A national champion in the team pursuit in 2001, Rod Ellingworth is now the man in charge of Britain?s Academy riders at their base in Italy.

You obviously enjoy your job as Academy manager?

It?s much more than a job, it?s a passion and it?s easy to put more in than is required sometimes.

Do you wish the Academy had been around when you were on the racing scene?

Yes; it was different when I was riding but things move on. This is how it is now, and to be honest I am really pleased and proud to be part of it.

What would you say have been the best moments in your time with the Academy?

Seeing Mark Cavendish coming through and do what he?s done this year. He?s always been a winner, and his success doesn?t surprise me, but his development and what he has taken from the Academy is a highlight for me.

Any down times?

When you get run off the road by people in cars or roughed up in races, and when the lads aren?t getting on particularly well, you can feel a bit on your own and begin to question what you are doing at times.

But living in Tuscany must be a bonus?

It?s great. For cycling it?s very good, and the food is wonderful ? look at the size of me!

What?s your relationship with the locals like?

There is a really good group of people in the town who enjoy us being there and are very supportive. I think they see that we are serious in what we are doing, and obviously we spend a fair bit of money. They are really behind us, but at the same time we have to be aware that if we do something wrong they will soon be against us. We respect their ways and try to live an Italian life, which is part of what you have to do when you are abroad.

What do you do to relax?

When you are full-time you do tend to want to work 24/7, so it?s important to make sure you take time away. We?ve got Lucca just down the road and Florence is 20 minutes away, so it could be worse!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

What we?re about is 2012 and I?d like to see myself involved in the Olympic Games. London is a massive objective, and taking a young team you have grown up with, and delivering them on the best of their form, would give a great sense of achievement. There is talk of maybe a pro team within the British scene, and being involved with that as well would be great. I see myself as being still very much a part of British Cycling.

Any advice for aspiring Academy riders?

Get out there and just enjoy bike racing. At 13 and 14 is the time you learn from clubruns and racing, and not by doing specific training and efforts ?that can come later.