A big year for rising star Rowe
Gary Baker on 22/03/2010
Nicole Cooke and Geraint Thomas have been flag-bearers for Welsh cycling around the world, and especially on the major European circuit.
But a lot of work is being done by many people - administrators and riders - to secure the next crop of talent to follow in the wheel-tracks of these two greats.
Already making their marks are teenagers like Cwmcarn's Sam Harrison and Jon Mould, of Newport, on the men's side.
Then there is Wales' double world junior champion Becky James, from Abergavenny, who is a realistic gold medal hope for future Commonwealth Games medals on the track.
But the next big breakthrough rider could be Cardiff's Luke Rowe, who won the Madison Time Trial at the high-profile Revolution event on Manchester's Velodrome this month along with Olympic Games silver medallist Craig MacLean.
Rowe is still young - he turned 20 on March 10 - but has already accumulated a raft of experience as part of the Great Britain Academy squad that is based in Italy.
He was too young to represent Wales in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games but, after developing his skills since then, has Delhi firmly in his sights this year.
Rowe said: "It will be special. All season, I race for Great Britain, which is pretty special as well - and I know Wales is included in that - but putting a Welsh jersey on and having the Dragon on my back means a lot."
The Cardiff youngster, whose brother Matt is 'living the dream' by riding over in Australia at the moment, stays just around the corner from Olympic gold medallist Thomas at the British camp in Tuscany.
And there former Tour de France rider Max Sciandri oversees their development.
Rowe said: "It's a really big year for me now. I have to move myself up from last year.
"Last year, I could not have asked for anything more. Now, we have a good plan as far as racing is concerned."
His landmark victory was in the ZLM Tour in the Netherlands last year when he beat Czech Republic man Vojtech Hacecky by two seconds after over four hours in the saddle.
And he is eager to stand on top of the podium there again. "It is one of my targets. When you win something, you like to defend it well."
Other targets are the Baby Giro around Italy and the junior Tour de France.
"For me, this season is massive particularly with Team Sky (the senior British professional squad) establishing themselves.
"I'm now just trying to get in the steady miles on the flat. It is too cold and snowy to go up the mountains yet but, in April, we should be looking at 25 degree days."
So, for his 20th birthday, Rowe's Academy team-mates in Tuscany made him a cake and they went out 'for a few beers'.
But now the celebrations are behind him and it is hard work all the way through to October and that India adventure in a Welsh jersey.
"I'm pretty much teetotal through the season. I've got to watch my weight too but I'm really looking forward to this now," said Rowe.
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