City cyclists head for British Champs in Manchester

Louise Haston, left, won two Commonwealth silver medals with Aileen McGlynn, but is in Manchester with new partner Laura Cluxton. Callum Skinner, below, has high hopes
Louise Haston, left, won two Commonwealth silver medals with Aileen McGlynn, but is in Manchester with new partner Laura Cluxton. Callum Skinner, below, has high hopes
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Double Commonwealth Games medallist Louise Haston admits that this week’s British Track Championships in Manchester – which get underway tonight and conclude on Sunday – will be a ride into the unknown as she pairs up with new tandem partner Laura Cluxton.

The former Scottish pole vault and triple jump champion, who switched to cycling five years ago and now competes for City of Edinburgh, was pilot for Aileen McGlynn in Glasgow when the duo finished runners up in the para-cycling sprint and kilometre time trial events.

This week, Haston will combine with Cluxton, a visually-impaired athlete from Alloa – to contest the sprint and 200 metre events. Haston insists there is no pressure for them to finish on the podium.

“We have no expectations for the championships,” she said. “We have just got back on the track and have only had three sessions together after Laura returned from her holiday in Florida.

“Realistically we have not had the time and training sessions needed going into the champs, so we will be going down to enjoy the racing and see what happens.”

After the euphoria of her success at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, the 34-year-old from South Queensferry has found it difficult readjusting to normal life, saying: “It’s not easy coming from such a high. You spend so long training for such a competition and now it’s over it’s a really horrible feeling.”

She must fit training around her work and family commitments and has now returned to her part-time role at the Bank of Scotland.

That, she says, is far from ideal but it is a necessity, adding: “I would rather be riding full-time, but without funding and support it’ll be really difficult.”

By contrast to Haston, Capital rider Callum Skinner is aiming high in the individual sprint, Keirin and kilometre time trial.

Assessing his prospects, the 22-year-old, now riding for the Rigmar Racers team and a member of the British Cycling Podium Programme building up to the Rio Olympics, said: “I’m targeting the top step of the podium at the British Nationals. With the absence of Jason Kenny in the sprint, it’s wide open and it also happens to be my strongest event.

“The Keirin, the most unpredictable event, is always open. I’m also targeting the kilo this year, so I’m keen to see how I will fare.”

Skinner concedes that the results he achieved in Glasgow fell short of expectations, adding: “The year so far has been full of ups and downs. I really expected to come to the Commonwealths with better form than I ended up with on the day. All the training data pointed towards that.

“Obviously none of the home nations could match the pace of the Oceanic nations, but I would have liked an extra tenth or two out of my performance.”

However, he goes into the championships in good shape, as he showed when winning at the Dudenhofen Grand Prix in Germany earlier this month.

“Off the back of that performance I think my race sharpness is great,” he said. “I’m just trying to put the finishing touches to my speed in Manchester.”

Among the other potential medallists in a large group of Scots making the trip is City of Edinburgh rider, Bruce Croall, who was British kilometre time trial champion two years ago and was fifth last year.

The 35-year-old took eighth spot in that event in Glasgow and was the third Briton, suggesting that he is well placed to challenge for a medal tomorrow

“I am looking to be on the podium for the kilo and team sprint,” said Croall, who will compete in the latter event for Scotland rather than for his club. “I think my form is okay but it’s hard to tell as I haven’t had any racing since the Commonwealth Games.”