The Six Days have changed so much; ‘back in the day’ the specialists would joust with the big road names in up to 17 venues from Copenhagen via Bordeaux and Grenoble to Milan.
Nowadays there are very few of the specialist due to a much reduced Six Day calendar and the road men need astronomic sums to tempt them onto the boards – and that’s if their DS’s give them permission.
Those Six Day boards are a dangerous place and with the season closing in late October (Cav was road racing in Abu Dhabi in early December!) then kicking off again January there’s little time to recover from a crash.
Therefore it’s very unusual to see a man who can finish top four in the Road Worlds in action on a Six Day track.
Step forward, GB rider Ollie Woods; granted it was the U23 Worlds where he was fourth but the race was won by a World Tour rider, AG2R’s Benoit Cosnefroy and of the surviving Six Days, Gent is the toughest and stays most faithful to ‘old school’ Six format, unlike London with its ‘Revolution’ type ‘Six Day lite’ programme.
As he did last year, Wood rode Gent with Scotland’s European U23 Omnium and Individual Pursuit Champion, Mark Stewart.
The Wakefield man comes from good stock; father Alastair was British junior and senior points race champion, senior scratch and twice Madison champion among his total of 25 National medals – he also represented GB at junior and senior level on the world stage.
Like they say; ‘to be a champion you should choose your parents carefully.’
On the track Wood junior has been a consistent top performer with national team pursuit and scratch titles to his name in 2014.
In 2015 he again was in the winning team at national level and added the European U23 team pursuit title.
Last year he was on the European podium in both the U23 and Elite team pursuit competitions – bronze on both occasions.
And this season saw gold in the Manchester World Cup team pursuit.
We caught up with the now 22 year-old – his birthday was the week after the Six finished – to discuss his 2017 season and his plans for 2018 and beyond.
You and Mark rode in Gent last year, how does this year compare, Ollie?
“A bit easier because you know what to expect; it’s a totally different sensation, this track is tiny, a massive difference from the 250 metre tracks we ride in European and World Cup competitions.”
How did you get into cycling?
“My dad raced and was a British champion on the track, he started riding again on his fortieth birthday and I used to go out with him.
“I did a bit of running, triathlon then mountain biking and cyclo-cross, I was in the Aire Valley Cycling Club and it all just grew from there – riding the Scunthorpe Track League then the Manchester Track League.”
And you’ve come up through all of the British Cycling programmes?
“Yeah, I started on the ‘Talent’ programme then moved up to the ‘Olympic Development Programme’ then ‘The Academy’ and now I’m on the ‘Podium’ programme.
“I don’t find it overly regimented, we have our own house and as long as we’re doing the training that’s prescribed we’re pretty much left to get on with it.”
How’s your acceptance here in Gent from the other teams?
“It’s pretty friendly and you have to take time to savour the atmosphere in the place – at World Cup meets it’s much more intense and competitive.”
Tell us about 2017.
“I pulled it together with my Worlds result, I broke my wrist in the Giro Bio so I had a late start to my road campaign after the track in the winter – but I did ride the Tour de l’Avenir and Tour of Britain, which were good prep for The Worlds.”
That was a nice ride in Bergen.
“I thought that it might be a boring race once it was on the circuit but not a bit of it, there was always something happening – you just didn’t know what to expect.
“Our plan had been to ride for Chris Lawless but he wasn’t there so we had our options open.
“The last climb was very hard; when Cosnefroy and Kamna got away there was just our Mark Stewart and Pedersen the Dane chasing, if one more strong guy had aided the chase we’d have had them back.
“If you’d said to me before the race that I’d be fourth than I’d have bitten your hand off but when you’re so close to the podium you think about, ‘what might have been.’”
What’s your next race?
“The World Cup in Milton, Canada where I’ll be riding the omnium and madison. (Wood finished second in the omnium and third, with Stewart, in the Madison, ed.)
“Our team pursuit pool is really strong and deep right now, there’s a lot of competition to get in – we’re going to have a really strong team for the Olympics.
“After Milton there’ll be A LOT of training.
“At the Apeldoorn Worlds I’d like to ride the team pursuit, Madison and omnium then at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast the team pursuit, omnium and scratch.”
What’s the plan for 2018?
“I’m going to have a major training block in then the Worlds are end of February/beginning of March in the Netherlands with the Games at the beginning of April in Australia.
“I’m with JLT Condor for next season and I hope the make the most of the road opportunities I have with them once the Games are past.
“The ride I did in the Worlds along with other road results I’ve had (Wood had a fifth and a seventh on l’Avenir stages and won the Rydedale GP, a major event on the British domestic calendar, ed.) have given my confidence a big boost.”
Is your longer term future on road or track?
“Tokyo is the big goal on the track – and then I’ll turn to the road.”
VeloVeritas wishes Ollie well in Apeldoorn, The Gold Coast and Tokyo.