News: Rising Star Sam Harrison

Rising Welsh star Sam Harrison is reckoned to be one of the riders of the future in Britain, and he likes to think that the Abergavenny Festival of Cycling has played a little part in it.

As a mid-teenager, Cwmcarn ace Harrison won the Get Connected Welsh Open Criterium Youth Races. And riding at high speed around the twists and turns of the town helped to develop the skills needed for competitive racing.

Since that victory in 2007 at Under-16 level, his career has catapulted him upwards to the British Cycling Olympic Development Programme and beyond. It did not all start in Abergavenny, of course, for the 19-year-old whose talent was recognised enough in 2008 for him to win the BBC Wales Young Sports Personality of the Year Award.

But, he says, it helped. “It’s great to have this event locally,” said Harrison, who remembers his victory in the Youth Race around the streets of Abergavenny as clear as a bell. “There are crowds coming out who don’t normally watch cycling and so it helps to race with those people watching you.”

“It gets a really good atmosphere and it’s a very good place to learn how to perform under pressure. And that pressure only gets more and more when you get older and up the racing ladder. The crowds encourage you and it helps you learn to control your nerves.”

As for his victory in 2007, Harrison said: “It’s surprising how you remember races. It was four years ago now. I got away with a rider from Birmingham called Josh Papworth. I couldn’t drop him up the hill (on the course) so it came down to a sprint and I just got him on the line.

“In crits, you have to fight for your position and you are sprinting for primes all the time. It’s just how it is like when you get to the higher level. It’s just a brilliant race, really.”

Harrison is now based in Manchester with the other British Cycling Academy riders so won’t be at the 2011 Abergavenny Festival of Cycling, which takes place between July 8-10. The Welsh Open Criteriums, which will again feature the Youth Races plus the Elite Circuit Series and ‘Trader’s Race’, are on Friday July 8.

Harrison is now getting back into training after a horrific accident in Holland at the end of May where he crashed at 30mph and broke his collarbone to the extent that he needed corrective surgery. However, he was able to get back on the bike last Sunday for the National Road Race Championships in Stamfordham, Tyne and Wear, which saw Wales’ own Geraint Thomas finish second behind his Team Sky team-mate Bradley Wiggins.

Kristian House, who won the National RR title two years ago in Abergavenny, was sixth.