Ethan Vernon is spoiling for a sprint duel with trade team-mate Mark Cavendish as his attention turns from track to road at the Commonwealth Games.
The Bedford peddler has focused his efforts on a debut season on the UCI World Tour with giants Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl where he is being groomed as a one-day Classic rider.
But a home Games chance with Team England proved too tempting to ignore as he returned to the London boards having been part of the British track team at the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s been a really special Games to experience with a home crowd,” said Vernon, who is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
“It’s arguably more special than the Olympics because there was no crowd there. That roar when you get out of the gate is brilliant.”
Joined by Oliver Wood, Charlie Tanfield and Dan Bigham, Vernon collected bronze as part of the reformed English team pursuit squad on the opening night of racing.
The closure to British Cycling’s Manchester base has caused disruption to the central programme but the 21-year-old remains optimistic for the near future in the blue riband event.
He said: “We haven’t been together as much since Tokyo and I’ve been away, so we’ve been a bit all over the place, but I think we’re coming together quite well.
“We’re putting out some good times, faster than we were going pre-Olympics. We’re all really motivated, and we’ve got an even bigger group of riders who are pushing each other on.
“It will be interesting to see how we go at the World Championships, we’ve got a few more sessions before then.”
Vernon’s final velodrome involvement came in the kilo time trial where he finished sixth in a time of 1:01.418, nearly 1.5 seconds short of the time required for a medal.
“I haven’t done much work, so I don’t know what I was expecting,” he said. “I was a few tenths off my personal best so I’m quite disappointed, but not many guys went that fast.”
Vernon will now hotfoot it to the host city of Birmingham where he is entered in the six-strong English squad for the men’s road race, that passes through Leamington Spa and finishes in Warwick.
There is a climb in the latter part of the course that is likely to sort the wheat from the chaff, but the youngster believes a bunch sprint is on the cards.
Legendary sprinter Cavendish will represent the Isle of Man, having carried their flag at the Opening Ceremony.
He was overlooked by Quick-Step bosses for the Tour de France but showed his inimitable class in taking the British title earlier this season.
Vernon idolised Cavendish growing up and the pair have roomed together will on the road with Quick-Step.
He said: “It’s quite a messy kind of circuit so for me it’s quite good. I’m hoping for a sprint, but it will be interesting going up against Cav.
“It’s a different type of race, a move will go and there will only be a few nations and a few guys in it. Marking riders will be key and I look forward to seeing where I am against him.”
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