Ben Turner hoping to emulate Tom Pidcock in bid for cycling glory on and off the road

If Ben Turner is to be successful in the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships tomorrow he will need the conditions in Arkansas to resemble classic South Yorkshire in wintertime – cold, muddy and generally filthy.

For the 22-year-old from Doncaster who grew up on the mountain bike and cross-country trails near his home, the dirtier he gets on his cyclo-cross bike, the more chance he has of springing a surprise and winning a medal.

And if not that, then helping his fellow Yorkshireman and pre-race favourite Tom Pidcock into the rainbow jersey.

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The two ride for Great Britain tomorrow in cyclo-cross, a short-course race which often requires riders to dismount around obstacles, usually while caked in mud.

STARTING OUT: Doncaster's Ben Turner, pictured in the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Ostend last year. Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com

“Hopefully it’s really, really muddy and super slow,” Turner told The Yorkshire Post from the midwest earlier this week.

“It seems to be where I’ve done best recently, where I can use a bit of torque and power so hopefully if it rains and it’s muddy it should work to my advantage.”

Turner admits individual glory in tomorrow’s race is a long shot, but success for him does not begin and end with a podium place.

This is his first season in the senior cyclo-cross ranks after a junior campaign highlighted by a bronze medal in the junior world championships in Luxembourg five years ago.

Ben Turner, pictured during stage 1 - Doncaster to Selby - of the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com -

“Luxembourg was a very special day to look back on, I was really lucky,” reflects Turner, who has been competing in cyclo-cross World Cup senior races throughout the winter.

“With the way the grid was it was hard for people to see what I was capable of, then in Bogense (two years later) I started on the third row and finished sixth.

“It’s going to be tough for sure to get on the podium this weekend but if something like that was to happen it would be very special and a great day.

“It’ll be interesting because it will be one of the first times I don’t start near the back. It’s been interesting, the gridding this year having started quite late, so that’s been one thing to overcome on the step up to the senior ranks.

FOLLOW MY LEADER: Leeds' Tom Pidcock, winning the gold medal in the men's cross country mountain biking at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Picture: PA

“Hopefully we can bridge the gap to the front group tomorrow and put in a good performance.”

Turner’s cycling journey began in Doncaster at the prompting of his father, Mark, and a passion for the sport quickly developed.

“I started on BMX bikes in the early days,” he remembers, “but I kept crashing so dad put me on a cross bike, and I used to ride road as well. I just naturally came to cross.

“I used to ride with the Doncaster Wheelers in the early days, and always in Yorkshire.

Ben Turner, pictured competing in the Under-23 Men’s Race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Ostend last year. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“My dad was my biggest influence. Without a doubt if he wasn’t pushing me – maybe not that word, helping me out – then I wouldn’t be where I am, that’s for certain.”

Watching the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish win world and Olympic titles and Tour de France stages and yellow jerseys as he headed towards his teenage years, inspired him to believe anything was possible.

“Every kid watched Wiggins, Cav, all the big idols. I was 12 back at London 2012, I remember watching it and going crazy,” he says.

“For a lot of kids that Olympics really inspired so many careers, you saw a general boost in British Cycling.”

Like many, cyclo-cross provides the fun element to the day job of road cycling for Turner.

And like Pidcock, who he is rooming with out in Arkansas, Turner has earned a contract for 2022 with Ineos Grenadiers, formerly Team Sky, who are still one of the powerhouse names of road cycling. “Long term my plan is on the road,” says Turner, who had a series of top-10 finishes across Europe while riding for the continental team Trinity Racing last season.

HIGH AIMS: Doncaster's Ben Turner, in action last year. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

“Previous years I’ve been concentrating on the cross but in the last year it’s steadily transformed to the road, and now I’m with Ineos the cross season has become more of a stepping stone to hopefully be as successful on the road.

“The move to Ineos has been massive for me, it’s the biggest thing that’s happened to me because you can’t get much bigger in terms of teams.

“I suppose more people know who I am now and that’s pretty cool, so yeah, the cycling career starts for real now I guess.”

On joining such a high-profile squad, he added: “It seems a massive team from the outside and I thought that myself, I wasn’t too sure how it would be, but from being on the camps, working with everyone, getting to know everyone, it’s so easy and an amazing environment to be in.”

After this weekend’s racing, Turner will have minor surgery on his eye before diving headlong into the Classics season in mainland Europe with Ineos.

“For my first year that’s pretty exciting and will be a big opening to the season,” he says. “We planned to use the intensity of the cross season to project into the road season, which you’ve seen with Tom and some of the other guys it can really work well for them, so hopefully it will be a positive for me.”

Any questions he does have about this weekend and beyond, Turner is rooming with another young Yorkshireman in Pidcock well-versed in the transition to the senior ranks.

“I’ve been picking his brains (‘annoying my brains’ – interjects Pidcock from off-camera) for a long time,” smiles Turner.

“We’ve known each other since we were 14 years old – riding alongside each other and against each other for a long time.

“I’ve obviously learnt a lot. He’s one of the best riders in the world so what can’t you learn from him?

“But we’re two different kind of guys, so I try to mark out my own path.”

The muddier that path the better this weekend.