The cycling Scot among the Tour de France elite

Oscar Onley in action
Oscar Onley has bounced back from a string of injuries to compete in this year's Tour de France [Getty Images]

As the Tour de France begins in Italy, it will be of particular interest in one Scottish town.

Oscar Onley, from Kelso, will become the latest of only a handful of Scots to have taken part in cycling's greatest event when it gets under way in Florence on Saturday.

The 21-year-old is competing as part of the Dutch team, DSM-Firmenich.

The early stages of his career have seen him suffer a string of broken collarbone injuries but, in between times, he has put in some impressive performances.

Oscar Onley celebrating
The young Borderer has become one of only a handful of Scots to have participated in the Tour de France [Getty Images]

He has recovered from his latest misfortune in time to make the starting line in Florence and will be closely watched by fans back where it all began.

For the young Borderer, it all started a decade ago with the Kelso Wheelers club, whose local champion David Burgher happened to be a neighbour.

"Oscar joined the club when he was about 10," said David.

"The local time trial would go right past his front door, so he was always out watching us before he joined.

"His father Steve initially came with him when he turned 10 as we had a rule that you had to be accompanied by an adult at that age, but within a few minutes Oscar would pass his dad - he was just a fantastic athlete."

Florence team presentation
The race is starting in Florence this year [Getty Images]

David said it was pretty clear from the outset that cycling was the young boy's passion.

"I would be tinkering away with my bikes in the garage and Oscar would be fascinated by them and how they worked," he said.

"His father was a London black cab driver back then, who would spend his time between London and Kelso, and he appeared one day and asked if they could join me the next time I was going out."

Their appearance at Glentress Forest to join David and his daughter was a little out of the ordinary.

"We were getting our bikes out when they appeared in the black cab, driving into the car park up the hill at Glentress, which was quite unusual I'd have to say," he said.

"But they got on the bikes and were just tearing about, enthusiasm galore from Oscar."

David has been delighted to see that translate into a career in the sport.

"It's been great to watch his rise but he's essentially the same boy - all grit and determination from as early as I can remember," he said.

"I remember he hadn't been cycling that long when his mum came to ask if I would take him out, and I looked out the window and it was horizontal rain and sleet, and I said: 'He must be mad'.

"We went out and Oscar just kept going through it, and full credit to him because even for the hardest cyclist it was tough going, but Oscar was just so determined at that age."

But it was when going uphill that his qualities shone through even more.

"I first saw his climbing ability, which is now phenomenal, on one of the confined club runs - the Redpath climb, also known as the Ripper; horrible, horrific, just suffering from the get-go," he said.

"But Oscar loved that challenge and he just flew up there. He was just so determined.

"That was probably when I realised there was something special there."

Onley, a former Broomlands Primary, Longridge and Kelso High pupil, is only the second racer from the Borders to compete in the Tour, after Hawick's Ken Laidlaw in 1961.

Other Scots to have taken part include Ian Steel, John Kennedy, Robert Millar - now Philippa York - and David Millar.

Onley's Kelso mentor will be leading a Borders delegation to France later in the race to support Onley.

"It's only Oscar's first Tour de France, but there's no reason why we can't see him competing," said David.

"He's certainly got the ability.

"I don't know how many people are going to come out and support locally, but we've got an open invitation to Scots to come and join us - we have a campervan and a big tent.

"And we'll be taking a banner out for Oscar so it will be great to see him - the Kelso boy in the world’s greatest cycle race."