World junior cycling champion John Paul is gearing up for a busy weekend as he defends the sprint title at the Meadowbank Grand Prix tomorrow and follows that up with a four-event Omnium on Sunday.
A glance at the list of entries for the competition reveals several potential contenders for the silverware, with high class performers from Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany joining a clutch of rising stars from the Great Britain Academy and a strong local contingent.
With no championships on his schedule this season, Paul, a former City of Edinburgh rider, is focusing on developing his overall strength and fitness as part of the Academy. But he will travel north from his Manchester base buoyed by a recent win at the Drei Bahn Tournee in Germany.
“My form is okay although I haven’t actually peaked for anything,” said the 19-year-old, who used last year’s Meadowbank victory as a stepping stone to a stunning world junior title double. “My targets for the year are the Senior (British) Nationals and the Scottish Championships although, because the focus of everyone in Manchester is on the Olympics, I don’t have any big events this year.”
And pointing to last year’s runner-up, the Spanish champion and former Meadownbank winner Itmar Esteban, Commonwealth Games silver medallist Dave Daniell, and in-form Welsh rider Lewis Oliva as tough opponents tomorrow, he added: “All these guys are capable of winning it and I’ll just have to wait and see how the 200 metres time trial goes and then take it from there.”
Others in the line-up include Belgian sprint and Keirin champion Kim van Leempout and his countryman Jordi Vrancken, while Dutchmen Nils van Hoenderdaal and Michael Veen are making a return trip this year.
Paul is relishing a chance to compete at the London Road Track, saying: “I know the history behind it and that is important although I know that the condition is not as good as Manchester and when it rains the whole thing sucks a bit. But when it’s a nice day, it’s a great place. It’s obviously good for me to get a chance to come back to Scotland. It’s a chance to see friends and family and I enjoy it every time I race there.”
His team-mate Callum Skinner will not be competing on the boards where he first learned his trade. Skinner has been selected for next month’s European Under-23 Championships and will be focusing on his preparations for that competition.
In addition to a hectic two days for the sprinters, it promises to be a busy weekend for the endurance riders, who will be chasing the impressive Meadowbank Grand Prix trophy, contested over ten miles, tomorrow – Sebastian Pancratz of Germany defends the title – and will be back in action on Sunday for the motor-paced derny challenge. The schedule also features the latest round of the British Women’s Omnium League and a rare opportunity for Commonwealth Games medallists Charline Joiner and Jenny Davis to compete on their home patch against leading riders from south of the Border. And the two-day racing programme is completed by handicap and supporting events that invariably offer a feast of high-quality competition.
For the second successive year, this weekend’s Grand Prix is the only international event scheduled for the Capital, and for the first time it has been organised by East of Scotland Track Promoters Association, which recently assumed responsibility for managing the Meadowbank Velodrome.
Racing starts at 11am tomorrow and at 10.30am on Sunday, with free admission and car parking for spectators, and food available from the track bistro throughout the weekend.