Geraint Thomas?s loss in Beijing was certainly the gain of youngster Steven Burke, who picked up a bronze medal in the individual pursuit and, with it, cast aside any lingering disappointments he may have had from this year?s World Track Championships.
Burke only heard that Thomas was focusing on the team pursuit ? and that he had his big chance ? hours before he was due to ride the individual pursuit.
But now the 20 year old from Colne in Lancashire is hot property and has been thrust into the limelight as part of the all-conquering British track team. His next target is the World Cup.
CW: It?s been quite a year for you.
SB: I was really disappointed with my performance at the Worlds in the scratch, and only coming sixth in the omnium, but I managed to turn that around. It just made me more motivated to do well.
But you were chosen for Beijing. That must have been a huge thrill.
SB: I wanted to be selected for the Olympics and, once I got there, I didn?t expect to perform. There wasn?t really much pressure, which worked to my advantage and I managed to come up with the goods.
You need a rest, don?t you?
SB: Well, it?s the end of my season so I will have a month off but I have the World Cup at the end of October and into November. Hopefully, I?ll be riding the team pursuit and also the individual pursuit.
How much notice did you get before hearing that you were riding the individual pursuit in Beijing?
SB: I knew on the Thursday morning and I was racing in the qualifying rounds on the Friday. I was originally training for the team pursuit.
So you didn?t have any chance to get nervous beforehand then?
SB: That was a good thing in one way, but I didn?t have any individual preparation, which I tried to put to the back of my mind and get on with it.
You are only young so it is onwards and upwards, with hopefully more medals and the London Olympics to look forward to. How do you keep your feet on the ground?
SB: You have to be grounded, really, because there are so many other good riders out there who want to beat you. You have to maintain performance and keep training hard. If I ride the individual, I will be hoping to medal there but I won?t expect too much. I will just expect to do a good performance.
Positions are so hot in the team pursuit squad now that you have to be right on the ball all the time to stay there.
SB: Definitely. This season, there were eight riders going for the team pursuit and only five went to Beijing and, at the end of the day, only four could ride. That shows you the competition, really, and how strong you have to be.
Every year you have won something, either as a junior or under-23, at national, world or European level.
SB: Yes. Since I was 15, I?ve won the national title and that put a bit of pressure on me this year [against Rob Hayles in the individual pursuit] because I knew it would be a fair battle and I wanted to keep that record going.
With everything else to win, the National Championships status could be relegated in importance, so how does it rate to you?
SB: I wanted to go to Manchester this year and perform. I know there are the Olympics and Worlds but it still means a lot to win the British title.
You are still only 20. How did you cope with the tough training regime before the Olympics?
SB: I had to adapt to it or not be selected, really. At the end of the day, I had to up my game. A year ago, I wouldn?t have thought I would be able to do this but the senior coaches were very good, as was my own coach, Rod Ellingworth. They prepared me for it, going to the camps and then to the Olympics themselves.
What were you doing a year ago, then?
SB: I did the World Cup in Manchester and got bronze in the team pursuit there. A few months later, I went to the Euros and got bronze in the individual and won the team pursuit. I?ve mainly done pursuit races up to now. That is my strength, really. They are my best two events so I?d better stick with them.
What was it like back home in Colne when you returned with the medal?
SB: There were so many people who put on a parade for me. I didn?t think there would be that many people there so it was a bit of a shock when I got to the train station in Colne.
Have you been able to adapt to your new-found fame?
SB: I just focus on maintaining my performance, train hard and not get big-headed.
It was pretty refreshing to hear the honesty of the track boys, compared with other athletes, who played up their medal chances, saying if we don?t come back from Beijing with this amount of medals, we will be kicking ourselves.
SB: There was a medal target and I think we exceeded that. It was high but we managed to do the business. We won seven golds, four silvers and two bronzes, and it was great to be part of it.
So, in that respect, how did the team manage to console Mark Cavendish, who came away with nothing?
SB: But he has won four stages of the Tour de France! Obviously, he was a bit gutted but he has won so many other big races.
People like Cavendish and Geraint Thomas are about your age. Do you bounce a lot of things off each other?
SB: Yes, and there is Ed Clancy as well, who helped encourage me and spur me on.
Overall, has this given you a taste of what is to come?
SB: Yes, and hopefully I?ve just got to push on and keep going.
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Founded in 1891, Cycling Weekly and its team of expert journalists brings cyclists in-depth reviews, extensive coverage of both professional and domestic racing, as well as fitness advice and 'brew a cuppa and put your feet up' features. Cycling Weekly serves its audience across a range of platforms, from good old-fashioned print to online journalism, and video.
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