The Great Britain cycling team has an ace up its sleeve at this weekend’s inaugural Velothon Wales.
Composite national teams are largely intended to offer young riders a taste of home races, or in the case of Josh Edmondson at the Tour de Yorkshire, a chance to prove their worth.
But at the UCI 1.1 race, which starts and finishes in Cardiff, the six-man GB team includes one of the in-form Under-23 riders on the Continent: Dan Pearson.
The 21-year-old resides in Italy, racing for Zalf-Fior following an off-season move from Zappi’s CT, and in early June took third place at the Giro Pesche Nettarine, a U23 mountainous stage race in Northern Italy, having placed third on the queen stage.
The 2011 national junior road race champion’s form has steadily improved since winning April’s Coppa Ardigo-Pessina Cremonese and then gaining the mountain classification on May 10 at the Trofeo Città di San Vendemiano. His prelude for returning home was a seventh-placed finish at the Trofeo Degasperi.
His results have come, handily for the Velothon, on mountain stages and flat terrain – typical of Saturday’s 195km race that includes two ascents of The Tumble and three laps of Caerphilly Mountain before a fast, flat run in to Cardiff.
It is not just Pearson’s form that places the GB team as potential winners, but the local knowledge of Pearson and teammate Owen James whose knowhow of the roads could be crucial.
“That can only be an advantage for the GB boys,” James, 19, of Zappi’s, told Cycling Weekly.
“I’ve raced track for a lot of years, living in Newport (where Welsh Cycling is based), so I know the roads around there and Caerphilly very well. Nothing will surprise us.
“We haven’t decided the team plan yet but Dan is going very well at the moment so we will probably work for him.”
Just like Pearson, James has specifically swapped the Italian countryside for the rolling Welsh hills to participate in the country’s biggest cycling event which will see 15,000 riders ride a replica of the professional route in a 140km and 50km sportive.
For James, who grew up in Carmarthenshire, the race – which is part of the Velothon Majors series, with similar races in Berlin, Vienna and Stockholm – offers Wales a chance to showcase its cycling credentials.
“The roads are perfect for cycling in Wales: fast, hilly, remote and largely empty,” he described.
“It’s just what Wales needs. You see how massive cycling is in Yorkshire and there’s no reason why Wales can’t be similar.
“It’s a shame the big guys, like Team Sky, aren’t there but they’ve got bigger fish to fry at the moment.
“It will only get bigger, though, and I can see Sky and others racing in future editions.”
He won’t be the only Carmarthen rider crossing the finish line in the Welsh capital, as well. “Everyone I know is riding the sportive. Everyone!”