Racing with the GB Junior Academy!

“Hi Will, are you able to travel up to Manchester on Sunday, we’re inviting some of the NSR riders to come and race an omnium with the junior academy, it’ll basically be a big hit out and just great racing experience.”

“Sounds cool, I’ll ask my Dad, but I’d love to come”

“Brilliant, I’ll email through the details now. Another thing, have you got a bigger gear?”

That was the conversation I had with my coach Wednesday evening. Very exciting news. The opportunity to race against the GB academy lads, some of whom are European and World class riders. An opportunity to impress the national coaches. And the opportunity to ride a 94′ gear. My build and riding style favour a big gear, but it does also mean when things go wrong, they go wrong at a higher speed. Cue a nervous excitement building up over the next few days. Finally, Saturday came around and we set off in the car, arriving four hours later in Manchester. We were staying in a hotel near the Science Museum, as it was a 7 o’clock start the next morning. After a nice walk around that part of Manchester, with a quick stop at the shops for food for the next day, we went to bed, excited for tomorrow. 

Sunday, race day. I got into track centre, checked all my equipment over, and warmed up on my rollers, before our first race: the 30 lap Scratch. I felt ready. Nervous, but ready. My focus for that race was to stay with the juniors. There was an attack with 18 laps to go, Josh Tarling rode away from the group, and we never saw him again until he lapped us. First race done, a mid-bunch result. On to the next race, the Tempo. 

The Tempo is a hard race. With points available every lap, it’s a fast-paced, sketchy race. To stay in is a task in itself, let alone winning points. I spent the majority of that race hanging onto the back of the bunch, only dropping off in the last couple of laps when the speed got really high at the front. 

Third race: Elimination. Characterised by a bunch of two halves. The front half, a calm, almost relaxed atmosphere; the rear a chaotic mess, with crazy moves being pulled off, a mix of self-confidence and panic in varying proportions. I started the race performing a move called sniping, which is where the rider comes over the top of the group at the last moment, catching out the riders below them, before dropping back and performing the move two laps later, in time for the next sprint. This worked for the first quarter of the race, until I was edged out by a close decision.

It was time for the final race, the big one, the 80 lap Points. My aim was to make it through without being lapped too many times. Spoiler alert: I succeeded. I sat in the bunch for the first 25 laps, following the ebbs and flows but remaining quite passive until, with 55 laps to go, I attacked, with my eyes on staying out at least until the next set of points. Another rider who followed me and I worked together to stay away, before I came round him with half a lap to go and took the five points. The group had momentum at that point, catching and leaving us in the following lap. However, when they came back round again I jumped back in and stayed with them for the remaining 40 laps, until the race was called off with eight laps to go due to a big crash. 

We then ate our lunch, before embarking on a two-hour road ride, characterised by non-stop hills, non-stop rain, and non-stop banter between the riders, which made up for the endless rain and climbing. I don’t remember much of the journey home, as I was fast asleep on the back seats. 

All in all, it was an amazing experience, and I would like to thank British Cycling for the opportunity, and my Dad for taking me. 

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