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England vs Wales: cycling head-to-head

As the two countries prepare to face each other at UEFA Euro 2016, which have produced the best cyclists?

As football’s 2016 European Championships heat up, England take on Wales in Lens on Thursday June 16.

Wales’ rise up football’s world rankings has mirrored that of their cyclists – with a host of top Welsh cyclists bursting onto the scene on both the road and track in recent years.

The latest of those – Owain Doull – will join Team Sky after the Rio 2016 Olympics, following a path already trodden by compatriots Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe.

England v Wales cover photo

Closer to home another Welshman, Jon Mould, entered the Tour Series record books with six individual wins this year and the likes of Elinor Barker and Becky James are likely to be part of Britain’s line-up for the Olympics too.

But British cycle sport’s rise and rise is not all down to those from the principality – the current women’s world champion, Lizzie Armitstead, is English and so are the last two men to hold the UCI Hour Record.

So ahead of the two nations’ footballers doing battle in France, we’ve pitted seven riders born in England against seven riders born in Wales to see which country comes out on top.

The GC men

Geraint Thomas v Adam Yates

We’re being strict here and taking only a rider’s country of birth. Why? Because we make the rules, that’s why.

So first up it’s Wales’ Geraint Thomas, born in Cardiff, and England’s Adam Yates, born in Bury.

– The rise and rise of Geraint Thomas –

Thomas may have started on the track but he’s a fully-fledged GC star now – as proven by his victories at Paris-Nice and the Volta ao Algarve this year. Last year’s career best 15th place at the Tour de France would have been better too, but for a high-speed collision with a telegraph pole when he was forced off the road on a corner.

– Five times Geraint Thomas proved he’s hard as nails – 

Yates’ added to his rising stature with another top-ten finish at the Criterium du Dauphine this month, meanwhile, and his palmares also boasts a Tour of Turkey win and top-tens at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of California since he turned pro in 2014.

VERDICT – Adam Yates’ future is bright, but there’s only winner here for us – the hard-as-nails Welshman (Wales 1-0 England)

Cobble munchers

Ian Stannard v Luke Rowe

Team Sky have rapidly improved in the cobbled Classics in recent times, and this year Essex man Ian Stannard and Cardiff’s Luke Rowe both impressed in the spring.

Top-five finishes at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tour of Flanders showed Rowe’s progression on the pavé after his eighth place finish at Paris-Roubaix the previous year.

– Pro cyclist interview: Ian Stannard on Paris-Roubaix – 

Stannard, meanwhile, bagged himself a podium place in the Roubaix velodrome this year – equalling the best British result – having earlier been third at E3 Harelbeke too.

– My favourite training session: Luke Rowe –

Stannard has also twice won the Omloop, including his victory in 2015 when he outwitted three Etixx-QuickStep riders to win from a four-man break.

VERDICT – Ian Stannard’s Paris-Roubaix podium could prove to be a big turning point, and snatches the win here (England 1-1 Wales)

Rising stars

Owain Doull v Hugh Carthy

Another Cardiff-born ace, Owain Doull, is the latest success story for British Cycling’s Academy, and is set to make the step-up to join Team Sky after the Olympic Games.

Preston-born Hugh Carthy, meanwhile, is treading a different path to the top but it’s the top he’s surely destined for after winning the Vuelta a Asturias and being crowned best young rider at the Volta a Catalunya this year.

– The next generation: the second wave of British riders ready to crack the pro ranks –

Prior to joining current team Caja Rural-Seguros, 21-year-old Carthy also won the Tour de Korea with Rapha Condor-JLT.

– Owain Doull interview: when I joined the academy I wrote a four-year plan – to turn pro and win Olympic gold –

Doull, 23, proved his versatility in finishing third at the 2015 Tour of Britain and winning the points classification, meanwhile – the Welsh Team Wiggins rider never finished lower than 11th in the eight-stage race.

VERDICT – A tough one to choose, but Doull’s versatility and track pedigree just about tip the balance (Wales 2-1 England)

Time-trial specialists

Alex Dowsett v Scott Davies

The two male winners at last year’s British National Time Trial Championships return to defend their elite and under-23 titles in Stockton later this month.

Essex-born Alex Dowsett bagged his fourth elite national title last time out, and the Giro d’Italia stage winner – former holder of the UCI Hour Record – will bid to earn another year in the blue, white and red-striped skinsuit.

– Alex Dowsett’s time trial tips and training sessions –

Davies, meanwhile, has won the under-23 title two years running, having previously been a junior national champion too.

A third win in the category would see him go clear of Dowsett as the most successful rider in the under-23 event.

– Alex Dowsett interview: 2015 was good but I can be even better – 

In fact, their junior records are very similar – a best of seventh at the world under-23 time trial championships and a Junior Tour of Wales win featuring on both of their palmares too.

VERDICT – It’s a little unfair to take them on their current achievements, as Dowsett is seven years older than Davies, but given their junior records are so similar it’s all we have. Plus 34mph for 25 miles – we can’t argue with that (England 2-2 Wales)

Women’s world champions

Nicole Cooke v Lizzie Armitstead

Lizzie Armitstead has donned the rainbow jersey of women’s world champion this year, following in the footsteps of her former British team-mate Nicole Cooke.

Yorkshirewoman Armitstead was victorious in Richmond, USA, to pull on the rainbow bands last September and hasn’t looked back since – victory at the Boels Rental Hills Classic in May was her fifth victory in nine races as world champion.

– Lizzie Armitstead interview: Rio is the biggest goal of my season, and my career –

The last Brit to wear the rainbow jersey of world road race champion was Swansea-born Cooke, of course – one of four times she finished on the world road race podium.

Earlier that year she had been crowned Olympic champion too and – like Armitstead – she was also a two-time winner of the UCI Women’s Road World Cup, victorious in the Women’s Tour of Flanders and a Commonwealth Games gold medallist before her 2013 retirement.

VERDICT – Their achievements are very similar, but Cooke blazed a trail with her success. Her Giro d’Italia Femminile victory and Olympic gold medal means victory for the Welsh (Wales 3-2 England)

Criterium stars

Jon Mould’s six victories in this year’s Tour Series makes him the most successful rider in the history of the evening criterium series with a career tally of 11.

His success in leading JLT-Condor to their third overall title saw him surpass team-mate Ed Clancy’s tally of eight wins, and proved his versatility with wins on circuits as varied as Croydon, Durham and Aberystwyth.

It was also Newport-born Mould’s second team victory, having been part of the successful Team UK Youth line-up in 2013.

– Interview: Tour Series record breaker Jon Mould hungry for more success –

That, however, is where two-time Olympic team pursuit champion Clancy still rules the roost – having been part of the winning squad in each of the first three series the event was run with Team Halfords Bikehut, Motorpoint-Marshalls Pasta and then Rapha-Condor, before winning twice more with Rapha-Condor/JLT-Condor.

Clancy, born in Barnsley, is also a former national circuit race champion and won last year’s London Nocturne too for good measure.

Of course, Clancy’s real pedigree is on the track with five World Championship gold medals and five European Championship medals to his name alongside those Olympic golds.

VERDICT – Taking the Tour Series alone, Mould proved his talent this year but Clancy’s five team wins in the series are no fluke. Plus, the Yorkshireman has a national title which Mould doesn’t (yet). (England 3-3 Wales)

Track girls

Laura Trott v Elinor Barker

If Lizzie Armitstead is Britain’s queen of the road, then Laura Trott is undoubtedly the queen of the track.

The Harlow-born star has two Olympic gold medals from London 2012, and also has seven world titles, ten European titles and a Commonwealth Games gold.

– Training with the pros: Elinor Barker’s track cycling tips –

Success in the scratch race and omnium at this year’s UCI Track World Championships in London bode very well for the Olympics too, where she is likely to count Cardiff’s Elinor Barker among her team-mates.

Another Welsh ace, Abergavenny-born Becky James, will ride in the track sprint events, meanwhile, after recovering from a long injury lay-off to grab keirin bronze in London this year.

James will bid to replicate the achievements of Britain’s last queen of the track, Victoria Pendleton, who won nine world championship gold medals and two Olympic golds in her illustrious career.

VERDICT – Pendleton and Trott have been the poster girls for Britain’s track cyclists and with good reason, with a host of success across the board. James is Pendleton’s heir apparent in the track sprint squad, and Barker has been an integral part of the endurance team but it’s an easy decision to make. A last-minute winner for England. (England 4-3 Wales)

England 4 – 3 Wales

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