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The Big Interview with Pete Williams
GOING for glory in the Tour of Ireland this week, professional cyclist Pete Williams tells STEVE CARROLL why he likes nothing better than getting on his bike in York.
CAUGHT inside the final kilometre, after being part of a break which had threatened to tear the opening stage apart, York cyclist Pete Williams took a back seat in the pack as the sprinters dominated.
For the man looking to go one better, it was still a confident start to the An Post Rás.
The race, otherwise known as the Tour of Ireland, takes the riders through some of the Republic’s toughest terrain – more than 1,200 kilometres around the likes of Kilrush, Blarney and Kildare.
Williams, 24, and his Motorpoint Pro Cycling team are hoping he will have chased down yellow jersey glory by the time of the tour’s climax in Skerries on May 29.
Last year, York-based Williams finished second in the contest – Ireland’s most prestigious cycling race – and he came into this year’s event in the best of form.
The Tour of Ulster has already fallen into his grasp, following two stage wins, and it was a fabulous performance given he had only recently returned from a horrific car smash while warm weather training in Majorca.
As The Press reported earlier this month, Williams collided with a car head-on during a fast descent from a climb and was hospitalised – needing a number of operations on his nose and teeth.
But he shrugged off the effects to win and is now eyeing arguably his biggest victory. Fifty-nine seconds was all that stopped him 12 months ago.
If he does it, it will be on the undulating roads of York and North Yorkshire where the victory will have been cemented.
Brought up in Lancashire, Williams first experienced the glorious Minster views while as a student at York St John University.
He liked them so much, he came back.
“I moved back to York at the end of March, and live in Monkgate,” he said. “York is just a beautiful city to live in and, as soon as you get out of the city, the training roads are brilliant – really quiet and varied.
“It is probably the nicest place in Britain to ride a bike and I love the training. It’s really flat within a ten-mile radius but you can go east and it gets lumpy pretty quickly. The Howardian hills are beautiful.”
It was at York St John where Williams really made his mark. He was North-West senior elite champion and was also picked in a six-man British team for the World University Championships.
Now, cycling is his living.
“My dad used to race,” he said of his start in the sport. “I started out with a mountain bike with the family and my two older brothers in the Lake District. I started racing in the local parks and, as an Under-16, round Southport where I am originally from.
“I kept on racing all through my university years and that’s where a lot of people will drop out. There are lads going to work every day and I can give them a bit of stick when I am at a training camp in the warm weather.
“I’ve raced with Great Britain before and, in the future, I would like to step up to a professional tour team – those that race on an international basis.
“There’s the potential to ride the three grand tours – Spain, France and Italy – and that is something to aspire to. It would be nice to do that, although I am happy at the level I am.
“I ride a bike for a living and I enjoy the lifestyle.”
A key cog of the Motorpoint team, Williams, along with his flatmate and fellow team member Tobyn Horton, earn their stripes on the UK Tour Series along with the more prestigious tours.
The Tour of Britain, for example, is high on the list.
“We have had some big results over the last four years,” Williams explained. “When I first started, I was one of the younger members and now it is up to me to get the results.
“We compete in what’s called the tour series. These are city centre races and they are based all round the country. We won that last year and we can do two of those a week. It’s an important competition for our sponsors.
“I will also be looking to compete in the Tour of Britain. I have done the previous three and that’s when you are up against the big boys – the likes of Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins.
“It’s a good shop window and I hope to put on a really good performance.”