Rob Scott is one of our ‘U23 riders to watch‘ this year, and for good reason. 2018 was a year of confirmation for the 20-year-old Team Wiggins LeCol rider. In his second year as an under-23 rider, he confirmed his promise as one of the country’s top young road racing talents by winning the under-23 British road race champions jersey.
Hailing from Yorkshire, Scott is entering his third year at Team Wiggins LeCol. His first season was a year of adjustment to the under-23 ranks. But last season was an outstanding one. His under-23 British road race jersey was won by coming an impressive 4th in the British road race championships, narrowly missing in the sprint for a podium place to Team Sky rider Owain Doull. He kicked on after the nationals, grabbing 2nd place on stage 3 of the UCI 2.2 stage race Kreiz Breizh Elites, and then following this up with 2nd in the Leicester Castle Classic behind teammate Gabriel Cullaigh. And on the criterium scene, he picked up podium places in the Aberdeen and Stevenage rounds of the Tour Series and then won the Skipton Town crit in July.
Winning the under-23 national jersey has given him extra confidence for the season ahead. With two years left at the under-23 level, he now has ambitions to be competitive in the very best under-23 races in the world.
We caught up with Rob while he was training in Menton, France, ahead of his first race later this month in Turkey…
How did you get into cycling?
I had always enjoyed riding bikes as a kid just for the fun of it. Around the age of 10, I started to watch the Tour de France and that’s when I really got into my road cycling. I think I got my first road bike when I was about 11 years old and then started racing when I was 14 at the Richard Dunne cycle track in Bradford, where so many other riders from Yorkshire started out.
Looking back on your first two years as an under-23, how would you say they went?
I’m happy with the progression I’ve made since moving up to the under-23 ranks. The first year was always going to be tough but it’s important to just get your head down and crack on and you’ll find that you’ll just naturally improve. I enjoyed doing bigger races with Team Wiggins in my first year and the races gave me things to work on to improve.
My second year with Team Wiggins was my best season to date. It’s the season that I was aiming for and I’d just like to carry on the progression into the 2019 season and beyond.
The only thing that really matters is the result at the end of the race
What did you learn about yourself as a bike rider?
I think the best thing I have learnt this year is that the only thing that really matters is the result at the end of the race. It’s all well and good towing a break along to show your strength, but at the end, people only look at the finishing result. I’ve become better at reading races and making quick decisions during the race than in previous years.
At the nationals last season, you got into the winning break, which was formed quite early. Was it your strategy from the outset to get into the early break?
My thoughts were to get into the break and let the World Tour lads come across to it. That sort of happened but not how I’d imagined! I sat in the bunch for the first 40 minutes and pretty much moved up, attacked and ended up getting a move away, which the bigger group ended up coming across to.
At one point it looked like you might even contest the sprint finish for a win the race outright. Can you talk us through the race from your view?
To win the under-23 nationals was a goal that I’d had from the start of the year and was so I was happy to achieve it. The nationals are very unpredictable and hard to control, which probably showed on the race. But that day everything went very smoothly for me and with the combination of good legs I was well up there at the finish.
Coming into the last lap the cohesion in the group fell apart and that’s when people started attacking. Connor Swift attacked and I followed shortly after and was joined by the small group that contested 2nd place. When it got to that point, I started to think about the race overall. But I was always keeping tabs on Fred Wright in the last 5 kilometres as I didn’t want to make any silly mistakes which could cost me the under-23 title. As it turned out, it was a sprint for 3rd between Owain Doull, Fred and myself and I managed to pip Fred to the line.
I don’t want to turn up to a big race wearing the jersey just to roll around in the bunch. I want to show it off and hopefully win something in it!
What difference has it made to you, winning that under-23 road race jersey?
It has given me extra motivation, more than anything, to make sure that I perform well and I’m at my best for 2019. I don’t want to turn up to a big race wearing the jersey just to roll around in the bunch. I want to show it off and hopefully win something in it!
How have your preparations for this season gone?
Very well so far. I’ve been training well, getting some good miles in and around Menton in France and can’t wait to get back racing again.
How come you ended up in Menton?
My teammate Jacques [Sauvagnargues] has a flat out here, so we came out for a block in December and I am going to be here until we head to Turkey for the first race of the year. It still doesn’t compare to home roads though, it’s just that the weather is a bit more reliable this time of year!
What is your race programme looking like?
I’ll be kicking off the season at the Tour of Antalya in Turkey at the end of February which should be a good early season race to test the legs out. After that, we’ve got two one-day races in Belgium and France before heading to Portugal for the Volta ao Alentejo that we did last year. After that there’s a few under-23 races in April that I hope to be riding and perform well in.
The team has a smaller squad this season than last year. Do you think that will have any impact on the number of races you do or the opportunities you’ll have to race for yourself?
I think having a smaller squad could actually be better. Fewer riders mean you’re racing much more with the same riders, therefore we’ll get to know each other’s qualities and current form much better, making it a stronger team in my view.
What are your ambitions, both this season and beyond?
I have a few races that I am already targeting for next year. Mainly quite a few of the early season under-23 classics races. I like the idea of having a good crack at the under-23 Liège race. Although it is quite hilly, I like that terrain and could maybe get a result, depending on what my weight is at that time.
The world championships are being held in Yorkshire and the route will be on quite a few of my regular training roads, so getting selected and putting in a good performance there is a big goal. That’s a long way off at the moment but if I have a better year than 2018 and show consistency throughout the year, hopefully I could ride!
Long term though my aim is to step up to the World Tour from Team Wiggins and carry on progressing and developing. Above all, I want to be able to compete at that level and not just make the numbers up. The dream would be to win a stage of the Tour de France or Paris-Roubaix!
Scott’s first race, the Tour of Antalya, runs 21-24 February and takes place in Turkey. Check out our emerging British Continental race calendar to see other races that the team is confirmed to take part in.