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Neo-pro Horton enjoys familiar roads at Tour de Bretagne

Neo-pro Tobyn Horton (Team Sprocket), left, with team manager Magnus Backstedt at the Tour de Bretagne.

Neo-pro Tobyn Horton (Team Sprocket), left, with team manager Magnus Backstedt at the Tour de Bretagne.
(Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)

Tobyn Horton, 24, is the first ever professional cyclist from the Channel Islands. Born in Guernsey, the member of Team Sprocket, managed by former Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt, felt like he was racing on home soil during the first two stages of the Tour de Bretagne held on the island of Jersey.

"It was a great atmosphere," Horton said. "This is the biggest race ever organised on the Channel Islands. It was strange for me to be racing on familiar roads. The Jersey people came and supported me and the team." Backstedt recently opened a coffee shop/bike shop in Saint-Hélier, the main town of Jersey.

"Magnus also came to speak to my local cycling club in Guernsey. We kept in contact and he gave me the opportunity to sign for his team," Horton said. He spent the past five years racing in Belgium for the amateur team Deschuytter in West Flanders where he won a couple of kermesses and developed as a sprinter.

"When I started cycling there weren't more than 15 people at a race in Guernsey, but when I went to Belgium there were 192 starters for the first event I took part in," Horton continued. "Now cycling is getting more and more popular in Guernsey. I don't know if the organisers of the Tour de Bretagne would consider it, but I'd love to see the race returning to the Channel Islands and having one stage in Jersey and one in Guernsey. Logistically, it would work." Jean-Yves Le Drian, the president of the region of Brittany, announced on Monday the Tour de Bretagne would be eager go to Jersey again within "four or five years".

Because of the constraints of cycling on a small island in the middle of the English Channel, Horton spent the first two months of 2010 in Australia based only two kilometres away from Cadel Evans' house in Barwon Heads. With races like the Grand Prix Pino Cerami in Belgium and the Route Adélie in France, he has experienced much harder racing than last year. "I've taken a step up," Horton said. "I'm hopeful to make it as a big pro."

His big goal for the end of the 2010 season will be the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India, in October, for which Great Britain will be divided into seven entities: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. "I hope to get my name and Guernsey's name in the results there," Horton said.