Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

‘I’m going to Paris to win’: Josh Tarling aims for Roubaix and Olympic success
Cycling Sport

‘I’m going to Paris to win’: Josh Tarling aims for Roubaix and Olympic success

Josh Tarling may only just be 20, but he already exudes the confidence of an athlete who knows exactly where he is going. “I’m going to Paris to win,” he says of this year’s Olympic Games, where he hopes to win cycling gold on the road, in the individual time trial and, potentially in the velodrome, in the madison.

Tarling, from Aberaeron in west Wales, is enjoying a meteoric rise through the professional peloton, progressing from the junior ranks with his parents’ cycling club to the hothouse of the World Tour with Ineos Grenadiers at eye‑watering speed.

His career caught fire in the second half of 2023. He won the British national time trial title, then took bronze in the world championships time trial behind his teammate Filippo Ganna and the world champion, Remco Evenepoel, before racing to the European time trial title last September.

As a teenager Tarling used to train on the Devil’s Staircase near Tregaron, in mid-Wales. On Sunday he tackles another infernal challenge, his second Paris-Roubaix, the race known as the Hell of the North. The cobbled Classic, always particularly fraught with risk, is cycling’s Grand National, a race in which merely finishing is deemed a success.

Tarling, now based in Andorra, says he dreams of winning in Roubaix but adds: “I’d just like to feature – last year was more of a helper’s role. [This year] it would be nice to have people chase me down, to make the race a bit.”

In 2023, Tarling rode his first Hell of the North, crashing but persevering, although his late arrival at the finish line in Roubaix pushed him outside the time limit. “Last year was a good experience,” he says. “Now I can go in knowing roughly what it’s going to be like.”

But this year’s race takes place against a backdrop of crashes and controversy. The most treacherous section of rough road in Paris-Roubaix is through the Arenberg Forest, where the race organiser, ASO, has hastily introduced a temporary chicane on the fast approach in an attempt to lessen the impact of the brutal high-speed transition from smooth tarmac to cracked cobbles.

Josh Tarling battles through this year’s gruelling Tour of FlandersView image in fullscreen

Tarling is among those who thinks the last-minute measure will only make things worse. “This chicane – I don’t think they can run it really. I don’t think they should,” he says, citing the tight bends that have been introduced to force a slowing down in the peloton.

“They crash on the cobbles because of the cobbles, not because of the speed. It’s horrible. The cobbles are that bumpy – that was causing the issue, not really the run-in. If they keep the chicane in, you’re going to have a crash there.”

Tarling knows tradition rules when it comes to a race that built its near-mythical status on the brutality of the old cobbled roads, but suggests modernisation on sections as bad as the Arenberg may be needed to enhance safety. “I know it doesn’t ‘honour’ it, but maybe they could fix the first few metres of cobbles, because as you go in, it’s like hitting a kerb. Rather than making us do this horrible chicane, ease us into it with 20 or 30 metres of OK cobbles.”

Safety concerns aside, this year has already started well for the young Welsh rider. Tarling won the time trial in the Spanish stage race O Gran Camiño and has also shown grit to battle through the gruelling Tour of Flanders. After exiting the Spring Classic programme, Tarling will turn his thoughts towards the summer’s Olympics. Ask him what he is hoping for and his answer is immediate and direct: “To win.”

His primary objective is the Olympic time trial on 27 July. “I’d like to do the road race as well, but it depends, because there’s only four spots. I also want to do the madison on the track. So I’d like to win the madison and the TT.”

Having beaten all of the world’s top time trialists in recent months, bar his Italian teammate Ganna, Tarling has reason to be bullish. “He’s the only one,” he says with a smile. “We could be head to head in Paris. It’s exciting and I want to see what I can do.”

Source: theguardian.com