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 – Burke, Clancy and Wiggins are far from unfamiliar names.
The Aussies seem to be far more adept at bringing the new names up year on year.
But this season we have seen the emergence of GB young blood, Scotsman Mark Stewart and madison partner Germain Burton are two – and so is team pursuiter and now World Cup omnium silver medallist, Chris Latham.
Latham with partner Olly Woods shone in the London ‘Six’ finishing second to Six Day stalwart, Kenny De Ketele and young Belgian rising star, Moreno De Pauw.
VeloVeritas caught up with Latham after his return from New Zealand and we opened by asking about his summer road season where he picked up two second spots on stages in the Tour or Berlin and his biggest road win to date in the Premier Calendar, Beaumont Trophy race over 117 miles.
“I was beaten by two different guys in Berlin, on both occasions they had lead outs whilst I was on my own and just couldn’t get round them.
“The Beaumont didn’t seem like a long way – I was just counting laps rather than miles – and you have to remember that as part of our build up for the team pursuit we do loads of miles on the road.
“Hopefully I won’t be doing as much on the road in 2016 with the Worlds in March and then Rio – we’ll only be racing for four minutes, after all!”
Latham’s road season ended with the Abu Dhabi Tour in October where he took eighth place on Stage Two behind the Viviani and Sagan;
“Again, I was on my own which is hard when you’re up against guys like that, I managed to latch on to Sagan’s lead out but lost in the last 300 metres…”
His next race was the London ‘Six’ – was that good team pursuit prep?
“It was good training for the World Cup, yes – at that stage it wasn’t certain I’d do the omnium but it was good training because you’re doing flying lap time trials and then there’s the distance races – a Six Day is really like a stage race on the track and that’s good prep when you remember there’s a 60 lap points race to finish in the omnium.”
And will there be more Six Days?
“I’m not sure, I missed Gent because I was at the training camp in Tenerife and I’ll be back there too when Berlin is on.
“The camps are good though – we did a load of miles up there at altitude; we actually stay up on the mountain, it’s a nice place but a bit like Mars!
“On our rest day we took the cable car right to the top…”
Time to talk about the World Cup – how much notice did he get that he was riding the omnium in New Zealand?
“Clancy was meant to do the Cali World Cup but he did his back in and just before the Tour of Britain I was told they wanted me to do an omnium at the Roubaix velodrome because they wanted the qualification points.
“I was a bit miffed because I was looking forward to the Tour of Britain but I won in Roubaix and that qualified me for the World Cup.
“But I wasn’t certain I’d be riding in New Zealand because the situation with Clancy’s fitness was changing all the time, it wasn’t ‘til quite late on that I knew I was going for sure.”
Latham wasn’t too concerned about the effects of jet lag after the long haul to New Zealand.
“We left on the Friday and got there on the Sunday – I’m not sure what happened to Saturday! But by the time the team pursuit qualifying came round on the Friday we were fine.”
There are six events in the current omnium format with three on day one and three on day two, we asked Latham to talk us through his rides.
“The scratch was first up, five riders took a lap and I won the sprint for sixth, as long as you’re thereabouts in this one – it can be a bit of a lottery.
“I had a good ride in my pursuit, I was second with a personal best 4:22 with my last lap my fastest; I didn’t get the catch which is worth about a second so I think I have sub 4:20 in me.
“I was third in the elimination, that’s a hard race, flat out and you have to ride smart – but even then there’s a bit of luck involved.
“The French guy Boudat won that, he’s so strong, he just loves that race.”
The second day didn’t start so well for Latham with 10th in the kilometre.
“I dunno what happened there, I think maybe the gear was too high, I might gear lower next time.
“I wasn’t happy with my flying lap either, you get a three-and-a-half lap warm up but I messed it up a little and didn’t come in quick enough, I still did 13.2 for seventh but reckon I have a sub 13 ride in me.
“The final event, the points race can be a bit confusing because you carry your points from all the other races forward into it so you don’t really have a winner, you just have an overall winner.
“I think I scored enough points to be second in the race but the race was really between me, Hansen and O’Shea.
“I went in to it two points behind Hansen so if I’d ridden a better kilo and flying lap I’d have been leading into it and it’s always easier to defend a lead in a situation like that.”
Silver in the omnium then but the team pursuit qualifying didn’t go to plan with a 4:04 for seventh fastest.
“I only rode the qualifying but it’s a young team, we’ve not trained together that much – as that quartet we only had two sessions together before New Zealand.
“And we messed up round one – Germain swung off but didn’t shout so when Olly Woods dropped back in he was off the back just as Mark Stewart and I began to smash it for the line.
“The two of us came in 4:00 but Olly was four seconds off the back as our third man so we recorded a 4:04 – if we’d got it right that was a 3:59.”
So is the Worlds omnium on the Latham ‘to do’ list ?
“Hopefully; the points race used to be my weakness but I’ve improved in that discipline.
“Cav does the omnium in the Hong Kong World Cup and Clancy might do the Worlds but there is a chance I’ll be in the omnium at the Worlds.
“First we have Hong Kong though for the team pursuit and I want to hit that hard.”
Latham will be out on his bike on Christmas Day but our final question as where his future lies.
“Long term, on the road – but short term I want a gold medal on the track!”
VeloVeritas wishes Chris, Mark, Olly and Germain every success on the track in 2016.