Great Britain's Oliver Wood is looking forward to stepping up to the top level of track cycling when he will form part of a youthful team pursuit squad for the final round of the 2013/14 UCI Track Cycling World Cup.
British Cycling Olympic Academy Programme rider Wood joins Jon Dibben, Chris Latham and Jacob Ragan in the men’s endurance ranks for the event in Guadalajara, Mexico from 17-19 January.
Wood rose to prominence in 2013 while on the British Cycling Olympic Development Programme, finishing sixth at the Paris-Roubaix Juniors and competing at the UCI Juniors Track World Championships in Glasgow.
Wood graduated to the British Cycling Olympic Academy Programme in November 2013, along with his development teammates Germain Burton, Chris Lawless and Jake Ragan. His first real assignment will be exposure to top-flight competition in the team pursuit in the Velodromo Panamericano.
"I’m very excited. (I have) never done a world cup,” said Wood. “The biggest competition I've done so far is junior worlds so it was a big surprise to be getting called up to do it but I'm really looking forward to it."
The move from the development programme to the academy has seen some big changes for the 18-year-old, who moved away from his hometown of Wakefield to live the full time life of a professional athlete.
The move to Manchester and the lead-up to the track world cup has meant that Wood is now rubbing shoulders with Olympic champions such as Jason Kenny, Ed Clancy and Laura Trott, a scenario that the Yorkshireman could have scarcely believed just 12 months ago.
"It's a big step,” said Wood. “I always looked up to them and suddenly I'm riding in the team pursuit."
Following a summer on the road, Wood returned to the track for the 2013 UCI Juniors Track World Championships in September.
Next came the British Cycling Youth and Junior Track Championships, where, alongside Jake Ragan, he won the national junior Madison title in September, after which Wood spending the autumn and winter competing in the Revolution series, where he won the Madison time trial at the October edition in Manchester.
"Preparation has been good,” said Wood. “Revolution is just a good night to get out there and race your bike as hard as you can really.
"It helps a lot because you get an idea where the other guys are and where you need to be to compete at that level."
Since joining the academy Wood feels that the form he showed during 2013 has increased significantly.
"I feel like I've got a lot stronger with a lot of road training as soon as I got on the academy,” he said. “I just feel I'm getting stronger myself every day."
A week ahead of the event, Wood indicated that will likely concentrate on the team pursuit but hinted that there may be an opportunity for him in the points race or Madison event.
Along with Jake Ragan and Chris Latham, Wood will be joined by Jon Dibben, who at just 19 years old, will find himself acting as a mentor to Wood and his contemporaries.
Dibben took part in the 2012/13 world cup season and also made his world championship debut at Minsk in 2013; experience that is be sure to prove invaluable to the three world cup first-timers.
"I've never been, Chris has never been, Jake's never been to any sort of event like this,” said Wood. “So we need someone to show us the ropes and say what to do and if we're struggling with anything, we can just ask them."
British Cycling will be reporting on the final round of the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, which begins on Friday.