Yorkshire 2019: Leeds teenage prospect Watson eyes the ideal birthday present

YORKSHIRE RISING star Sam Watson will turn 18 Tuesday, but the Leeds-born prospect has an even bigger date coming up later in the week.

Saturday, 21st September 2019, 6:45 am

Two days after his birthday Watson will represent Great Britain in the junior men’s race at the UCI World Road Championships in his home county.

Watson is already a veteran of the event, having finished 37th in Innsbruck last year, but competing in a home Worlds is something some top riders never get to experience.

“It is a good birthday present,” said the youngster, who has been riding seriously since under-16 level and is a near-neighbour of another Leeds star, Tom Pidcock, who will also be riding in the worlds, though not in the same race.

Leeds' Sam Watson taking part in the Junior mens race at last year's UCI world championships in Innsbruck. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

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“I am really excited, it has been a massive motivation all year.

“It is a massive dream and it could be a once in a lifetime experience, doing a world championship on the roads I train on every weekend and throughout the week.

“The middle part of the course is the roads I ride every week and I have been out to Richmond and recced the first part of the course and the first big climb and obviously I know Harrogate as well.”

The 148km route begins in Richmond at 12.10pm and concludes over three laps of a 14km course through Harrogate, with the winning rider expected to cross the line at around 3.45pm.

GB's Sam Watson, left, and Mason Hollyman at the start in Kufstein at last year's UCI World Cycling Championships. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Watson likes the course and is upbeat about his prospects.

He said: “I never go into a race thinking I can’t win.

“I am aiming to win the rainbow bands (awarded to the world champion), if not me, then the team.

“We have a really strong team, lots of options and I’d say nearly every rider in the team is capable.

Sam Watson, competing in the OVO Energy Tour Series for Fensham Howes MAS Design. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“Sometimes I struggle getting over really long, steep climbs, but now I’ve ridden the whole course from the start there’s nothing that can do too much damage to me.

“I know the roads like the back of my hand, so the course does suit me.”

Last year’s championship, won by Belgium’s Remco Evenepoel, was “a really good experience” for Watson and has given him a taste of what to expect next week, in terms of the build-up if not the actual race.

“I went into that thinking I could win,” he conceded.

“But when you are up against people like Remco it is quite hard.”

Watson’s long-term ambition is to turn professional and eventually ride at World Tour level, the equivalent of football’s Premier League.

“I definitely want a career out of cycling,” he confirmed. “I want to be a well-known rider, winning big races in my career.

“That is the ultimate aim for me.”

Watson is fresh from the Keizer der Juniores in Belgium where he placed third overall, finishing fifth, third and second on the three stages.

“I am very happy with the way I am going,” he said of his form ahead of next week’s huge challenge.

“Over in Belgium I was never outside the top-five in a three-stage race against the Americans and Dutch and people like that, so I am happy.”