Max Boyce had better get his pen out and write a new sporting song because the Welsh outside half factory is being replaced by an international cycling production line.
While the nation waits to see if Geraint Thomas can make it back-to-back Tour de France titles, the signs are that his exploits in the saddle are inspiring Welsh riders all over the country to try to follow in his golden slip stream.
‘Super G’ has two other Welsh teammates at Team Ineos, Olympic gold medalist Owain Doull and Luke Rowe, while on the women’s side Elinor Barker picked up another world title this year to add to her previous one and her Olympic and Commonwealth gold medals.
Cycling has never been in a healthier state in Wales and the success of Welsh riders in Team GB at the recent European Junior and Under 23 Championships proves there is greater strength in depth than ever before.
There were no fewer than nine Welsh riders in Ghent and they brought back eight medals as Team GB enjoyed another great championships. Leading the way was the 16-year-old Towy Riders’ Emma Finucane, who marked herself out as a star of the future by winning three medals.
“To have nine young Welsh riders selected to ride for Great Britain at this prestigious event was great to see. The fact they came home with eight medals between was particularly pleasing,” said Welsh Cycling Performance Director, Matt Cosgrove.
Finucane won two silver medals, with Charlotte Robinson in the Junior Team Sprint and in the Individual Sprint, but she struck gold in the 500m Time Trial. She was one of three Towy Riders cyclists to come home with medals
“I went to Ghent as a first year with no expectations, I was just expecting to do my best. I have no words to describe the week I had – I’m so happy and I had amazing support from British cycling,” said Finucane.
Her Towy teammate, Ella Barnwell also had a championship to remember as she joined forces with clubmate Eluned King and another Welsh rider, Elynor Backstedt, in the Team Pursuit quartet that won the silver medal in the junior race. Barnwell went on to pick up another silver in the Omnium and was also fifth in the Individual Pursuit.
“It feels amazing to come away from the European track champs with two silvers and a fifth place. I really couldn’t have done it without all the support from Welsh Cycling and now I’m looking forward to next year and hopefully riding in the Under 23s,” said Barnwell.
Pontyclun-based Backstedt topped the two Towy riders by winning two gold medals to add to her silver effort in the Team Pursuit. She topped the podium in the Individual Pursuit, where she beat Ireland’s Lara Gillespie and Italy’s Alessio Camilla, and came with two tenths of a second of breaking the junior world record as she won in 2 min, 18.288 sec.
Her second gold came with Sophie Lewis as they teamed up in the Madison to beat Dutch rivals Daniek Hengeveld and Maike Van Der Duin to the title. The Welsh gold rush in Ghent didn’t stop there. In the Under 23 competition, Jess Roberts took the Omnium crown as she continued her outstanding year.
There may not have been any medals for Wales’ male riders this time, but there were still plenty of good performances. Zach Bridges was sixth in the Individual Pursuit, Rhys Thomas was also sixth in the Sprint and Ethan Vernon and Rhys Britton were part of the British team that finished fifth in the Team Pursuit. Britton also finished in the top 10 in the Scratch race.