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Next big thing: Scott Davies talks to RCUK

Our Q&A series with the stars of the future continues with Team Wiggins' four-time under-23 national time trial champion

Scott Davies was just 18 when he started to make a name for himself on the biggest stage – winning his first under-23 time trial title before a tenth-placed finish in the 2014 Commonwealth Games road race.

Now riding for Team Wiggins, via a year with the British Cycling Academy, the former Madison-Genesis rider has added three more national time trial titles at under-23 level.

Scott Davies is now a four-time national under-23 time trial champion (Pic: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com)

And the Welsh rider has impressed abroad too, adding to his collection of top-ten finishes in races such as the Herald Sun Tour and Tour Alsace before he finished fourth overall at last month’s Giro Ciclistico d’Italia – the mini Giro d’Italia.

In the latest instalment of our Q&A series with the cycling stars of the future, we caught up with Davies to discuss his career so far and his ambitions for the future.

Next big thing

  1. Chris Lawless
  2. Scott Davies
  3. Tom Pidcock
  4. Evie Richards

RCUK: How did you get into cycling?

Scott Davies: I got my first road bike at Christmas 2006. Initially, I wanted a Raleigh Chopper for Christmas, but my parents convinced me it probably wasn’t the best thing to ask for. So I asked Father Christmas for a road bike, and I got a Giant OCR 3.

For a couple of years I just rode with my Dad, just 15 miles or so, which was nice and then I eventually started cycling on my own after school – it took a while to convince my Mum to let me!

On one of those rides, my rear light fell off, or something like that, and I was at the side of the road fixing it when a car pulled over. The guy asked me if I was alright and then said he ran the local cycling club. He said he’d seen me riding around town, and I should call up.

So the next week, and that’s how I got into that side of it, with Towy Riders, the local club in Carmarthen. I started with crits and cyclo-cross, and then eventually got involved with Wales, and the ODP [Olympic Development Programme at British Cycling] and so it goes.”

How did you get into time trialling, given it’s clearly a specialty of yours now?

There was a guy called Anthony Jones who I met through the club, who back when he was my age had been quite handy.

He left the sport in his early 20s and then came back into it, and started doing TTs again – he offered to give me a lift up if I wanted to do a 10 or a 25.

Davies started time trialling at open events in South Wales with a Towy Riders club mate (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

In all fairness, Anthony is one of the first people that got me thinking in terms of racing. He’s played quite a big role in getting me to where I am at the moment.

For the first three, four years or so, he would pick me up from my house and drive to the open TTs in South Wales. I quite miss doing it to be honest.

What stand-out memories do you have from when you started cycling?

Going to the TTs with Tony certainly helped bring me along. We also had a Wednesday night chaingang with Towy Riders which, looking back, was epic to be fair. I don’t think I could do it now – I’d get dropped these days.

That’s what the week was planned around – Wednesday night chaingang, 6pm. It’s funny how it happens really, we had a good group of guys. There was Tony Jones and then maybe three, four, five lads who were the same age as me and we all had roughly the same ability. It just worked out well.

Davies joined the Welsh Cycling set-up, before progressing on to the British Cycling ODP (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

How did you get involved in the Welsh Cycling set-up?

Neil Hunt, who ran Towy Riders, had a part-time job with Welsh Cycling, looking after the youth side of things. He’d always offer advice, like you should do this track section or do this race and help me do the right things to try and get noticed.

And then every year, it’s a similar set-up to British Cycling and how they do it, they open the applications up for the junior programme and I got on the junior programme.

We were very lucky, Welsh Cycling took us away to do a few races abroad and that’s how I got my first taste of continental racing.

Are there many differences between that and the British Cycling set-up, where you also rode?

It’s all scale really. Welsh Cycling punch above their weight – they’ve got some really good staff in place there in all fairness.

There’s a lot of ex-GB staff and that’s probably one of the reasons it’s like a mini version of the GB set-up. We were very lucky in that regard.

What was the biggest, or most important, thing you learned back then?

It’s probably the basics really – the things I take for granted really. That was my first taste of structured training: training plans, sending feedback to your coach, training camps – it was a taster of what you were getting into really, and looking after yourself.

How much did that help with the step up to join Madison-Genesis, your first major road team, aged 18?

I think coming from the Welsh set-up, and I was on the ODP as well, that certainly helped. Had I not been exposed to those experiences, maybe it would have been a bit more of a shock to the system. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a big step-up but maybe not so much.

To be fair, I really enjoyed my time at Madison-Genesis. We had a really nice group of lads, and Roger was there as well – as a DS he was spot on. He looks out for you, knows what he’s talking about and you buy into it. Madison as a company looked after us really well as well.

Davies raced with Madison-Genesis in 2014, aged just 18

That year worked out really well for me. Initially I had hopes of joining the Academy, but they weren’t at the stage back then to offer you a road programme. It was still very much a track programme.

It’s funny how everything falls into place, because that year was also Commonwealth Games year. I still rode for GB, and Keith Lambert looked after me, let me guest a few times so I had the best of both worlds.

I had the opportunities with GB, but was living at home and did my own thing, and could prep for the Commonwealth Games as well.

After that, you joined the British Cycling Academy. What was the reason for the move?

Because I’d guested so much for them in 2014, I’d got a taste of what the Acadamey was all about, and how well supported it was. It just seemed like the right step to make really, to race a bit more on the continent.

I think Madison-Genesis helped me find my feet, and showed me the ropes a bit, but it just seemed right. I went with my gut feeling on it, I suppose. I think BC were pleased with how I performed in 2014, I got a few hints that I should apply and that was it.

Davies raced on the British Cycling Academy in 2014 (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

And then you joined Team Wiggins, was that a natural progression from the Academy?

The move to Wiggins was last-minute actually. My intention was to stay with the Academy, they were moving to Italy and I thought that would suit me.

And then in September, at the Worlds, I had a change of heart – I was sat around with Owain Doull, Andrew McQuaid and so on and you get talking.

Someone said, ‘maybe you should join Wiggins’ – half serious, half joking – and I went 180-degrees then.

Davies, now with Wiggins, chats with former Academy team-mate Gabriel Cullaigh (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

But that again was certainly the right decision. I look back at the races I’ve done with Wiggins, and the extra responsibility you have.

You are very sheltered in the academy, which is great as a young rider, but as you get older and mature a move away from that was what I needed. I don’t want to knock the Academy, but for me, at that time, it seemed like the logical thing to do.

How has it been at Team Wiggins, certainly in your first year, not being one of the riders with a track focus?

It’s changed a bit. In 2015 the whole point of the team was to support riders in their lead-up to Rio – that’s why the team was set-up – and then they had a re-assess after Rio and decided they wanted it to be more of an under-23 development team like Axeon-Hagens Berman, BMC Development, that sort of thing.

Whereas it was a road team for track riders, that’s not the case anymore – it was quite good timing for myself.

I’ve done a bit of track in the past, with the Academy, the ODP and what have you, and it’s just not my forte. As a rider, I’m just not made for the track. It’s definitely helped my development, I’m glad I did it, but looking ahead it’s just not where my future lies.

Who were your cycling inspirations growing up?

2012 was the first year, and maybe 2011, I started to really take an interest in cycling, and watch the race on TV and that kind of stuff.

Obviously, I was watching Brad win the Tour in 2012, Geraint Thomas had been in white for a bit in 2010 as well. But it’s more so after that.

Obviously, Brad’s up there because he’s done what he’s done. It’s amazing. And I do really admire Steve Cummings, and how he can just pull it out of the bag. He can be quite low-key and then one day just comes out the blocks on fire and wins a stage of the Tour de France.

We’re lucky as British cyclists though in that there’s almost too many to choose from. The pro scene is crazy at the moment.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

There’s a handful of people really. Neil Hunt, purely because had it not been for him I might have been a recreational cyclist. Tony Jones is probably the reason I got into the Welsh and GB set-up. Michael Heaven was my coach as a junior, and he brought me on a lot.

There’s Keith Lambert as well – you’ll probably hear it from a lot of lads, but what he does for under-23 cycling is really amazing. That guy gives so much time and he just genuinely loves it as well. It’s hard to word it really, but he’s a top bloke.

Then when I turned senior, there was Darren Tudor at Welsh Cycling – whenever I need anything, Welsh Cycling are always on hand. I still keep in touch with everyone I’ve listed quite regularly, and then of course there’s my parents as well.

Davies admits it was a chat with Owain Doull, left, that prompted his switch to Team Wiggins (Pic: Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)

Looking at your achievements, you won the Junior Tour of Wales, a race with an impressive roll call of former winners, in 2012. What impact did that have on your career?

I think that was the point where my mindset changed to ‘maybe I can do this as a career’. Up until then, of course I’d done ODP and stuff but it’s really hard to tell if you are good enough to do it as a job.

That gave me a lot of hope for the future, and that’s when I started to believe in myself a lot of more.

As you said, you look at the past winners… I almost felt like my name was out of place – it was a bit bizarre really. I have great memories of it, and still look back on that race quite fondly.

What does it mean to be a four-time national under-23 time trial champion?

It’s a real nice feeling, especially when you’re racing on the continent, and you can wear the national champion’s kit. You get a bit more go in you. You feel quite proud.

I think what means more to me is the fact I’ve won it four out of four. Say I’d not won it in 2015 or 2016, people could argue it was a fluke or I got lucky. To win it four out of four, I’d like to think I’ve proved it wasn’t.

Scott Davies, 18, and Emma Pooley, 31, show off their stripes in 2014 (Pic: Huw Evans Picture Agency)

You raced the Commonwealth Games road race in 2014, where just finishing was a big achievement, and came tenth. How big a result was that?

That and the nationals were my highlights of 2014. With Geraint winning the road race as well, they are memories that will stay with me forever.

Again, I felt a bit out of place – it was almost too good to be true, like ‘what am I doing here?’. It was a really nice to be involved and race with that team.

It was probably a similar feeling to my Junior Tour of Wales result because it gave me a bit more confidence and a bit more hope that I was doing the right thing, and could turn pro if I got my head down.

Davies raced the attritional Commonwealth Games road race in 2014, finishing tenth (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

You have also had a lot of top-ten results overall abroad. What have you learned from those?

The last 18 months have been a big, big learning curve for me. In 2014 and 2015 I was still very new to it all. I hadn’t quite sussed the scene out, you don’t quite know how the cycling scene works or what it takes.

But these last 18 months I’ve learned a hell of a lot. I’ve still got a lot, lot more to learn but I think the biggest thing it’s taught me is not to lose hope. When you’re up against it, and things don’t go to plan – in the past I’ve let my head drop. I’ve learned that inevitably the ups and downs and massive. At times you wish it was more stable but that’s professional sport.

The other thing is that, eventually, all the hard work you put in does pay off. It takes forever at times, but every result I’ve had I can look back two-three months before that and see where I’ve really knuckled down or put a shift in.

What has been your biggest result so far?

There are two that I can’t decide between. The stage win at the Ronde l’Isard meant a lot – I hadn’t won on the continent before that, so it meant a lot. That was very special, my first win abroad. And then the other one was last month’s mini Giro.

It had been a tough lead-up to that one. I had a virus early-season, and going back to what I said earlier you inevitably feel sorry for yourself, so to come back and perform like that meant a lot. It had been a rough, rough two months.

Davies hopes to compete in hillier stage races in future (Pic:Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

How do you see yourself as a rider?

That’s a hard question. I’m still quite young really. My physiology has changed a lot over the last four years and so it can potentially change a lot over the next ten as well.

I’m not a sprinter, I’m not a Classics rider, so at a stab I could see myself going for GC on the hillier stage races.

If I had to predict, that’s where I see myself. But I try to keep an open mind really, and just see where I can go.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

It’s very much an if everything goes to plan scenario, but I’d love to be selected for the Grand Tours. That’s one of the reasons I got into cycling, and that’s what I’ve always aspired to.

It’s just a case of trying to keep my head down and work hard, I hope I’ll be good enough to earn selection.

And finally, if you could pick any race to win in future which would it be?

I’d have to pick the Giro or the Tour… I’m split between both but if I could choose any it would have to be one of those.

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