Cycling has been included in the Commonwealth Youth Games on three occasions, making its debut at Bendigo 2004 before being included at Isle of Man 2011 and Bahamas 2017. As part of our Sport Focus on Cycling we catch up with three former Commonwealth Youth Games cyclists on their experience competing for Team Scotland and what they are doing now…
At Bendigo 2004, the only Youth Games to date to feature Track, Road and Mountain Bike events, Scotland was represented by four athletes: Kevin Barclay, Shane Charlton, Stuart McManus and Catherine Niblock, with Scotland’s best result at these Games coming from Shane Charlton with 7th place in the 1km Time Trial. One of the youngest in the team at 16, Kevin Barclay took a top 10 finish in the Points race and 19th in the Scratch 10km. He looks back on his Youth Games experience and how it has helped him as a rider and as a coach:
“It was very early in my cycling career that I was selected for the Youth Games, so this was my first time racing abroad and my first time representing Scotland. It was a steep learning curve with all the help and information I gained from the support staff, but it was a major achievement to me that I was selected and I was proud to be representing my country.
“Bendigo is hot in December! Going from training in 4-5 degrees in Scotland to 40 degrees in Australia was a challenge. The people in Bendigo itself were so interested in the racing and keen to watch every event they could and it really added to the atmosphere of the Youth Games and made the experience slightly surreal! The Velodrome itself was a D shape and not an oval like every other velodrome I had raced on previously. The racing was different to what I was used to at that time and I would have been one of the youngest riders in the cycling events. I remember the speed being relentless in each race.
“It was my first multi-sport competition and it was interesting to see how other sports approach things differently. I think this is something that has stayed with me, both as a rider and now as a coach, that sometimes finding new ways to improve in your discipline, you may need to look outside your own sport.
“I’m still cycling and competing, but my main focusing now is in the coaching side of the sport. It’s an area I’m really enjoying as I can pass on my experience to others and help them to improve. My riders also keep me on my toes!”
Road Cycling was back on the programme for the Isle of Man 2011 Games and Scotland’s four cyclists (Jack Barrett, Grant Ferguson, Taylor Johnstone and Stuart McCluskey) performed well amid a host of World and European champions. Grant Ferguson in particular pushed the medal winners close coming 11th in the Time Trial, sixth in the Road Race and fifth in the Criterium. He went on the represent Team Scotland at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games and Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. He says his Youth Games experience was great preparation for those multi-sport events:
“I was in the early stages of my career when I was selected for the Youth Games. I was in the junior category and still at school so it was a busy time with lots of different races on each weekend, but I remember being very excited to be selected to represent Scotland. It was my first multi-sport Games and I had always wanted to represent Scotland at a big competition so I couldn’t wait.
“I remember getting to meet a wide range of athletes and making friends from all the different sports. The competition was hard but it went well and we got to watch some of the other sports after the cycling events which was fun.
“I learnt about how to operate at a multi-sport competition which is a different environment and atmosphere to a cycling specific event. I think it prepared me very well for Glasgow, Rio and Gold Coast and it gave me the opportunity to learn and develop my career. I also got to meet all the Team Scotland staff during Isle of Man which was lovely and their help and knowledge during all my Games since has been perfect. It was nice to meet athletes in the Isle of Man that I got to meet again at future Games and see their careers progressing at the highest level.
“My proudest achievements in cycling are representing Scotland at three Commonwealth Games events and Team GB at the Rio Olympics. For the coming year my goals revolve around the World Cup Series and World Championships in Germany. I’d like to get back into the top 20 of Elite and hopefully go even better. The Birmingham 2022 Games will definitely also be in my plans, it’s a venue that we have competed on regularly over the past few years and it’s an exciting goal to have.”
Team Scotland’s first Youth Games Cycling medals came at the most recent edition of the Games, Bahamas 2017, where Team Scotland was represented by Dylan Hughes, Stephen Dent and Rhona Callander. Dylan made history as Scotland’s first ever Youth Games Cycling medallist with silver in the Time Trial, swiftly followed by Rhona taking the sport’s first gold with victory in the Road Race on the final day of the Games. Rhona takes us on a short trip down memory lane to her historic win two years ago:
“When I was selected for the Commonwealth Youth Games I was on the GB Junior Team but I was so excited to be selected because I’d never raced for Scotland on an international stage before. It’s always such a privilege to wear the jersey. And of course I thought going to the Bahamas was pretty cool!
“Aside from the cycling some of my best memories are playing pool in the hotel with my teammates and other people from other nations and sports. And the yoga in the sea was something else as well! I had no idea I was Scotland’s first cycling gold medallist at the Commonwealth Youth Games at the time. It was an amazing feeling when I crossed the line though!
“I learnt so much from the trip. It was my first international multi-sport Games and it can be pretty easy to be swept away with all the hype going on. So when I was at the European Games this year I was able to focus on my performance.
“I was so happy to be selected for U23 Europeans and Senior European Games this year. In terms of race results I was most happy with my performance at Healthy Ageing Tour [an annual UCI stage race for women held in the Netherlands] this year. I really didn’t expect to get into the first echelon every day because the wind was such a big factor. But everything seemed to go pretty well for me!” [Rhona finished the Tour in 2nd place in the Youth Classification and 12th in the General Classification]