FORMER Sir Thomas Picton pupil Rhys Howells rubbed shoulders with the elite last week when he competed in the British National Time Trial and Road Race Championships in Monmouthshire.
Rhys, riding for the Essex based Richardsons-Trek team, qualified for the event on the back of an impressive season that has seen him win road races in Stockbridge and Kent.
The 26-year-old took part in two races, starting with the 26-mile individual elite men’s time trial last Thursday.
And Rhys, currently based in London, rode superbly to finish 16th in a time of 61 minutes and 30 seconds (61:30).
His performance was made all the more remarkable by virtue of the fact it was his first major time trial race.
To put the strength of the field into perspective, the overall winner was the 2012 Tour De France winner, Sir Bradley Wiggins (53:56).
Wiggins’ Team Sky teammate, Geraint Thomas (55:04), finished second and defending champion Alex Dowsett (56:25) was third.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that I was competing with the likes of Sir Bradley and Geraint,” Rhys told Telegraph Sport.
“The field in the UK is so strong so just to be involved was a big deal.”
Rhys then competed in the 117-mile team road race event on Sunday, but there was disappointment as his team were pulled out of the race with just over 20 miles to go.
“Unfortunately in the big televised races, organisers will often pull teams out to prevent congestion late on,” said Rhys, who began his cycling career at the age of 17 with the Pembrokeshire Velo group.
“It was so frustrating because I was going well and after working so hard to get there it was an anti climax not to be able to finish.
“But when I have a chance to properly reflect on the whole event I’m sure I’ll be pleased with how I performed.”
Indeed, only riders with an elite licence were able to take part in the road race, with a minimum of 300 points needed from meetings in the 2014 British Cycling Elite Road Series. Only 160 cyclists from all over the UK were eligible to take their place at the start line.
And Rhys, who combines an intense training programme with full time work with a clothing company, says he will now set his sights on this month’s prestigious Circuit of the Fens event.
The 132-mile race takes place on Saturday, July 26.