Glasgow 2014: Guernsey's James Roe prepares for biggest challenge

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
James Roe
Roe is hoping to finish in the top 25 riders

"I'd pay to watch these guys race, so to be on the start line alongside them is a dream come true," says Guernsey cyclist James Roe.

For some of the world's top sports people the Commonwealth Games can be a distraction. For others, like Roe, it is the pinnacle of their sporting career.

Roe specialises in mountain bike cross-country racing, and will also be part of the Guernsey road-race team hoping to help the island's professional riders Tobyn Horton and James McLaughlin cause a shock around the streets of Glasgow.

A gifted cyclist by island standards, he will never trouble the Sir Bradley Wiggins' of this world. But for 10 days he will be able to race against them.

In Glasgow he will line up against a host of professional riders the likes of which he would never normally come across.

South Africa's Phillip Buys and Australia's Daniel McConnell both raced at the 2012 Olympics in London, with double-Olympian McConnell the highest-placed Commonwealth rider in 21st place.

New Zealand's team boasts Sam Gaze, who won a bronze at the World Cup event in the Czech Republic last month, and junior world champion Anton Cooper.

From the home nations there is national champion Grant Ferguson from Scotland and Paul Oldham from England, having just raced at the European Championships.

In comparison, Roe's greatest-ever performance came earlier this month, when he made the podium for the first time ever in the English Southern Area cross country championships. A far cry from the global event he will ride in at the end of July.

"I'm extremely excited, it'll be one of the biggest races I ever compete in," enthused the 2013 Island Games gold medallist.

"I've been training hard all winter, five to seven days a week to try and do myself proud and the island proud."

His story is the same for many at the Commonwealth Games - nations like Niue Island, Gibraltar, Montserrat and Norfolk Island - the best competitor in their small homeland having the chance to take on the big boys.

And Roe has an added problem being a mountain biker in Guernsey - a lack of mountains.

"If you ride down Plienmont (one of Guernsey's steepest hills) it's 30 seconds to the bottom, where in the UK you've got four or five minutes," he tells BBC Radio Guernsey.

"It's a different type of riding, so getting away as much as possible helps.

"I train a lot of the time on the roads in Guernsey, that's why it's very important to get away and race on the cross country courses in the UK.

"You don't get the training in Guernsey that you get over there with the long-flowing fast descents."

He has ridden the course that was home to mountain biking at London 2012, and will get a week to practice on the man-made course in Glasgow which is carved into the side of a hill at Cathkin Braes Country Park.

"With other professional riders there I won't be going for the podium, but with the preparation I've had I hope I'll do well," he said.

"A place in the top 20 or top 25 would be a great achievement."

So, while Roe may not trouble the medal bearers, at least he has not had to buy his ticket, and will get one of the best views of the action of anyone.