PEDAL POWER: Jacob's track triumph

7:30am Friday 10th January 2014

By Gina Bebbington

PART of the beauty of cycling is its accessibility and the opportunities available at all levels.

This is something that the Pedal Power campaign celebrates on a weekly basis as the Guardian aims to inspire more of our readers to get back on their bikes.

In this week’s edition we focus on a high achiever who is already competing and succeeding in national championships.

But this should not deter beginners from reading the article as 16-year-old Jacob Booth, our latest Pedal Power Ambassador, started cycling as a Guardian paperboy.

A TEENAGER from Middlewich is celebrating national success in front of thousands of people after competing in the Revolution Series at Manchester Velodrome.

Jacob Booth, who turned 16 in December, achieved his best result to date when he came third in one of his three races on Saturday.

He described the excitement of the race, called a points race, which saw him take first place at one stage when he sprinted ahead of his nearest rival in front of a 3,000-strong audience.

“He had eased off enough so I could get on his wheel,” Jacob said.

“He was staring back at me – he’s the national road race champion and a really strong rider.

“We had half a lap to go to the sprint and I thought ‘if no-one else is going to go, I might as well take it’ so I stepped on the gas and heard the commentator shout my name and heard the crowd, I heard my parents on the stand over everyone else, and I managed to win the sprint.

“I came third in the end but it’s still a big achievement in a race against the best guys in the country.”

Jacob was racing in the Future Stars event, which is for the top 20 up-and-coming riders in the country, and placing third was an enormous achievement for the Manor Crescent schoolboy, who only started racing on January 7 last year.

In fact, despite doing his paper round on what he described as a ‘rusty mountain bike’ for three years, Jacob only took up cycling seriously less than two years ago, in summer 2012, when the rest of his family took up the hobby.

His mum Sally and dad Phil were the first to get bitten by the road cycling bug, soon followed by his younger sister Georgia, now 13, but Jacob was reluctant to join in on his mountain bike.

He managed to persuade his dad to buy him a standard road bike from Halfords, and soon left Phil standing.

“I started going out near on every week,” he said.

“Then, because my dad’s 6ft 2in and quite a strong built guy, whenever we got to a hill I dropped him.

“When we went to Bala camping me and dad went out on a ride and went up the highest pass in Wales.

“When I got to the top there were two guys there and they were astonished that this kid had turned up on a bike that one of them had had before so knew how difficult it would have been to get up that hill.

“Then dad came up.

“They asked if I was on any team – I wasn’t but it got me a bit interested.”

The Booths investigated how Jacob could get on a team and discovered that the best route for him would be to go to the Manchester Velodrome and take up track racing, like his idols Chris Hoy, Ed Clancy and Bradley Wiggins.

He got a place in October 2012 and quickly worked his way through the ranks to start racing in January 2013.

He rides for the Sportcity Velo team, taking part in a weekly track league.

At first he was mortified when he came last, but within six weeks he had won his first race and started to work his way through the under 16 groups.

He competed in the national championships in August, taking part in the five different events and finishing in the top 20 in four.

Then came the Revolution Series Round One in September, when Jacob was on the reserve list and got called up to compete 24 hours before the event.

“That was the first time I had done a big event where there was more than one race in the day,” he said.

“I’d never raced in front of a crowd either.

“I came middle of the bunch in everything, I didn’t do amazing, I made some rookie mistakes and came 16th overall.”

Saturday’s racing was Round Three, when Jacob was called in to substitute for the second time.

“I thought if I’m going to make my mark I may as well do it now,” he said.

“I’m in the junior category now which means I’ve got bigger gears and it’s against men now, there’s no messing around.”

Jacob, who is in his GCSE year at Sandbach School, was thrilled with his performance on the day but remains reassuringly grounded and humble about his potential, despite having some big dreams.

“Even if I don’t make it I’ve still got all these great memories,” he said.

“How many people can say they’ve raced against Ed Clancy and Jason Kenny in front of a 3,000-strong crowd?

“Because I’m quite a diverse rider I would like to think that the opportunities for me are as wide as my imagination.

“This could be a pipe dream but but to be in an Olympic event would be amazing.”

Track racing involves a fixed gear bike, which means the rider cannot freewheel, with no brakes.

It takes place on oval tracks which have steep banking to help the riders maintain high speeds.

There are a wide variety of races for as wide a variety of riders, including sprint, endurance and highly tactical races.

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