WEST Fife cycle star Joe Nally admitted his “heart dropped” when he found out that he made the British Cycling senior academy for the coming year.

The 18-year-old is taking the next step in his career, earning his place in the squad of 31 riders after impressing at the junior academy.

He was on holiday by Lake Annecy in France when he received the news, and told Press Sport the selection is “definitely” one of his proudest achievements to date.

“It’s nice to know that everything I’ve done so far has been worth it,” he said. “I’ve had highs and lows this year – at points that I wasn’t expecting – and I wasn’t sure I’d done enough to make it.

“My coach messaged me to ask if I had received any emails, so I kind of knew I made it before reading any!

“You do start thinking of all the names that have been through the academy and are now performing at world tour level. You’ve got Mark Cavendish, who was one of the first academy members, and riders like Geraint Thomas as well. I’m following in their footsteps.”

He joked that he was disappointed not tell his dad, Mick, the news in person.

“Apparently my dad cried,” he laughed. “I would’ve quite liked to have seen him in tears! For him and my mum, it’s a huge relief.

“They’ve had such a hard job chauffeuring me around and paying for everything. They’re now off the hook!”

This year included a win at the UEC (European Cycling Unison) Track Junior and an Under-23 European Championship silver medal in the junior men’s team pursuit for Great Britain.

In January’s National Track Championships in Manchester, he also claimed victory in the men’s points race and a team pursuit bronze. He will now spend this winter training in Manchester before making the move to Italy in February in preparation for the start of the road season.

He will stay with the squad, in a converted barn, for most of 2018 and said: “I’m looking forward to the travel and visiting as many European countries as possible; places like Belgium and Czech Republic. I’ve lived in the same house my whole life, so this’ll be a real change. I’m looking forward to it.”

His mum, Ruth Downie, said: “We’re so incredibly proud of him. People respect the amount of work he’s put in. He wants this.

“There are exciting times ahead for him and I’ve told him that he needs to be a sponge now. He needs to soak in all the information and advice he can, as he’s in the best place to learn.

“British Cycling don’t make mistakes with their choice of riders. They have the best resources and coaches. It’s up to Joe now to enjoy it and see where it takes him."