Welshman Ben Simmons surprised even himself by winning the five-stage Ras de Cymru for his Lifeforce team last year. Now the 21 year old from Newport, who rode alongside Geraint Thomas as a teenager, is looking to step up the senior ladder and ride in the Premier Calendar in 2008.

CW: Tell us a bit about your cycling career so far?
Ben Simmons: I?ve ridden for Wales in the junior team and represented them in international competitions like the Junior Tour of Ireland and the Junior Tour of Wales. I?ve been over to Belgium a few times and raced internationally on the track.

What is your best win to date?
Perhaps the most unexpected was the Ras de Cymru. Last year, I didn?t do too well in it, and this year I wasn?t exactly aiming to do well. I was racing just to get a bit of fitness. I didn?t win a stage but finished highly in all of them so that was pretty good.

How long have you been with Lifeforce?
Two years. It came, basically, through a friend who introduced me to Del, who runs Lifeforce, and it kicked off from there.

What are you training for at the moment?
I?m full on with the cross season now. I hope to do well in the National Trophy and the National Champs. I?m looking to do well in the Welsh Championships too.

What is your favourite cycling discipline?
That?s a hard one because I love them all. I like mixing things up. I should be moving up to elite category in mountain biking next year so that should be interesting. I?ve got my first-cat licence on the road so I will probably do some Premier Calendars now. With cross, I didn?t do any of the Trophy races last year so it is nice to see I can actually mix it up with some of the big boys.

You?re at university at the moment. What are you studying?
I?m studying Sports Coaching and Development and I?m in my third year so I?ve got a big
dissertation to write now. It?s going well and I?m enjoying it.

What is your dissertation on? Anything to do with cycling?
It?s on the effects of caffeine on endurance cyclists to see if it has a performance-enhancing effect.

What are you going to do when you leave university?
I haven?t got a clue, to be honest! I?m not going to rush into a job. I?m going to have a bit of fun, ride my bike, do a bit of travelling and race abroad or something.

You have ridden alongside Geraint Thomas. How big an influence is he on Welsh cyclists?
Geraint riding the Tour de France, and with some of the other boys on the Olympic Academy programmes I was riding with as a junior, it?s good to see how well they are doing. I think if they can do that, there is no reason why I can?t.

And how important has it been to have the Wales National Velodrome in your home city?
Having it on my doorstep is great because I do a lot of coaching down there with Welsh Cycling and Newport Council. I?m doing all the community programmes and the beginners sessions.

What?s on your iPod?
I like a mixture of things. 30 Seconds to Mars, Foo Fighters, Timbaland ? all sorts.