Experience of 'brutal' Cyclo-cross World Championships course can only help says Oli Stockwell

Oli Stockwell in Team GB kit at the 2021 Cyclo-cross World Championships

Former Welwyn Wheeler Oli Stockwell charges across the sand in the U23 race at the 2021 Cyclo-cross World Championships. - Credit: ALEX WHITEHEAD/SWPIX.COM

Oli Stockwell says the experience of the 2021 Cyclo-cross World Championships can only help him as he prepares for the start of a new season.

The former Welwyn Wheeler placed 32nd in the U23 race at Ostend in Belgium on a "brutal course" that included climbs with a gradient of over 20 per cent and large parts on the sandy beach.

He had his share of troubles too but so too did the majority of the 45-strong field, including eventual winner Pim Ronhaar of the Netherlands and Ryan Kamp and Timo Kielich, who finished alongside him on the podium. 

London Colney's Stockwell said: "It was a brutal course. There’s nothing else quite like, nothing compares to it. 

"I had a good start but got dragged into the race and probably went a bit faster than I should have been. 

"I kind of died halfway through, I just ran out of legs, and from there I started making a few mistakes. 

"I crashed twice in the sand and then had a couple of mechanical issues in other parts of the course. 

"It was a great experience and totally different from last year. I went to the Worlds in the junior category and we had a massive crowd then. 

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"There was a different atmosphere but it was still a great experience to be there racing. 

"It was good to ride round [on the practice days] because you see the pros like Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel and you pick things up from their lines and stuff like that. 

"It’s little things that you might not think about but they make a difference."

The former Verulam School pupil was granted a place on the British Cycling senior academy in October, a pathway to hoped-for Olympic and international success, and Stockwell says that proved a godsend in a year where racing at his level was decimated by the pandemic.

"The academy has been really good," he said. "I didn’t get much racing done last year so it was good to get into the academy and get everything moving again and stuck into the races we could get to over the winter. 

"Hopefully we’ll have a good season but that depends on COVID-19 as well.

"I’m in the track endurance academy but I’m more of a road specialist. I’ll be doing track to supplement my training but not really going to track championships. 

"It’s all to help me on the road and with other aspects."

And after his exertions in Belgium, he is now preparing to start focusing fully on where 2021 will take him.

He said: "I’m going to have a week off now and then get stuck into some more training as I prepare for the road season.  

"I haven’t really drawn up my goals but hopefully I’ll get selected for the U23 UCI Nations Cup and the big races like that. 

"I don’t really have any expectations at the moment. I need to do some racing and see where I’m at but I miss road racing so much and can’t wait to get going."

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