WHAT started out as mountain bike rides over the Sussex Downs with a friend could progress to the Olympic Games in London for Upper Beeding cyclist Pete Mitchell.
The 21-year-old got into cycling with VC Jubilee Cycling Club in 2002 and is now one of the top cyclists in the country and is aiming for a place on the GB sprint team for the 2012 Olympics.
He said: “I used to just go for rides over the Downs with a friend and he used to race for VC Jubilee, so I went along with him to give it a go.
“I was quite successful locally, enjoyed it and, you always like stuff you’re good at, so I’ve carried on with it and now my goal is the Olympics.”
After impressing in under-14 and under-16 road racing series around the country, Mitchell was awarded a place on the British Cycling talent development programme in 2004, and this was when he started to think about pursuing cycling as a career.
Despite few wins in road races, he began to show potential in sprint events, started to specialise in it, and won the Youth National Championships in 2006, setting a new national record in the process.
The following year, he was accepted for the Olympic Development Programme and started work with his current coach, Jan Van Eijden.
This was when he began to compete internationally and was selected to ride for Great Britain in the 2007 European and World Junior Championships, winning the team event in the Worlds and a bronze in the individual sprint.
More team and individual medals followed in the following year’s European Championships, along with a place on the under-23 Olympic Academy.
The Academy allows Mitchell to live in Manchester and train full-time as a funded athlete.
Since joining the Academy in November, 2008, Mitchell has won under-23 European medals – silver in the team sprint in 2009 and bronze in the individual sprint in 2010 and competed for England in the Commonwealth Games last year, finishing fifth in the Keirin,
He also came fourth in the Beijing World Cup earlier this year, which he called the greatest highlight of his career.
Although the Olympics are still 16 months away, it is at the back of Mitchell’s mind, and he said: “It will be the usual lead-up and will be like a normal season, with the Olympics bolted on at the end.
“It’s such a long way away in terms of training.
“I’ve got the European under-23 Championships this summer, so I’m focusing on that. I finished third last year, so would like to win it. That’s a definite goal.”
He has already visited the London Velodrome, which will host all the Olympic cycling events, describing it as incredible, but admits it will be a tough battle just to get on the GB team: “There’s only one place per country per event now.
“Look at the World Championships last year and we had three guys in the top eight. Anyone who gets selected for an individual event for GB is going to be a top-three favourite because that’s how strong we are.
“I’m looking for a place on the team sprint event, where three spots are available, but it’s very competitive for a spot on that as well.”
In training in Manchester, Mitchell often trains with four-time Olympic gold medallist Chris Hoy and said: “He is great, such a nice guy.
“Training with him is great – it’s there in front of you what you want to achieve. It’s someone at the pinnacle of their sport and I see it all. It’s where I want to get.”
For more information about Mitchell, or to sponsor him, visit www.petemitchell.co.uk