Feature: Ollie Wood – 4th in the Road Worlds (U23)

A month after finishing 4th in the Under 23 World Road Race Championship, Ollie Wood is busy pedalling his butt off in the London Six

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Feature: Ollie Wood – 4th in the Road Worlds (U23)

A month after finishing 4th in the Under 23 World Road Race Championship, Ollie Wood is busy pedalling his butt off in the London Six

Three days into the track event on the London Olympic track, we spoke to Ollie, winner also in August of the Ryedale Grand Prix, about the World Championship race in Norway as well as what is in store now he has signed for JLT Condor

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Speaking about the London Six to begin with,  “It’s been pretty tough so far to be honest. We’ve been limited to 93 inch gears, for the bunch races and we’re used to riding a lot bigger! In the sixes, you usually ride smaller gears than normal but not this small and it’s taken its toll a little bit. There’s a massive amount of cadence going on coming off the team pursuit riding a 110 inch gear!”

They are, says Ollie, allowed to ride a bigger gear in the Derny events, a 102 inch gear, but Ollie explained that in the Derny race on day 2 of the London Six, for the last half of the race he was on the rev limiter doing 140rpm or something.
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Despite having to adjust to the smaller gears, Ollie added he loves track racing and the Madison so is still enjoying himself racing the event with his leadout man at the Road Worlds, Mark Stewart.

Olli had a week off after the road worlds trying to reset himself ready for the track and then went straight into the Team Pursuit at the Europeans which didn’t go to plan for Team GB with Andy Tennant coming off his bike. “I ended up riding the Individual Pursuit” adds Ollie, “which I hadn’t done for a fair few years and then the Madison.”

After we’d both agreed that the Road Worlds seem an age away now, we started our look back at it by asking what he remembered of what was an attacking race with the worlds best all fighting for that rainbow jersey.

“I must have been on a fairly good day and I remember the race being tough! I also remember waking up and it was binning it down and thinking it’s going to be cold. It was a good course and I really enjoyed it. It had a mix of everything and you never got bored. It was 20k round but there was always something to focus and concentrate on”.

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Pleased with 4th I asked? “When you are fourth, you are thinking I could have been on the podium and if third, I could have been higher again but I was still happy. It was a bit of a shock as I realised what I was capable of and a nice surprise”.

Only a month before the Worlds, he had won the Ryedale Grand Prix, outsprinting Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) on an uphill finish and admits in comparing the two they were both tough but in different ways. “Ryedale was the first domestic race I had done well in as well so that was a bit of a shock”.

“I knew I was going alright and then surprised myself. It wasn’t too long a distance for me and I followed the wheels and dug in. I was pretty excited with that win. The Worlds was a kind of similar experience but with more people watching!”

Going back to talk about the Road Worlds, all the road races on the Bergen circuit saw a thrilling final 10 kilometres after the riders had climbed the final hill (Salmon Hill) so I asked Ollie what he remembered of what was a pretty chaotic finish with so much going on.

Ollie surprising himself at the Ryedale GP and his biggest domestic road race win 

“It was pretty active over the climb and was getting a bit chewy and I remember digging in and following the wheels. I was doing what I could and getting over the climb as best I could. It was pretty cagey coming down the other side and there was still those two away and all I remember was there was just Mark and a Danish lad pulling on the front and I was thinking why is no other team pulling. If we’d had one more decent rider on the front, those two out front would have been back and it would have been a different story.”

Ollie was beaten by Denmark’s Michael Svengaard for third place only three seconds behind the two escapees and in a group sprint of 38 riders. Asked what the GB strategy was for the race, Ollie replied “With (Chris) Lawless out, we didn’t have a single strategy but a lot of options instead as we had one of the strongest teams in the race. We had strength in depth and every rider had a strength that could win them the race.”

“So we played it by ear and we spoke a lot to each other in the race about how we were feeling and tagging on to attacks etc”.

The end result though came down to Ollie – was he nervous I asked? “I don’t get nervous until I know I can do well” he replied. “I got over the climb and still I wasn’t nervous, I was just doing my job staying in contention but the nerves hit me two or three k to go when there were only two guys in front of me and I knew there were not many sprinters left”.

Despite his team for 2017 (Wiggins) not getting a ride in the Tour of Britain, Ollie did get a ride with Team GB and says it was good preparation. “It was a help as its long enough away from the Worlds to recover from and a good solid eight days racing. It was a flatter parcour this year as well which suited me more and the weather made it mentally taxing as well and that set me up well for Bergen because it was similar weather in Norway; not too cold but still wet and horrible!”

After a result like he dug out in Norway at the Worlds, a future on the road is perhaps now beckoning. I asked how Ollie sees himself – a road sprinter perhaps?

“I guess so” he replied. “I have always had a sprint which comes off the back of natural speed on the track and but always tried to not to limit myself to just being a sprinter. I could go into a gym and put a load of kilos on and make myself more powerful but for those bunch sprints, you are relying on the lead out and a lot of things can go wrong. Being in a smaller group like that at the Worlds, I only had one person leading me out and still managed to get up there. It’s not as risky so I prefer that. If there is a sprint, I’ll always do what I can”.

“It was a little unexpected but it is definitely the best thing I have done on the road.”
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What now for Ollie?
It certainly is a busy time for him having had a week off post worlds, then to the European Championships before the London six. Then it’s a week home and then the Manchester World Cup followed by the Gent six day which he says will be a very tough week and then maybe do a World Cup in Canada.

Training on the road will no doubt follow including an endurance camp in Majorca all leading up to the Track Worlds in Holland and then hopefully for Ollie, the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia, which he admits would be a big deal for him being his first major Games event. It is such a busy time, he’s not sure when he’ll be donning the colours of his new trade team, JLT Condor on the road but says there may be a few stage races in between the major track competitions.

It all means he won’t be racing here in Britain on the road until May quite probably but is confident that his new team will be help him follow his dream of getting to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, in the same way they supported similar dreams of riders like Alex Frame and of course Ed Clancy, who is also going for a spot in Tokyo.

And while the Olympic Games is the goal, Ollie admits the 4th in the Road Worlds has at least shown him that whatever happens with the Olympics, a career on the road is something he can also aim for. For now though, Olli, like so many in the GB setup, has to manage his time racing all year round, on the track and the road.

“I guess I am used to it after the Academy which is not just the road or track but a mix of both. So I am used to that now and not having a month off like everyone wants to do. Instead I’m having small breaks every now and then. If you are feeling run down or you have four days where you can go and see your family or something like that, then it is good to take them and in the end, they all add up”.

Thanks Ollie for the chat and good luck for the rest of the London Six and the races that follow…



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