Cycling: Capital cyclist eyeing medal in Lithuania

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Capital cycling star Callum Skinner has earned a rapid 
reward for winning the British sprint title, with a trip to next week’s European Championships in Panevezys, Lithuania, next on his agenda.

The 20-year-old struck top form at the Manchester Velodrome last month to land the gold medal. He recorded the quickest time in qualifying and lived up to his top-seed billing by easing into the final, where he beat his friend and rival Lewis Oliva. The Welshman, a colleague at the British Cycling Academy, won the opening leg of the final but was relegated for deviating from his line after apparently winning the second leg, before Skinner showed his class to snatch victory on the line in the decider.

“Everyone wants to win the sprint, which is described as the Blue Riband event of the British championships,” he explained. “I recorded a new PB in qualifying and I knew that my form was better than it has ever been. I had actually gone faster in training than I did on the day, but qualifying was at 9 o’clock in the morning and I also had the Keirin in my legs from the day before.”

Referring to the controversy that presented him with a chance to take the title in the third ride, he added: “We have been back in training since and I think it’s credit to Lewis that he was so civil about the decision to relegate him. He didn’t think he did anything wrong – obviously I thought he did. It’s testament to Lewis’ character that he has put it to one side. It’s also a sign of the way things are in the Academy group. The thing is that today things are going in my favour, tomorrow it could be him.”

Skinner’s success has also ensured he retains his place in the Academy set-up for next season – a fine feat given the fierce competition among young riders for a place in the country’s most successful sporting finishing school and the high standards demanded by the coaches.

Skinner, whose place in the national set-up means he trains with the leading stars such as Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny, will be back on home soil at the end of this month for the Scottish Championships at the newly-opened Glasgow Velodrome.

And that is where he also hopes to make a mark on the international scene, with the 2014 Commonwealth Games firmly on his radar. Skinner’s desire to be involved there was further fuelled by a day at the London Olympics, which offered a flavour of the intensity of the big race atmosphere and the chance to see Sir Chris Hoy sign off with gold in the Keirin.

“People say that the atmosphere was electric but being there gave me a chance to see just how incredible it was,” explained the rider, who is a product of the Capital kids club, Edinburgh Racers. “Seeing the people I work with day in day out – the riders and support staff – in the track centre and not being involved was a little bit frustrating but it gave me an idea of what Glasgow could be like if it goes well and you get that same wall of noise.”

He has not yet sampled the recently-opened facility in Glasgow, so is relishing the chance to race there and attempt to add the Scottish title to his growing collection of honours. And, although he is unlikely to compete at next month’s UCI World Cup at the new track, he hopes to be involved at some stage of the four leg global competition, adding: “British Cycling tends to earmark one of the World Cup rounds for development riders and it looks as if it will be the final one in Mexico, so hopefully I will come into the reckoning for that.”

Before then he will be looking out his passport for the trip to Lithuania and an opportunity to measure his progress this season against several top riders. “My attitude is just to go out there and perform as well as I possibly can,” he said. “It’s a bit unpredictable because I don’t know who will be there. If I was able to get a podium finish that would be amazing.”