Who is Josh Tarling? After a TT podium, the UK talent has the world at his feet

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GLASGOW, United Kingdom (Velo) — Given the names that rolled off the starting ramp last week, Josh Tarling may have been a slightly unexpected bronze medalist at the Worlds TT, but the tall Welshman has the world at his feet right now.

Tarling’s compatriot and commercial team-mate Geraint Thomas has been delighted by his performances this year and said the man from Aberaeron in Wales had a “bright future” ahead of him.

The 19-year-old, who is competing in his first season as a professional with Ineos Grenadiers this season, showed his talent last year by taking a commanding Junior TT win at the Worlds in Wollongong, Australia. At 19, he made a big call this year to skip the U23s and go straight to the elite.

It was a bold move, but it paid off. Tarling set a big benchmark when he rode, setting a time that would prove to be enough to beat gold medal contender Wout van Aert. In the end, it took superstars Remko Evenepol and Filippo Gana to topple him.

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Evenepoel and Tarling have more in common than being on the same podium in Stirling last week. The Belgian was the last 19-year-old to step onto an elite world men’s time trial podium – after winning both junior titles in 2018, Evenepoel went on to take silver at the TT in Yorkshire the following year – and Tarling will be keen to step up to the classes in a similar manner.

“Remko, he’s an animal, you know, and I hope to progress the way he does at such a young age and win so quickly. I’d like to follow the path he’s taken and see where that takes me,” Tarling said.

Although Tarling looks up to Evenepoel – who is just four years his senior – and wants to follow the path he has blazed, he is still not sure if he wants to become the same kind of rider as the Belgian.

Evenepoel and Tarling have quite different physiques: Evenepoel is 1.71m and weighs around 62kg, while he is 1.94 and around 78kg.

Ganna – Tarling’s trade team-mate – joked that if the Welshman shed two kilos of fat and swapped it for muscle, he would be virtually impossible to catch.

“I see how it is,” Tarling said with a laugh when the comments were repeated to him soon after.

Tarling will have to decide if he wants to do that, but he has plenty of time to figure it out given how young he turned pro. He hasn’t yet set his sights on being a certain style of rider, but he knows he’d like to trade bronze for gold in the not-too-distant future.

“I just want to keep learning and take all the opportunities that come my way. And then I’ll kind of see where I go and I wouldn’t mind having a stripey jumper next year maybe you know I think taking those opportunities were some big names I was sitting next to the stage today. I wouldn’t mind being one of them,” he said.

An affinity with timings

Josh Tarling won the youth category at the Tour de Wallonie, finishing second overall (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

It was clear from a young age that Tarling would have an affinity for the discipline of timekeeping. The TT is ingrained in UK cycling culture as a result of bans on mass-start road races in the 19th century, which would last until the 1950s, forcing cyclists to get creative with how they could take their own race .

As a youngster, Tarling regularly competed in local time trials and aged just 12, rode and finished a 100 mile TT. He had planned to ride only half the distance, but decided to complete it, according to a Cycling Weekly report from the time.

He did so at an average speed of 20.74 mph and posted a time of 4 hours 49 minutes 14 seconds.

“I’ve always loved it and my dad always did and I think that’s such an advantage you can get in the UK, and especially through COVID, it was even better that it was one of the only things left open. It would be rude not to use it,” Tarling said. “In most other countries you can’t go and sit on a Wednesday night and be yourself, yeah you’d have to be rude not to use it and I think G has done a few and I think everyone should, you know, it sure helps.”

“There are some amazing courses out there you know, and well 10s and all kinds of things like that, and then you can use big, long dual-track courses for the first half of that course and then you can use courses like an Aberystwyth for that [uphill] final today, so it definitely gave me a huge advantage.”

In the build-up to the world championships, Tarling came within eight seconds of Ganna in the 32.7km time trial at the Tour de Wallonie, taking second overall and victory in the youth category in the process.

Perhaps one of the most impressive things about Tarling, aside from his performances, is his maturity. Although still a teenager, he talks like someone perhaps a decade older and seems to have the ability to cope well with the rigors of professional racing and the high expectations that come with it.

It would be easy to excuse Tarling being slightly crushed on his elite TT debut, but it was quite the opposite as the pressure of the situation didn’t seem to affect him at all, at least not on the big day.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself in the weeks leading up to it. I think my family and Grace [his partner] have a lot of patience to live with me,” he said. “I think I’m pretty tough for a couple of weeks ahead of time, but here’s just another TT you know, and that’s how you have to be to keep calm. I keep trying to find new things that I colored a while ago, it was good fun, but I lost the pencil. I have this apple arcade thinking and just trying to turn it off and then turn it on as needed.”

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