As published in the Bury Times 3rd February 2017
A WORLD of pain lies in store for ambitious young cyclist Jake Wright, but the 17-year-old cannot wait to embrace the trials and tribulations of life as a pro rider.
In a few months, the Holy Cross College student will be sitting his final A Level exams in PE, physics and chemistry.
But his biggest test this year will be in the saddle, as the Bury Clarion rider bids to secure a seat in top under-23s outfit Zappi Racing.
Wright is part of the junior team and has been invited to take part in a training camp in Spain with them this month. He will then turn out for Zappi in the Circuito de Guadiana – a junior classic race – at the end of half-term.
The young student will also juggle the pressures of revision and competition over the spring with two more rides in junior classic races in Belgium – the Guido Reybrouke and Nokere Koerse – in March, before going to Spain again in the Easter holidays.
And, if everything goes to plan, Wright’s focus will turn from the classroom to the mountains of the Basque country in July, when he rides in the Bizkaiko Itzulia.
The field in the international stage race will include the best young riders in the world, aged from 16 to 18, offering the former Castlebrook High School pupil the chance to prove his worth on the kind of terrain he hopes to navigate in World Tours in the future.
“My long-term aim is to secure a place on a World Tour team before I am 23,” said Wright, who lives in Ajax Drive, Sunnybank.
“Yes, the terrain and racing is brutal, but I think I am built for it.
“It is hard to explain, but I enjoy the pain – I welcome it.
“I was on the turbo (bike) the other week doing a training session while watching the Tour Down Under (in Australia).
“The harder the guys on the TV pushed themselves the more effort I put in. I wanted to match them – it’s what I enjoy.”
While becoming a professional sportsman may be the dream of many a young teenager, Wright’s ambition is not pie-in-the-sky – he has the results and pedigree to back it up.
Last year he won the national 25-mile junior time trial championships aged 17 in a field largely made up of 18-year-olds.
Wright will be unable to defend his title this year as he will be racing in Belgium, but he has committed to competing in the national 10-mile competition.
“It’s a shame I can’t try to win it again, but the race in Belgium is a prestigious one and if I do well in that it will give me a better chance to earn a place in an international team,” explained Wright. “But the 10-mile title is something I am keen to win and I will be going for a new British record. The mark was set last year at 18mins 44secs, and I definitely feel I have got it in me to go faster.”
Wright has been fortunate enough to follow in the slipstream of the Yates brothers – Adam and Simon – who have blazed a trail from the ranks of Bury Clarion to contention in the world’s biggest road races.
Their exploits in the Tour de France, Olympics and Vuelta a Espana last year only strengthened the youngster’s belief.
“They have obviously been a massive inspiration for me,” said Wright, who followed his father Gavin’s lead to join Bury Clarion as a 13-year-old and quickly progressed from local and regional competitions to the international stage.
“When I had just joined the Clarion the Yates’ brothers’ dad was on a group ride and I remember asking him loads of questions about how they progressed.
“I can also chart my progress in comparison to their results for Bury Clarion when they were my age, and I have access to their training times online so I can cycle the same routes in the area and test myself against their times.”
Trying to get a ride with Zappi is also following the blueprint they set. Both Simon and Adam spent a year with an under-23s team in France after finishing school and it proved a good move.
“Hopefully, I can build up the same level of experience and then use that to get a ride with one of the big World Tour teams,” Wright added.
Wright could certainly do far worse than hooking up with Zappi, which is run by former pro racer Flavio Zappi.
While the team is based in Italy, it is largely made up of the best young GB riders and run by British team managers Paul Quarterman and Jerrod Hartley.
After spotting his talent while riding with the Identity team last year, Quarterman invited Wright to guest ride for Zappi at the Bizkaiko Itzulia.
He was well set in fifth place in the first-year riders and 25th overall before mechanical problems and then a nasty crash curtailed his progress.
The young Bury rider impressed enough to be invited onto the team, and has been fixed up with a full-time coach in Magnus Backstedt, winner of the 2004 Paris-Roubaix.
“Magnus has obviously been there and done it, so I couldn’t be happier – I am already learning a lot,” said Wright.
“Obviously, I have a lot going on this year with my exams, but I am only really doing them because my parents want me to have something to fall back on!
“My plan is to get them out of the way and then really commit full time to the racing and give it my best shot.
“If I can push for honours at the Bizkaiko Itzulia then that would be a good start, and hopefully a place in the under-23s team will follow.”