BRITISH champion cyclist and full-time medical student Lewis Oliva is gearing up for his first track world championships in Hong Kong this week.
The 24-year-old former Monmouth School pupil is just one of two members of the Great Britain team who is not a member of the British Cycling squad.
But having left the set-up last year to pursue his medical studies at Cardiff University, he says that the governing body’s Olympic medal success is proof that its “brutal” training programme is justified.
A UK Sport Review into British Cycling is expected any day after it came under fire from some riders last year for allegedly creating a ‘culture of fear’ and ‘bullying’.
Oliva, who took up cycling while at Monmouth School, said: “It’s a performance programme, not a day care centre. You’re not taking people in off the streets and giving them something to do. It’s performance-based, so it’s about medals and that’s the bottom line.”
Part of the British Cycling set-up for seven years, he said any athlete unhappy in the British set-up should simply leave.
Team GB won 12 cycling medals at Rio 2016, including six golds, but British Cycling apologised last month for any “failings” in its performance programme and promised to be more caring to riders following accusations of sexism and bullying.
Oliva, whose family live near Chepstow, left the Manchester-based British Cycling set-up last summer to begin a medical degree and train at the Wales National Velodrome in Newport, alongside his partner, Olympic champion cyclist Ciara Horne.
“We had some pretty grim training camps in eastern Germany. Everyone’s suffering but nobody wants to give an inch. It works really well,” he said ahead of racing as part of the sprint squad for GB in Hong Kong.
Oliva is part of a 20-strong squad for the five-day UCI Track Cycling World Championships which starts today (Wednesday, April 12).
Welsh Cycling performance director Matt Cosgrove said: “Lewis has put in a lot of hard work over the winter, competing in three out of four of the UCI Track Cycling World Cups with Team USN.
“He performed consistently across the series, making the keirin final on each occasion and winning a bronze medal in Glasgow.”
Oliva took silver in the Holland World Cup event in November before being relegated off the podium after a technicality, and placed fourth in Los Angeles in February.
As well as the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, he is targeting the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for Wales next year having raced in the 2014 Games in Glasgow.