Published: 24 September 2013
Words & interview: Simon Powers
Defending national men’s sprint champion, Callum Skinner is hoping to use this year’s National Track Championships as a springboard to prove his mettle to selectors ahead of a winter of major international track events starting with November’s UCI Track World Cup in Manchester.
Last year’s final was a hard fought battle which the 21 year old took to the line and to a tense photo finish when he beat fellow Olympic Podium Programme rider Lewis Oliva by the slimmest of margins to earn the prestigious title. Entering as the defending champion will surely give Skinner a good level of confidence and a platform to build upon.
“I guess it’s a good place to be in, Skinner confirmed. “It was probably one of my best achievements last year, so to be able to hold onto that or even be close to it would be a great thing. “It was unbelievably tense and very draining but great to get that result.”
It has certainly not been all plain sailing since his emphatic win against Lewis Oliva in last year’s final however. After selection for the U23 Europeans in July, Skinner was intent on showing his start off ahead of any potential selections. This went horribly wrong for the Glasgow rider as a wheel spin out of the gate left him chasing for lost seconds from the moment the clock had started to tick.
“Euros was quite difficult to deal with, he said. “It’s probably the first competition that I have gone into with more of a long term goal in mind. There was no team sprint for us there so, the kilo was my sole chance to show just how much my start had improved and with that one slip, it all went straight out of the window.
“I have done some start work to hopefully get over the nightmare of the Europeans. You are always in two minds there, you could fall off and get a restart but you are so focussed on the event that you just go full on and go as fast as you can. I think as a result, one of my half laps was the fastest in the whole competition.
“My start has been getting better in training, considerably better; I’ve just not been able to show that in competition yet.”
Skinner will compete in all the sprint events across the five day competition in Manchester and is hopeful that some strong performances this week will give selectors some serious food for thought ahead of the impending action-packed international season culminating in the Commonwealth Games in his hometown next July.
“I think preparation is going better than it was for the Europeans, I haven’t started a taper yet but think I am going a similar sort of speed as I was tapered before Euros.”
“This week at Nationals, I can put all those things to rest. I am looking for a good start in the kilo and we have got a good team sprint opportunity with Phil Hindes in man one. It should really stretch me as Phil is a great starter and people have trouble getting on him in the man three position let alone in second wheel, which is the position I am planning to ride so I should be able to show off all the areas I have improved in recently.
“Since the Europeans, I have been going full steam ahead really and been really trying to do well at nationals. Hopefully this will be my chance to put in some really good performances and get noticed by the selectors for the world cups and senior Europeans. It’s a great platform to show what you can do and a great chance to springboard on to even bigger events," he noted.
“Commonwealth Games is also big target for me; want to hit that event full on. With ticket sales having drawn to a close, it seems like it is really on the horizon now.”