Scotland's top cyclists compete in national championships

By Keir MurrayBBC Sport Scotland
Feature: Scottish track cycling

Scottish Cycling holds its National Track Championships this weekend and for the winners there is not just the thrill of claiming the national title, but the realistic prospect of inclusion in Scotland's Commonwealth Games team.

The prize is enough to turn the cyclists' legs turn to jelly, if they haven't already been set a-trembling by the rigours of their events at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.

The Ralph Schurmann-designed track will, of course, host the sell-out events when the Games come to Glasgow next summer.

Glasgow 2014 organisers could have sold tickets for the track cycling 25 times over, so for those who were unlucky in the Commonwealth ballot the Scottish championships offer a separate chance to experience high-level competition at the venue.

Scotland's top prospects recently competed in British Cycling's National Track Championships in Manchester, with mixed results.

Among the successes was City of Edinburgh Road Club's Katie Archibald.

She will be looking to follow the bronze medal she won in Manchester in the individual pursuit with success in her home city, though she will have to wait until the end of the month to do so - the women's individual pursuit takes place on Sunday 27 October.

Before then, she will have the honour of representing Team GB, along with Elinor Barker, Dani King, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott, at the European Track Championships in Apeldoorn, Holland.

John Paul had based his training in recent months on the British championships and he's hoping to round off his season with a win in Glasgow.

Paul, 20, competed in three events in Manchester, coming sixth in the keirin and eighth in the sprint - both won by Jason Kenny - and third in the team sprint with fellow City of Edinburgh rider Bruce Croall and Jonathan Biggin of the Glasgow Life outfit.

He and Callum Skinner are viewed as Scotland's top sprint stars now that Sir Chris Hoy has retired.

Having left Manchester after being dropped from British Cycling's Academy programme, Paul now lives in East Kilbride, within easy reach of the velodrome in the east end of Glasgow.

"This will be my last race of the season probably and then I'll have a bit of time off and then get stuck into a bit of winter training," he told BBC Scotland ahead of the Scottish event.

"It was a hard time being dropped from the GB Team. I've just had to make the best of the situation.

"Moving here was a must. I couldn't get on the track anywhere else as much as I needed to train.

"I'm really lucky that I've got this facility to use and Scottish Cycling to back me. I'd like to thank them and my coach Kevin Stewart for helping me out."

Paul, originally from Caithness, is confident that he will once again represent his country in the Commonwealth Games.

"I competed for Scotland out in Delhi when I was 17," he said.

"I was really proud to do that and I'll be equally proud to represent my country at a home Games.

"I just think it will be an awesome prospect."

Team Raleigh's Evan Oliphant won't be racing in the Scottish championships, because his favoured events - the points and scratch races - do not feature, but he hopes his experience in previous Commonwealth Games will boost his chances of winning a medal next summer.

Oliphant, who finished sixth in the 20km scratch race at the British championships in Manchester, told BBC Scotland: "Being to a couple of Games before, you know exactly what to expect, from things in the [athletes'] village, how to warm up properly.

"In Melbourne [2006] in the points race I was straight out the blocks. Within 10 laps of the race I had lapped the field and won the first sprint.

"I probably wasted extra energy early on that I could saved for later and used it to more effect when everyone else was a bit tired.

"Even now I am still learning at every race."

Oliphant, who recently rode the Tour of Britain, could be selected for the Scotland road team for the Games but it is likely he will swap tarmac for wood.

"The track is where I'm more likely to get a medal," said the 31-year-old, "but I don't think I'd do track all the time.

"I like getting away, doing the road and racing in different countries. You never know what weather you're going to get."

Having raced since February, Oliphant's plan is to take a break now before a period of winter training in which he will train at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome three or four times a week.

"I'll do a full road season up to June then my plan is to have a month's track training just before Glasgow," he added.

"You need to come back to get the speed in your legs because on the road you pedal much slower.

"You've got the endurance - 160 laps is what we do for the points race - but when you're racing 200km back-to-back days [on the road] that's not the issue; it's more about being able to go fast enough when it counts."