'There aren't many places you can pull on a skinsuit and just hurt yourself': Josh Tarling praises UK time trialling as data shows rising average age

19-year-old TT star talks up the UK scene, but Spindata figures show 'inexorable' age increase in riders

Josh Tarling time trialling at Glasgow Worlds
Tarling hurting himself, not on a Wednesday night - at the World Championships in Glasgow
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ineos Grenadiers time trialling star Josh Tarling has been singing the praises of the UK scene, following his bronze medal in the World Championship time trial behind Remco Evenepoel and Filippo Ganna.

"I always loved it, and my dad used to do it… I think it's such an advantage that you can get from the UK," he said.

"There aren't many places where you can pull on a skinsuit on a Wednesday night and just hurt yourself," he added, "so it'd be rude not to use it."

Tarling, who was riding in his first senior World Championships having already won the junior title last year, put in a stunning and unexpected ride to take bronze.

The 19-year-old Welsh rider had returned to the UK ahead of the Nationals in June the get some 'testing' under his belt on UK courses. It clearly stood him in good stead, for he won the race comfortably.

"I came to the UK a week and a half before the Nationals just to get at least three good 10s and a 50, just to get kind of get dialled in," he said. "There's some awesome courses out there."

His comments come as time trialling results platform Spindata released data showing the average age of time triallists increasing almost by the year – a trend suggesting very little take-up at the younger end.

This was accompanied by a significant dip in participation at around the age of 18-20 as riders hit university age, the data showed.

Spindata's Dr Nick Wild said it was hoping to address this drop-off by working alongside British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS) to help improve the club provision at universities, which can be patchy.

"[At university] a lot of people are suddenly finding themselves in a big city," Wild said. "So access to club courses is probably not as easy as it perhaps was in their home environment. They haven't got a parent to drive them to events. And then there's all the other distractions that come with being 18." 

The median average age across all time trial participations has increased by a year or so almost year on year since 2017, with a dip during covid, the data show.

It rose from 46 in 2017 to 48 by 2019. Though there was a dip down to 45 during covid in 2020, it has since risen again, to 50 last year and 49 this year.

"It does look like there is a sort of an inexorable progression in the median," Wild said. "Which is a a good reason to try and get some more youngsters riding."

One piece of encouraging data from Spindata suggests the trend of a decline in rider numbers may have bottomed out, with an estimated 22,430 rides this year as opposed to 23,872 in 2022. Still a fall, but only a minor one compared to the drop from 30,843 the year before, which itself is down from 44,799 in 2017.

Wild was unable to point to any particular factor that has arrested the decline, but Cycling Time Trials' recent road bike initiative, which means riders can enter any event on a road bike and get a road bike result, could potentially have helped. 

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