British Cycling Olympic Academy Programme athlete Lewis Oliva is aiming to use the upcoming European Track Championship as a catalyst for his Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games ambitions.
The 20-year-old will make his first ever European Championship appearance in Panevėžys, Lithuania from October 19-21 and was called up to the team following an impressive showing at the British Track Championships.
There he finished second to Olympic Academy teammate Callum Skinner – who has also been selected - in the men’s sprint, fourth in the keirin final and was part of the winning trio in the team sprint alongside Dave Daniell and Pete Mitchell.
Oliva, who in spite of his results admitted to a degree of disappointment with his efforts in Manchester, also has two UCI Track Cycling World Cup rounds to savour this winter. With Team SWI, Welsh Cycling’s trade team, he will compete in Glasgow and Aguascalientes, Mexico, racing time that he relishes.
“As a sprinter we don’t race very much throughout the year,” said Oliva, who hopes to represent Wales in 2014 at the Commonwealth Games.
“You always find the riders that get given opportunities early on tend to come back with those experiences and raise their game as they get a bit of an eye opener when they go out there.”
“It’s hard to gauge, I think, performance. From a snapshot point of view as a sprinter you take individual races. You might do a Revolution, you might do a national championship, you might do a race out in Germany and I feel I’ve sort of missed out a little bit this year, whether it be injury or form performance-wise.
“But I always knew that similar to last year the big target was going to be nationals, that’s sort of the swansong if you like this year.
“It went really well, in fact I was disappointed - I thought I would go faster than that. I personally thought I was going to do a 10.1 (in the flying 200m) this year. That was my target in my head and I think I can still do that as well. I’ve got the Europeans and I’ve got some world cups so there are a few more opportunities there.”
Three major international events over the course of the winter will make for an intense initiation into the higher echelons of international track cycling for Oliva, who is competing alongside British Cycling Performance Programme members Victoria Williamson, Matt Crampton and Callum Skinner in the Cido Arena. Understandably buoyed by recent events, he believes the experience will only assist in his progression and has provided a major confidence boost already.
“You always find the riders that get given opportunities early on tend to come back with those experiences and raise their game as they get a bit of an eye opener when they go out there,” Oliva said.
“They come back, work harder and make the necessary changes to get to the top. [Welsh Cycling head coach] Darren Tudor has got a great setup down there and is obviously looking forward to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which is essentially the next big target.
It is an objective which has been made all the more achievable by events in Manchester. “Up until that point [the nationals] things had been a bit shaky with competition results and not being selected for certain events. But now the belief is there,” Oliva said.
“It’s believing in you enough to take you to the Euros, guys like Shane [Sutton -British Cycling Head Coach] and Dave [Brailsford – British Cycling Performance Director] to say you can actually do this it makes a big difference. If somebody believes in you and inspires the confidence then it’s a huge benefit.”
In Panevėžys, Oliva – with Crampton and Skinner – will ride in the team sprint on the opening day with a decision on individual events yet to be made.
“Team sprint is the massive focus, it’s sort of the blue riband event as it comes to sprinters, the same as the team pursuit for the endurance guys,” commented Oliva.
“Usually off the back of the team sprint you can see who is going well for the individual events. I’ve always been a big fan of sprinting but keirin racing seems to be my forte, although the results at the nationals may not have shown that.
“Crampo and Callum have been going well off of the nationals as well, I know Crampo has some pedigree behind him so as a team we are strong. From an individual point of view I’ll be keen to do a similar thing to what I did at the nationals, go out there in every race and tear it up.”