It was a good Harrogate World Championships for Scotland with John Archibald taking 14th spot in the Elite Time Trial with little notice of his participation, ahead of names like Dylan Van Baarle, Edoardo Affini and Kasper Asgreen, all men with strong chrono pedigrees.
And last but not least, Alfie George took a fine seventh spot in the Junior Men’s Road Race just 12 seconds away from the bronze medal.
We let the 18 year-old from Dundee thaw and dry out after his Harrogate epic then had a word with him about a season which has seen him place highly in the Junior Paris-Roubaix, win a European title, three British Championships, and then cap it off with his sterling World Championship performance.
We kicked off by asking Alfie how he got into cycling…
“My parents are both cyclists so really, I’ve been cycling most of my life.
“I rode my first race at Caird Park track, Dundee when I was 11 years-old and it’s all just gone on from there.”
And you’re with the Discovery team from Dundee?
“Yes, but I’ve been with the GB Junior Academy and am hoping to move up to the Senior Academy which would mean living in Manchester under the auspices of Matt Brammeier.”
I remember Craig Maclean telling me that he regularly had to meet times to retain his place – is it still as rigid?
“You’re reviewed every three months but it’s not as black and white on the road as it is for the sprint track guys – as long as you’re performing as you should and making progress…”
You’re a ‘Dundee Boy’ but spend a lot of time in Leeds?
“I was born in Leeds but moved up to Dundee when I was about a year-old.
“My granparents still live in Leeds which is very handy for Manchester, it’s only 40 minutes away – training and leaving for race trips abroad – so I spend quite a bit of time with them during the season.”
Junior Paris-Roubaix, fifth place and just a handful of seconds from the win…
“Paris-Roubaix is my favourite race, it’s a dream come true to be able to ride it.
“I rode it last year but crashed; there’s always bad luck in that race – crashes, punctures.
“The last 80 K is the same as the pro race, all the same pave sectors.
“There was a break and my team-mate Lewis Askey (who won the Junior Paris-Roubaix last year) was chasing like crazy to bring it back to set it up for me for the sprint, but didn’t quite manage; if you look at the pictures of me finishing fifth it looks like there’s a guy just pipped me but that was us catching the fourth guy in the break right on the line.
“I won the sprint from a group of 15 – maybe if we’d got organised earlier we’d have caught the breakaway and I would have been sprinting for the win?”
Then your win in the European Junior Team Pursuit Championship – how do you go from road to track seamlessly?
“Even though we’re riding on the road we do regular five day long track training camps at Newport, Derby and Manchester velodromes.
“They’re long days of work; four hours on the track in the morning then four hours in the evening.
“Before The Europeans we had a week long camp to prepare.
“We did 4:01 in the final – we wanted to be the first team under four minutes but we were beaten to that with the Germans riding 3:58 in the final of the Junior Worlds in August at Frankfurt.”
You won three British junior track title: Kilometre, Points and Madison.
“After the Euros my focus had been on the road and I was really training through the British Champs for The Road Worlds so whilst perhaps the points and madison weren’t too much of a surprise given I had been doing endurance work, the kilometre was.
“Although it seems that if I do a lot of endurance work it actually helps with my speed.”
Tell us about your preparation for the Road Worlds.
“We were doing four hour training days, intervals, efforts on hills and I was really paying attention to what I was eating to make sure my weight was going to be right.”
Seventh on that rainy day on Parliament Street – any ‘what ifs’?
“At the end, if a couple more had committed to chasing then we might have brought it back together for a sprint but at that end of that day with the rain and cold, everyone was pretty much wasted.
“And no one was going to beat the winner, Quinn Simmons of the USA that day, he was just so strong.”
You’ve come on well from 2018, what do you put that down to?
“It’s not my training, that’s pretty much the same but I have been riding bigger races, especially stage races – that brings you on.
“And my race craft is better now, I had nine crashes in 2018 but now I’m so much more experienced.”
You move up to u23 for 2020 – what are the expectations?
“I expect to get my head kicked in!
“Seriously, I’m with a great set-up and I’m looking forward to riding some big races.
“I’m looking forward to the training too – there’s no longer the house in Italy but I’ll be spending time in Girona and at the house in Belgium.
“And then there’s the track, the u23 Euro Team Pursuit is always a big goal for GB and I’d like to earn my place in that squad.”
What’s the ultimate preference, road or track?
“That’s a tough question; long term it’s the road but I do love track racing, it’s such fun.”
We’ll be keeping our eye on Mr. George’s performances in 2020, here’s hoping he remains on his current trajectory…