Fred Wright has predicted there will be another British winner of the men’s road world championships within the next decade as a fresh golden generation emerges.
While Britain has produced four different female world champions on the road, Mark Cavendish was only the second British man to win the rainbow jersey with his 2011 victory in Copenhagen coming 46 years after Tom Simpson’s triumph.
The likes of Belgian Wout Van Aert, Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel and Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar are the favourites for Sunday’s race in Wollongong but it has already been a good week for Britain in Australia, highlighted by the junior time trial titles won by Zoe Backstedt and Josh Tarling.
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Tom Pidcock would have been among the favourites for the men’s road race but the Olympic mountain bike champion and Tour de France stage winner ended his season early as the efforts of a gruelling two years caught up with him.
But Wright, who will race in a team that also includes emerging talents Ethan Hayter, Jake Stewart, Ben Tulett and Ben Turner, sees a bright future as Britain seeks riders that can follow in the footsteps of Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas – who between them won six Tours in seven years.
“There are so many young British pros coming through – more than ever – and British cycling is in a really good place, it’s only going to get better from here,” the 23-year-old said.
“The guys I was juniors racing with, Tom, Jake, Ethan, we were all good mates, we all want to see each other succeed. I don’t know if it’s going to happen on Sunday, we really want it to. But at some point we’re going to have a British world champion in the next years.”
Wright, who rides for Bahrain-Victorious, has done a lot of learning in 2022, taking on back-to-back Grand Tours for the first time in his career as he raced the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.
He was a regular presence in breakaways in both, with a string of near-misses as he sought his first stage win. But he admitted the workload had taken its toll – he did not even want to look at his bike as he spent a few days at his parents’ house in London between the Vuelta and flying to Australia.
Although Wright lit up the Vuelta with attacking racing that also saw him finish second in the points classification, he ended the race famous for other reasons after a video released by Jumbo-Visma showed two-time overall winner Primoz Roglic blaming Wright for a crash that ended the Slovenian’s race.
Roglic’s claims caused consternation – few who saw the crash could identify anything Wright did wrong as he contested a sprint finish – but though Wright admitted Roglic’s accusations affected him at the time, he is now happy to chalk it up as another learning experience.
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“At the time it was a pretty sleepless night,” Wright said. “I got quite a lot of messages, 98 per cent were all positive but I still had a stage I was trying to win so there was quite a lot going on.
“Since then there have been a lot of memes saying it’s my fault for random things. I saw one yesterday with Annemiek van Vleuten’s crash (in the mixed team time trial) and someone had photoshopped me into the background.
“It was a weird one. It was quite out of the blue from them. I’ve come across similar situations, but most importantly all the guys in the bunch the next day were, ‘I hope you’re alright, that was really odd’.
“It was easy to deal with because straightaway it was, ‘why have they come out and said this?'”