A year ago at the track world championships in Holland, Ollie Wood found himself on the outside looking in.
The 22-year-old from Wakefield was the fifth man in the four-man team pursuit squad, an equation that meant while Ed Clancy and company raced to a world title Wood was inside the velodrome cheering them on.
Close, but not close enough.
No shame, mind, given the team pursuit has been British Cycling’s flagship squad over the years with a high number of hopefuls competing to earn a spot on the team.
Twelve months on Wood is back at a UCI Track World Championship, the 116th edition of the annual meet held over the next five days in Pruzkow, Poland.
Wood is again in the frame to ride the team pursuit, the qualifying round of which gets underway Wednesday at 1pm, along with the evergreen Ed Clancy, another Yorkshireman in Charlie Tanfield, and Kian Emadi and Ethan Hayter.
I thrive off working with other people. In the team pursuit there’s four of you and madison it’s just two of you, so it’s not just yourself you’re letting down, it’s someone else.Ollie Wood
Wood, now 23, is also scheduled to ride the two-man madison on the final night of the championships on Sunday, but being a part of the blue riband squad is the immediate goal.
“Team pursuit is the big thing for British cycling, it’s the event you can count on,” said Wood.
“Last year there was only me that wasn’t crowned a world champion. I was in the squad, but never raced.
“It’s not really that hard to swallow. There’s seven or eight of us vying for a place and I’d had a bit of sinusitis in the lead up to the worlds.
“But the other lads brought it home, and I’ll be trying to help them replicate that this year.”
Wood has turned any disappointment at being left out into an incentive, so much so that Clancy was moved to say in these pages on the announcement of the team that his fellow Yorkshireman “has come a long way over the last 12 months and has got an incredible turn of speed”.
The two of them together helped England to a silver behind hosts Australia in the Commonwealth Games team pursuit in April before Wood and Hayter claimed a bronze in the madison at August’s European Championships.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done in the past, if you’re not up to the job you don’t ride at that time,” said Wood, who has four rounds including the medal race to get into the team.
“I’m pretty confident, there’s not much between us. Someone will do qualifying and then whoever misses out will swap for someone for the first round, by which time you’ll see whose going better and put them in the final.
“Everyone has got something they need to work on. I’m in quite a privileged position because I can ride 1, 2, 3 or 4 in team pursuit.
“Hopefully I keep improving. My attitude is I still think I’m young, which I’m probably not.
“You don’t reach your peak until your mid-20s, I’m not sure of the science, but fingers crossed I’ve got more improving to do.”
Such versatility, not just in which position he rides in the team pursuit, but also in what other races he can contest, will stand him in good stead on the road to the Tokyo Olympics.
“I thrive off working with other people,” said Wood, who got into cycling aged 12 when his father traded in a Vesper scooter for a push bike.
“In the team pursuit there’s four of you and madison it’s just two of you, so it’s not just yourself you’re letting down, it’s someone else. But it works the other way, you could be doing well together.
“Sometimes the pressure when you’re on your own can be isolating; there’s less pressure in a team event.”
Wood will ride on the road for British continental team Canyon DHB in 2019 to aid his overall cycling development, with the destination of his future unknown at this early stage.
“I’m in quite a good position for next year. Hopefully if I can carry on the same trajectory it should be within my reach to make it to Tokyo,” he said of his track progress. “Long term? Hopefully tick off Tokyo and assess where I’m at. I do believe I could make a good road rider, on what level that would be I don’t really know yet.
“But hopefully capable of making a good living out of riding my road bike.”
Seventeen members of Britain’s 21-strong squad could be in action on day one in Poland, including Olympic golden couple Laura Kenny in the women’s team pursuit and husband Jason in the men’s team sprint.
Katy Marchant of Leeds – a bronze medallist in the sprint at the Rio Olympics – rides in the team sprint with Vicky Williamson, the sprint on Thursday and Friday, the women’s 500m time-trial on Saturday and the keirin on Sunday to complete a busy week for the 26-year-old.