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Oscar Onley – Racing in 2020 with Van Rysel – AG2R La Mondiale

The young Scot will be riding with the French 'feeder' team in UCI events, hilly French stage races as well as the junior Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

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It’s not long since we since we spoke to young Scot, Alfie George who’s making a name for himself on the international junior stage. Another young Scotsman who’s doing the same is Oscar Onley who recently landed himself a ride with French ‘feeder’ team, Van Rysel – AG2R La Mondiale.

Best ‘have a word’ we thought…

Oscar Onley
Oscar Onley atop the Tumble on the last stage of Junior Tour Of Wales. Photo©David Partridge

The basics first please, Oscar: how old are you, where are you from and how did you get into cycling?

“I’m 17 years-old living in Kelso in the Scottish Borders. 

“I first started cycling when I was 10 years-old because the local time trial went past my house; so I started out doing the local ’10’ before riding some youth racing around Scotland. 

“I have always been interested in cycling, watching the Tour de France every year on TV before starting racing myself.”

I believe Craig Grieve and the Spokes team have been very supportive?

“Yes, the setup Craig and Blair have built with the Spokes Racing Team has been a massive help to me and to a lot of other young Scottish riders wanting to experience National and International Racing. 

“They have been very supportive of the whole team and with managing our season; making sure we don’t over-race which is definitely a risk with a bunch of very keen juniors!”

Tell us about your UK road results please.

“I started of my season at the first British National at Hatherleigh in which Spokes played an almost perfect race resulting in a fourth place for me. 

“I then had a quiet few months results-wise with my focus being on exams before racing the Monmouth National Series, where I ended up second in a very hilly race. 

“This gave me a lot of confidence for my summer campaign over in mainland Europe before coming back to race the Junior Tour Of Wales. 

“Unfortunately I had been ill the week before and so after a surprise seventh place in the TT the weekend went downhill from there… I was disappointed because I felt this race could really suit me.”

Oscar Onley
Oscar Onley at the Chrono Des Nations. Photo©Freddy Guérin

You’re not bad against the watch, are you?

“Time trials are something I really enjoy, I like the control you have in a TT. 

“I managed to win the Scottish Junior 10 mile TT this year before breaking the Scottish junior record on one of my local courses with a 20:12. 

“Hopefully next year I can push that time under 20 minutes. 

“I will have a big focus on TTs again next year and hopefully gain a few more results in TTs out in Europe.”

And some nice results in French stage races?

“I went out to France for two weeks at the start of July with Scottish Cycling. 

“We did a one day event, La Cantonale where I picked up fourth in the TT and GC as well as the white jersey of Best Young Rider. 

“This was followed up by my first UCI race, the L’ain Bugey Valromey in the French Alps. 

“I knew this race could suit me but I definitely wasn’t expecting seventh on GC and the blue jersey for Second Best Young Rider. However after a crash on the last day I was left wondering if I could’ve maybe won the white jersey…” 

Fifth in the junior Chrono des Nations – a strong ride. What was that experience like?

“Thank you, yes, it was a great experience in among the pro’s whilst I warmed up and when I rode the course the day before. 

“It was longest TT I have done at 26 km and with a rolling course it really suited me. 

“I again managed to get first young rider so I hope to go back next year to better my result.”

How did you get that ride?

“I had a training camp with Van Rysel – AG2R La Mondiale starting the following day so the team took some of us down to the race as a warm up for the training camp. 

“It was a relaxed atmosphere with it being some of the riders last race as juniors and there was no pressure on us for any results which I guess makes it a little nicer that I came away with fifth.”

Oscar Onley
Oscar Onley (white jersey) and his Scottish team mates at the sign-on for L’ain bugey Valromey. Photo©supplied

How did the ride with Van Rysel – AG2R La Mondiale come about?

“Whilst racing Valromey it became a fight for the white jersey between myself and two of their riders so I became their rival for the weekend. 

“We started talking after the last stage and they asked me if I was interested in racing with them for the 2020 season, it came as a nice surprise and I was very excited for the opportunity. 

“I then got a message of the team manager asking if I wanted to ride Aubel-Thimistor-Stavelot with them. That was a hard experience with the language barrier but they made me feel very welcome and I ended up eighth on GC. 

“I’ve got to thank Mark McKay and Scottish Cycling for taking us to France in the first place, because without that none of these opportunities would’ve come about.”

Tell us about the team.

“It’s a development team for AG2R with the ambition of eventually getting riders onto the World Tour squad. 

“Season 2020 will be the first year they have non-French riders on the team with myself and Benjamin Peatfield. 

“Having Benjamin there will make training camps and races a little easier but I’m keen to get involved with the French culture and try and learn the language. 

“There are 15 riders on the team; a good balance for the number of races the team plan to do during the season. 

“I have just come back from the first training camp in La Rochelle where the focus was on team building and included some different activities; needless to say, I’m a lot better at cycling than running! 

“Every rider on the team has their own ‘home’ team for smaller races and then we all come together to race UCIs in France, Belgium, Switzerland, etc.”

Where will ‘home’ be, ‘en France?

“I’m in my last year of high school in Scotland so I will be living at home whilst still racing for Spokes. 

“During the summer I will be spending longer periods of time out in France at their service course and team manager’s house in Lille. 

“I hope to get on the u23 team for the following year which is based in Chambery, in the Alps.”

Have you started to learn the language?

“I’m trying! The camps and races really help as I’m surrounded by the language and culture, and I’m trying to learn a bit whilst at home as well. 

“I aim to be able to speak comfortably by the end of the season.”

Do you know what your programme is like for 2020 and when do you head over?

“I don’t know exactly what races I will be doing yet but I hope to do a couple of the early season classics such as the junior Ronde Van Vlaanderen. 

“I will do some of the UK National Series with Spokes throughout the season along with a couple of UCI events before some bigger stage races with AG2R at the end of the season, these are far hillier and should hopefully suit me more. 

“As I’m still living at home I will just be going over for the races and possibly some time in-between races too.” 

Has the team given you any guidelines on how they want you to train over the winter and do you have a coach?

“I’m on the Scottish Endurance development Program where I get coached by Evan Oliphant but I have a couple of the AG2R coaches overlooking my training as well. 

“This winter is mainly focused on next year’s road season with longer miles and a little bit of track to keep the top-end speed.” 

Oscar Onley
Oscar Onley at a Van Rysel – AG2R La Mondiale training camp. Photo©Alexandre Chenivesse.

Describe yourself as a rider to us.

“I’m someone who loves a breakaway – I’ve been quite good at picking the winning breaks this year (to compensate for my sprinting!).

“I would say my strengths are time trialling and climbing, but it’s still early in my career and I might develop differently over time.” 

Which professional riders do you admire most?

“I loved watching Andy Schleck at the Tour every year when I was younger. 

“I always remember his battles in the Alps with Alberto Contador and I think he’s part of the reason I like climbing so much. 

“Another rider who I admire now is James Knox

“The determination he had to finish la Vuelta this year after his crash was very inspiring. 

“I was lucky enough to meet him in Girona last year and have been following his results since.”

2020 is about …?

“Getting my ‘hands in the air’ more often.

“This year has been very successful but I never got that big win, so next year will hopefully be fewer top 10’s, top 5’s and more wins – in Britain and in Europe. 

“Another big goal for me is the World Championships in Switzerland, I’m aiming for both the time trial and the road race. 

“I think the road race could really suit me so I’m aiming to get selected for that.”

Always good to see young Scots with ambition, VeloVeritas wished him well.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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