Norbury’s Great Britain cyclist Germain Burton gears up for Tour De Yorkshire

When the inaugural Tour De Yorkshire rolls out of Bridlington on Friday, Great Britain cyclist Germain Burton will be part of a stellar roster of riders.

The 20-year-old from Norbury lines up alongside Sir Bradley Wiggins, Marcel Kittel and Ben Swift, and his presence among such cycling luminaries is yet another sign of a career gaining momentum.

Eighteen months ago Burton moved from south London –where his father Maurice owns De Ver Cycles – to Manchester to join the U23 British Cycling Olympic Academy, the cradle of British cycling talent that has spun Olympic gold.

In January Burton was part of the Great Britain team that secured bronze in the team pursuit at the UCI World Cup in Colombia.

Rio and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are enticing targets for a track talent, but Friday marks another chance for Burton to measure his mettle on the road after his appearance in last year’s Tour of Britain, where he rode in the peloton with Wiggins and Kittel.

He said: “There’s not much pressure on us to get results at the Tour of Yorkshire.

“If anything, it is a benchmark to see where I’m at at this stage of my career so far.

“It’s good to pick up things from a field of that calibre – it’s another step up completely.

“We’ve got some decent climbers and a couple of riders who’ll be good in a sprint finish, so we’ll see what they can do at that level.”

Burton honed his tactical nous in the testing crucible of Belgian racing, where he travelled to compete after winning the U16 British National Circuit Race Championships.

John Barclay, whose past alumni include Mark Cavendish, David Millar, Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard, brought Burton across the channel.

Burton said: “I was the national champion when I went out there but it was a shock to the system. It was very aggressive racing.

“It’s pretty manic and chaotic in the bunch, especially at under-23 level, they’re the ones out to prove themselves.

“It’s the hardest racing I think you’ll find in the world. If you can race out there you can hold your own anywhere.”

Burton learnt a thing or two from his father about the hardships of life in the saddle.

Maurice Burton is a former three-time British Champion who also headed to Belgium, to compete in the notoriously arduous Six Day races in the 1970s.

He returned to the UK and bought De Ver Cycles – the diminutive of previous owner Peter Versleydonck’s surname – in 1987, whose distinctive canary yellow jerseys are a familiar sight on the roads of south London. His experience has been an invaluable help to Germain.

He said: “I’ve had a lot of support from my family. It’s a sport where you can’t do without support. There’s a lot of travelling involved in cycling. It’s not the cheapest sport.

“When I started, I was given bikes that couldn’t be sold. The way my dad saw it – you’re good enough, you don’t need the best bike, especially at that age.

“When I started, I was given bikes that couldn’t be sold. The way my dad saw it – you’re good enough, you don’t need the best bike, especially at that age.

“I picked up a lot of stories from his racing career, especially at the six-day where he spent the most part of his career.”

It was during his time on the six-day circuit that his father forged a friendship with Wiggins’ father Gary and Burton senior has known Britain’s first Tour De France winner since he was a small child.

On the day Wiggins sealed his historic 2012 victory Germain was racing at a junior national in Buckinghamshire, but his parents travelled to Paris to join the celebrations.

“My dad managed to call Bradley out from his victory lap. He spotted my dad out of the crowd and he came over and hugged him.

“It was a really proud moment for him to see him win there,” he said.

Burton hopes to ride the Tour De France in the future, and although next year’s Rio Olympics throws up the possibility of him riding with Wiggins for Team GB on the track, he admits Tokyo in 2020 is a more likely target.

“With Rio coming up next year, it’s an open door for us boys in the academy, us boys who are stepping up all the time,” he said.

“Given the strength in depth obviously with Wiggins coming back into the team for next year there is a lot of competition for places.

“I can see myself with a possibility of maybe getting into the team for 2020, which would be great.”

And winning bronze in his national colours has only sharpened his appetite for more medal success.

“Colombia was really good. People were really friendly and got behind the racing,” he said.

“It’s a big aim for the academy team every winter to send a young team from the academy to the World Cup and try and get a result.

“I think we really stepped up and we had been working towards that all winter. To take away a result was the icing on the cake.”

Picture courtesy of Alex Whitehead/SW Pix, with thanks

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