forgotten men’ out there jousting with the Eeckhouts, Willems, Smets and Caethovens of this world in the land of the frites, cross winds and kermises. High time we had another word...
It’s high time we looked east again, across the North Sea to where bike racing isn’t an aberration, where it’s in the soil and a barrier to hang over with your Jupiler and frites is never far away. A name which we’ve seen cropping up this year is that of Luke Ryan (Richardsons-Trek Road Team) and recently he won a kermis at Torhout. There’s a man to have a word with...
It was the tailend of last year when we last spoke to 2014 junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner, James Shaw; he’s spent this season with the Lotto-Soudal U23 team - we thought it was high time we had a word.
'Ovett?' - is he any relation to Steve Ovett? Yup, his son - but we're not here to speak to or about dad, we want to hear what Freddy has to say. From runner to riding for the Ag2r-La Mondiale development squad in just two years - that's special and we just had to have a word. Especially when we found out he's 'one of us' - a Scotsman.
Le Tour is like Pac-Man, it gobbles up every bit of attention there is in the world of bike racing; the Tour of Austria runs concurrently but you wouldn’t realise. For the record, Victor de la Parte of UCI Continental Team Voralberg won it; beating six World Tour and seven Pro Continental teams in the process. In addition there were the UCI European U23 Track Championships in Athens – stand out rides were a sub four minute team pursuit by the GB squad to win and a win in the scratch race by one of the pursuit team members – Matt Gibson.
"One guy worth keeping an eye on is Wilson Renwick from Hawick. He's a pro jockey and an amazing talent by all accounts. He won the Gordon Arms in March and has been injured since but produced an impressive result in a flat TT yesterday which is probably not his strength. As I say, defo one to watch!" So said the text message from Jim Cusick the day after the National ‘10’ Championship. And, always on the lookout for a good interview we tracked down 33 year-old Mr. Renwick – with a little help from Hawick’s Stuart Smith – and here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas.
The start sheet for the National ‘10’ took a bit of getting hold of; but I guess we shouldn’t forget that all those obscure course codes were designed to maintain the secrecy back in the days when we weren’t supposed to race on the public highways. Do I hear you say; ‘but that was 70 years ago, Ed?' Well, yes, but you can’t let just anyone have a start sheet, I mean they might want to come and report on the race and even take photographs ...