A selection of British Cycling Olympic Development Programme riders were in action at the Gent International Track Meeting at the Eddy Merckx Velodrome from the 5-6 January.
A total of 13 ODP athletes made the journey to Belgium along with seven Welsh athletes to compete against the national teams of Belgium, France and the Netherlands plus squads from the Wallonie Region and East Flanders.
There were victories for Great Britain in both team pursuit contests as Chris Lawless, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Jacob Ragan and Oliver Wood won in the boys' category with Emily Nelson, Emily Kay and Beth Hayward victorious in the girls' competition.
Emily Nelson claimed her second title of the weekend with a narrow win over teammate Emily Kay in the omnium whilst Wales’ Robbie Westwood took the honours in the boy’s discipline.
In the sprint disciplines, Danielle Khan and Hannah Blount won their team sprint with a third place for Great Britain’s boys in their contest.
Great Britain Cycling Team Olympic Development Programme endurance coach Matt Winston reflected on the weekend: “We took a large group of riders to the event for development and experience, we had a good camp before Christmas as part of the Development World Cup and were looking to build on that.
“I was looking at the way the riders raced the bike races rather than the times and positions as the track in Gent usually runs slower as it’s quite heavy. I think we came out of the weekend well with lots of good stuff to take away and lots of stuff to go and develop as we move towards the summer.”
Saturday’s sprint competition included junior riders but also three under 23 riders from France. The boys and girls all raced together in the same competition, it was split into three rounds with three riders in each group, everyone raced each other once, then had a three up.
The rider scoring the most points was promoted into the next group, with the rider scoring the least being relegated, finishing with a final.
Leon Gledhill fought his way through to the group 3 final and finished second in his heat scoring eighth place overall. Jack Hoyle and Tom Scammell were in the group 4 final with Hoyle taking the victory in this race to finish 10th overall and Tom 12th, finishing third in his final.
Khan spent the day racing against the boys but found herself in the group 6 final which she won to take 16th overall, Ellie Coster also made this final but finished third so ended 18th. Blount came home in second in her final to finish the day in 20th position overall.
The boys' omnium got underway with the flying lap, Oliver Wood with the win before Robbie Westwood claimed a high pace 60 lap points race dominated by the GB riders.
GB were less influential in the elimination race, with some riders losing out on positioning at key times and taking an early exit from the race however the final sprint went down to the wire with Jacob Ragan taking the victory from Tao Geoghegan Hart.
To finish off day one for the endurance boys was a 100 lap Madison, nine teams took to the start and the race was quick throughout, the Dutch team were the fastest sprinters in the race and walked away victors in the end from the team of Belgium.
In the girls’ event, Emily Kay was the quickest in the flying lap, before the points race saw a battle commence between the riders from GB and the two stand out riders from Belgium Lotte Kopecky and Jesse Vandenbulcke but it was Amy Hill who was to come out as the winner.
The elimination race was to prove costly for both Emily Kay and Amy Hill with eliminations in the middle of the race which helped Emily Nelson gain points over her nearest competitors as she claimed what would prove to be a crucial win.
Danielle Khan and Hannah Blount were impressive with a convincing victory in the team sprint, the time 36.507.
The keirin competition format was run in a similar way to the sprint competition the day before with riders being promoted and relegated from their respective groups with seeding taken from the results of the day. Tthe GB riders would start in group 2 for the boys with all the female competitors starting in group 3.
In round 1 Danielle Khan took the victory to earn herself a promotion up the ranks but unfortunately during round 2 racing with the boys and looking good for a strong finish she hit the deck hard and that was the end of her day of racing. However Leon Gledhill was having more success winning round 2 in group 2 to earn promotion to race in the group 1 race for round 3 against some strong under 23 French riders.
Round 3 was the penultimate round before the final so positions over the line were important in this event, in group 2 Jack Hoyle finished second place which would see him also promoted to group 1 for the final.
The group 1 race was an exciting affair with Leon Gledhill picking up the wheel of the French man Benjamin Edelin and not allowing anyone else to get the spot that every rider in the field seemed to want. Leon followed the French Express tightly towards the finished and came round in the home straight to win round 3 and book himself in the final.
The group 3 final saw Tom Scammell earn second place behind the Belgium rider whilst Ellie Coster and Hannah Blount took fifth and sixth respectively in that heat. The group 1 final saw Leon Gledhill go for a similar tactic by picking up Edelin’s wheel, a move again which would see competition for places with the rest of the French team also wanting to pick the wheel.
However it was Jack Hoyle that would light it up once the derny pulled off and led the race till the bell when the field would start to pounce and with 6 riders to hold off it was always going to be a big ask for Hoyle to hold the field off. Gledhill meanwhile was stuck like glue to Edelin and whilst Edelin would come round to take the win, Leon Gledhill finished a very creditable second place.
Victory in the 500m time trial along with solid performances in the individual pursuit and scratch race was enough to seal the overall triumph for Emily Nelson with Emily Kay just behind in second. In the men’s event Robbie Westwood edged out Zach May for the title, his victory in the scratch race a significant contribution.