With sure grit and determination, 20-year-old Ben Sumner has earned a place in at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Hoogerheide this weekend.
Sumner will form part of a four-man under 23 Great Britain squad and will race on Sunday morning at 10am GMT.
Oxfordshire based Sumner will be one of the lesser-known riders in the GB squad, but is making steady progress to the top of the sport riding for his local bike shop Beeline Bicycles.
This season he has already won the under-23 title at the National Trophy series and claimed bronze in the under 23 category at the British Cycling National Cyclo-Cross Championships in Derby earlier this month despite a crash.
Looking back on an already successful season in the British cyclo-cross scene, Sumner said: “So far my season has gone very well. I had a really good start with two wins in the Wessex League and then a second place overall and first under 23 at round two of the National Trophy Series in Southampton.
“That race went really well. I had not previously placed higher than seventh at a National Trophy, so to get onto the podium was a big result for me.
“My main goal going into the race was to take the under 23 leaders jersey, so getting on the podium made for a great day, although strange.
“I felt out of place from start to finish. I’m only 20 so looking back and having guys like Oli Beckingsale and Nick Craig not being able to catch you felt great as it rarely is that way round!
“Round three of the national series at Durham was a little different, I really struggled with the pace that was being set and was hanging off the back of the main group,
“I ended seventh and lost the under 23 ‘green jersey’ which I had worked hard towards maintaining, which felt demoralising.
“Looking back, no under 23 kept the jersey for more than one race, so going into the last round at Shrewsbury without the jersey actually took the pressure off me.
“The last round was really grim. I dug deeper than I ever have before that day and managed to win the overall National Trophy series by just one point!”
Sumner won the under 23 National Trophy title
Unlike many of the top cyclists in Britain, cycling was not a sport Sumner grew up around. He added: “I used to be a cross country runner from a young age out of no choice of my own!
“My dad really forced me out there and I was too scared to tell him that it wasn't for me. After an injury when I was 15 years old the physio said I should ride a bike to keep fit.
“There was also a cyclo-cross race locally so I rocked up and came dead last but quite enjoyed it. My dad and me then went to a few national events, they would be a three-lap race and Steve James would lap me every time!
“After a few races my competitive side took over, I got training and results started to come pretty rapidly which really made me work hard.”
After winning the under 23 National Trophy Series Sumner targeted the National Championships in Derby, but despite having the form to win - like so often in cyclo-cross - other factors denied him victory.
“Although not my best result, my best ride of the season so far I would say was this year’s National Championships,” said Sumner. “I can safely say I have never had so much determination to win one race as much as I wanted this!
“I had trained hard, eaten well and done everything required to win. First lap I went off and set the early pace, coming into the hurdles I dismounted, ran over the hurdles and clipped my rear wheel. The bike went flying in the air and I went on to the floor.
“I quickly got up, picked up my bike and remounted the chain, I had dropped back to twelfth by this point and lost over 30 seconds. I then picked off riders one by one and eventually ended up in third.
“I was pleased with this as the old me would never have had the maturity to relax and just focus on the task in hand I would have panicked and the race would have been over.”
Cyclo-cross requires a very different training routine to a regular road rider with more specific sessions needed to perfect bike handling.
Of his training regime, Sumner said: “I train near my home in the Chilterns most of the time, and my training will vary. Although I do lots of base miles say four to five hours at a very steady pace.
“I am still fairly new to cycling and I find efficiency is still what I need to improve on. I will then throw in some turbo sessions around this and a little technical training on the cross bike.
“On race day I will do a couple of laps of the course in the morning, then I have a nap in the car and will jump onto the turbo for 30 minutes before the race. I never think about the race to much and just stay relaxed.”
After his success in the National Trophy Series the cyclo-cross bug has well and truly bitten and Sumner wants to take on Europe next season.
“Next season will be the first time I have trained specifically for cyclo-cross and I will not be focusing on anything else.
“I will race lots in Europe and aim to do every world cup round. If I want to carry on cycling I need some big changes to happen and to make the top ten in European races is a big ambition for me. It will not be easy but I’m still hungry and rarely satisfied so I think there is a lot of improvement to be had.”