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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Ian Parker

It’s been an awful few days – ‘Emotional’ Fred Wright eyes first British title

PA Archive

Fred Wright is hoping his first professional win comes in the shape of a British title this week as he takes on Wednesday’s time trial and Sunday’s road race at the national championships.

The 24-year-old has made his name in the past couple of years with a series of plucky breakaway attempts, most notably at the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, which brought podium finishes. But missing from the palmares is a victory.

If Wright can fix that this week it will be a significant marker, but also a hugely emotional moment for him personally just days after his Bahrain-Victorious team-mate Gino Mader died as a result of injuries suffered in a crash at the Tour de Suisse last week.

When asked about Mader, who was 26, Wright struggled for words.

“I don’t know what to say about it, it’s so difficult,” he said. “It’s been an awful few days, I’ll just leave it at that. It puts so much into perspective. Just even being asked the question gets me emotional.”

And when asked what a victory in Wednesday’s time trial at the Croft Circuit near Darlington would mean to him, Wright again wrestled with his feeling

“I don’t really know at this point,” he said. “I’d be really happy, but I think with everything that’s happened it doesn’t mean f*** all to be honest. Not that it doesn’t mean f*** all, but I just really want to race my bike and enjoy racing my bike. You find a new appreciation for it, I think.”

Wright finished a close second to Ben Swift when Lincoln hosted the nationals in 2021, a race which finished with the steep cobbled climb of Michaelgate.

Sunday’s race around Saltburn-by-the-Sea is an even more challenging one, defined by the 10 ascents of Saltburn Bank and its 22 per cent gradients, but with plenty of climbing in between too.

It's been an awful few days. Just even being asked the question gets me emotional
— Fred Wright on the death of Gino Mader

Geraint Thomas is on a star-studded start list and backed by several Ineos Grenadiers team-mates, while Lewis Askey, Jake Stewart, Simon Carr and Owain Doull will also line up.

Wright will be racing without any team-mates and must use his breakaway expertise if he is to make a mark, but he believes in his form.

“I think with how I’m feeling on the bike at the moment I would say it suits me,” he said. “I’m not really worried. In the Dauphine (earlier this month) on the shorter climbs I felt really comfortable so I should be all right, we shall see.

“I think I just go into it knowing I’ve got a target on my back. Jake, who is a good mate of mine, has already said he’s just going to follow me. He’s got three team-mates in the race and they’re going to sit down and say, ‘Just make sure you’re with Fred’.

“But when the course is as hard as it is, on a flat road you can get followed and waste a lot of energy, but if you go for it uphill the person behind also has to work hard. I think the course being harder hopefully makes it easier to manage the fact I’m more watched.”

Wright’s decision to race the time trial was a late one. Encouraged by the fourth place he took in the time trial at the Dauphine, Wright spied an opportunity after two-time reigning champion Ethan Hayter, his former housemate, was forced to withdraw with a broken collarbone.

“I think I’ve got a good shot at winning it,” he said. “What happened to Ethan, as much as I love him, did influence my decision to ride.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to do and then when I saw he wasn’t going to do it I thought it’s good to have a hit out.”

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