IT'S quite a prospect arriving at a world championships having to defend four titles.

It’s particularly daunting when those defences take place on home soil.

Fin Graham is well aware of the spotlight that will be upon him when the UCI Cycling World Championships begin in Scotland on Thursday, but despite this he’s doing what he can to ensure he takes this unique situation in his stride.

“Obviously we’ve known about these World Championships for a while but because it’s been so far out, I hadn’t really thought about it too much,” the 23-year-old says. 

“But now it’s so close, you start to realise what a big thing this is and it’s started to hit me. 

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“I’m trying to approach it like any other race, though, and go about it in the same way I always would, even though it is very different.”

Graham is one of the most successful riders in a GB team that arrives in Scotland packed with superstars.

The Strathpeffer rider has found glory on both the track and the road since breaking onto the international scene just a few years ago, winning a brace of silver medals – one on the road and one on the track – at the 2020 Paralympic Games before winning three world titles on the track last year as well as one on the road.

This success is something that he could barely have imagined as a kid.

He was born with bilateral club feet, which leaves him with no calf muscles and little to no movement in his ankles, but with his family all keen cyclists, it wasn’t long before he was on a bike himself.

“Cycling has always been massive for me,” he says.

“Since before I could walk, I was going along to Glentress. 

“I grew up mountain biking with my mum and dad and whichever one of them wasn’t riding would be looking after my brother and I. 

“My parents don’t race but we’re very much a cycling family – we’d spend weekends in Glentress and then as my brother and I started to get older, the competitiveness would grow and grow.”

Graham’s formative years were spent mountain biking, but in 2016 he contacted British Cycling with thoughts of taking the sport he loved to the next level.

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His improvement on both the track and road was rapid but, despite a longstanding inner belief in his ability, even Graham admits he could never have envisaged reaching the point he’s at now.

“Doing mountain biking, I was always against able-bodied riders – I didn’t get good results but I just loved the environment and the atmosphere at races,” he says.

“It wasn’t until 2016 that I thought about the para stuff and even then I didn’t even know if I’d qualify as a para rider.

“At the end of 2016, I got in touch with British Cycling and it all went from there.

“I always try to be optimistic about things so I have always had self-belief, I think you’ve got to have that because if you don’t have that belief in yourself, who will?

“But if anyone had told me that I’d have a home Worlds and be going in as defending champion, I’d have said you’re chatting rubbish.”

Graham, a C3 rider, won his world titles in 2022 in the individual pursuit, the scratch race and the omnium on the track while on the road, his gold came in the road race.

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It’s this success that, he is well aware, has ensured that every time he takes to the bike over the next fortnight, he will be expected to excel. 

And having never been in such a scenario before, he admits it’s impossible to know how he’ll react.

“It’s weird saying it but I do feel like I’m the one to beat,” he says. 

“I don’t like admitting that because it makes me sound big-headed but the results I’ve had since the last worlds have been very good.

“Wearing the British jersey, everyone pays attention to you anyway because we’re such a strong cycling nation but certainly coming into this one, everyone will be looking at me to, for example, do the chasing if someone rides off up the road.

“But I’m looking forward to that and I just hope it doesn’t overwhelm me.”

Graham refuses to be so bullish as to claim he’s expecting a repeat of his haul of four gold medals from last year, but he does admits he’s looking to depart these championships with at least one gold medal round his neck.

“My coach asked me what events I wanted to prioritise here and I said if I could win one, I’d choose the individual pursuit on the track because it’ll be a full velodrome and that’s something I’ve not experienced – to have a home crowd and hopefully win world gold would be amazing,” he says.

“Winning one title would be mission accomplished but obviously I’d like to defend all the ones I have. 

“I want to enjoy it too because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”