IN A grim month for cycling, there was some good news. And, gratifyingly for Scots, glimmers of light permeating the dark cloud that has descended on the sport have come from two young men who are targeting success on home soil at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Andy Fenn, pictured right, a Hertfordshire-born 22-year-old road racer, who qualifies for Scotland through his Glaswegian mother, finished second on the opening stage at the Tour of Beijing in China – the latest in a promising run of performances for the Omega Pharma QuickStep team in his first season at the highest level.
Meanwhile, track specialist Callum Skinner has been preparing for the biggest challenge of his fledgling career. Victory in the individual sprint at the British Championships in Manchester two weeks ago underlined his immense promise, with the 20-year-old from Edinburgh following compatriots Stewart Brydon, Eddie Alexander, Craig MacLean and Chris Hoy in lifting that coveted title.
Skinner’s reward is a place in the Great Britain team for next weekend’s European Track Championships in Panevezys. There, he will link up with Englishman Matt Crampton and Lewis Oliva of Wales to contest the team sprint, before challenging in the individual event.
Success in the Lithuanian city will be a tall order for Skinner, who competed at the European Under-23 championships in Portugal during the summer. But he is relishing his next step up the representative ladder, saying: “It’s difficult to say how it will go. My attitude is just to go out there and perform as well as I possibly can. Hopefully I will be able to hang on to my form. And if I was able to get a podium finish that would be amazing.” Irrespective of the result, he sees the competition as the latest staging post towards his longer-term objective of challenging for Commonwealth honours, adding: “The big target for me is 2014 and the chance to compete in a home games. I think I have a realistic chance of going to it and of doing well.”
The venue for that competition will be the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. The Scottish Championships later this month will offer Skinner, who first turned a pedal in competition at the same Meadowbank track where Hoy learned his trade, his first experience of the recently opened track in Glasgow’s East End. The youngster is a member of the British Cycling Academy in Manchester where he trains with the stars who delivered a seemingly endless stream of gold in London this summer. Although the sport has taken a pummelling over recent days, he is looking beyond this week’s test in Lithuania with his enthusiasm undimmed.
And Skinner plans to spend the coming months replicating the commitment that brought sprint glory for Hoy, Jason Kenny and Philip Hindes in the summer, adding: “I am always happy as long as I can see progression. I will be looking to test my fitness and form more frequently and get some serious winter training done.”