Josh Tarling turns just 20 this week, on Valentine’s Day to be exact, yet the Welshman will likely head to the Olympics in Paris this summer as one of GB’s best hopes of at least one cycling medal.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider, European time trial champion no less, will head to Paris as one of the favourites for the race against the clock.
If it feels weird to describe a 20-year-old, in his second year as a pro, as a favourite for one of the biggest races of the year, it shouldn’t. In 2023, Tarling won the British nationals, came third at the World Championships, won a WorldTour time trial at the Renewi Tour, and the European title and then the Chrono des Nations. It was some year.
“It's cool, innit,” Tarling told Cycling Weekly of his status as a favourite. “It's defo cool. I try to block it out though, because otherwise I end up thinking about it.”
He will be ready for the event, his “main goal” for the season, with a look at the course already on the cards. The 34.2km route is one for pure rouleurs, with barely any elevation on the out-and-back loop from central Paris via the Bois de Vincennes.
“The coaches have reconned the course for me, and sent a few videos over,” Tarling explained. “We're going over, maybe after the Classics at some point. We'll have a look when the clocks go back. We can head out really early in the morning with no traffic. It looks good, it looks kind of perfect for me.”
The time trial will likely not be his only shot at Olympic glory, however. He is in contention to race on the track too, as part of the team pursuit squad.
“The challenge with the Olympics is that the number of riders you get is so complicated,” men’s endurance coach Ben Greenwood told CW last year. “It’s not like a World Championships where you pick who you want, in theory. You’ve got four [men’s endurance] riders for the track, and you can bring a fifth one in from another discipline. Realistically, it’s going to be someone from the road team that could do that.”
“It's looking good actually,” Tarling said of his chance to join the TP squad. “They went quick in the Euros, and it's a really nice group. I think I fit in well. There are a select number of riders the federation can take, so it helps to be on the road and track.
“I started maybe in December, November actually. I always used to go on the track anyway, so it was pretty easy to slip back in. I did a couple of small track races to qualify for this World Cup [Track Nations Cup] year. We've had a few camps recently, to get ready for the Euros and then the Adelaide Nations Cup.”
With the power that Tarling can put out on the road, he would be a shoe-in for many team pursuit lineups, but the riders GB have at their disposal mean he is not an automatic selection.
GB won gold at the Euros last month, with a quintet of Dan Bigham, Ethan Hayter, Ethan Vernon, Ollie Wood and Charlie Tanfield. One of these would have to make way for Tarling.
The Welshman, however, was part of the squad - also containing Tanfield, Rhys Britton, Will Tidball and Josh Charlton, who won gold at the Track Nations Cup in Adelaide last week.
He is definitely in the mix, with his almost guaranteed inclusion in the road squad working in his favour. It is set to be a big year for Tarling.
Ineos Grenadier's world-beating team pursuit?
Men’s WorldTour teams don’t tend to dabble in track cycling, but Ineos Grenadiers have, supporting their performance engineer Dan Bigham to the Hour Record, and then doing the same for their star rider, Filippo Ganna.
Perhaps they could do more, though, with the track talent they have on their hands - could a tilt at the team pursuit record be on the cards? Ineos have a history of supporting projects like this, with the brand also behind Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-two hour marathon.
Cycling Weekly put our idea of the all-star TP to Tarling, who did not immediately bat it away.
“Yeah,” he agreed with the strength on offer. “We've got me, [Filippo] Ganna, Elia [Viviani], and Ethan [Hayter]. And Dan [Bigham], we'll stick to just riders though. Elia would start it, then Ganna, then me, then Ethan. Maybe I'd go last, but I can't start very well. I need all the track help.”
It could be one for the road off-season, but it does not seem as outlandish as at first glance. Imagine the power.
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