On the 16th May I travelled to the prestigious, fast and furious Junior Tour of Axel picking up Ollie Rees along the way who would be guesting for us for the weekend. This meant the team was me, Lewis Hartley, Ben Healy and Callum Macleod and Ollie Rees. We set off Thursday afternoon in a van kindly leant to us by Neil Hendry (thanks for that Neil). In the aim to get to Folkestone where we’d be staying for the night for 10pm. After a few stops for a bite to eat we got there in good time unloading the bikes and putting them in the room before we all met up for a session of banter before bed. We woke up in good time ready to catch the train as we were racing that afternoon. Once we got to the tunnel we were told there would be two hour delays which would have meant us probably missing signing on. Thankfully Jed managed to sweet talk his way onto the crossing this meant we arrived on time in Axel ready for a recce around the TT course. After getting a bit lost (I’m not going to name any names) we arrived back at the carpark and went to go and find somewhere to eat. I thought I’d break the usual continental mould and have a tuna salad baguette. Then it was time to go and get ready for the race.
After being warned by Jed that the race was going to be sketchy and fast we knew we were in for a hard few days. For a bit of background info on the race … this was a UCI 2.1 race comprising of a flat 105.6 KM Road stage, which included a few cobbled sectors, an individual time trial which was 12.2 Km and on the same day as the time trial there was another road stage of 102.8 KM, this was also a flat stage with a longer cobbled sector. On the final day there was a grippy 99.9 KM road stage which included some bergs and a section of cobbles which was a few KM and ended just before the finish. With a total of 320.5 KM in distance this was set to be a good weekend of racing. The race went on the infamous Paddestraat cobbled sector.
Back to the race Stage 1 was a fast race with a 175 riders starting and a lot of crashes. It started with a nice and sketchy neutral section then once the flag dropped the race started fast with some of the teams already starting to control the race. I managed to stay in a decent position safely in the bunch (or not so safely). And coming into the finish I moved up a bit more to keep myself out of trouble and rolled in around 50th. After the race we quickly got changed and went off to the Youth Hostel for something to eat. Closely followed by bed.
The morning started quite early again with us going down for breakfast, porridge of course with a nice helping of honey or for Callum half a tub of Nutella. Then it was time to set off for the race ready for the Time trial. Once we arrived it was time to go and line up and make sure the bikes were UCI legal. After this we started to warm up and with me not going off for a while I chilled out. So the stage was a flat time trial with a few twists and cobbles on the way which was sure to shake up the GC. Ben put in a strong performance coming away with 6th with me rolling in 27th place. Then it was time to try and recover before the road stage. We went for a nice meal in a restaurant near the start for the usual Spaghetti Bolognaise.
The stage started off similar to the first one. The race mostly stayed together until Ben attacked a bit put from the finish and managed to stay away taking the win. I managed to finish safely in the bunch with the rest of the lads good ride also by Ollie to get back on after puncturing close to the finish. Then it was time to quickly get changed and set off back to the hostel. Then it was the usual eat, sleep and repeat.
The eagerly awaited stage 4 (Queen Stage), it was a twisty, narrow and cobbled hilly course which made it difficult riding, for at this point about 150 riders. The race started quickly with lots of riders going out the back due to the ferociousness of the racing. On a fast decent coming into one of the tight corners some of the riders (including me) mis-judged how tight it was meaning that I went flying into a field losing my bike somewhere in the long grass, with Ben also coming down in the process and Cal stopping to make sure we were alright those two quickly set off to get back on, with the cars still behind some of the dropped riders it was a while before our team car arrived my dad quickly got out of the car and helped me retrieve my bike and quickly banged it back into place. After eventually setting off after a good few minutes my chase was sure to be a hard one. After around 20 KM I managed to get back across to the depleted Peleton. The race stayed more or less together until 35 KM from the finish Callum managed to get away with 6 others and they quickly got the gap out to around 40 seconds. They worked well together and with around 10 KM to go I noticed some tired legs back in the bunch and decided to try and bridge across to the break-away group on one of the climbs. After a few KMs of chasing there were now both myself and Callum in the leading group with a gap of 50 seconds to the Peleton. Callum and I carried on working hard trying to draw the group further clear with some riders now sitting on due to us being the only two riders both on the same team. After the hard cobbled sector I came in 2nd, 1 second behind the winner with Callum close behind in 4th. This now meant that I was 3rd on GC with Ben 7th and Callum 10th.
At the end of the weekends racing only 72 riders crossed the finish line.
A great result from the Team winning the Team prize from some of the best Junior Teams out there.
Previous winners of the race are Danny Van Poppel and Adam Blyth. With Tom Boonen once finishing in 3rd.
All in all a great weekend of racing and a fantastic experience against riders from America (National Team), Switzerland (National Team), Belgium, Holland, England, Scotland, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Bermuda and France.
I would like to thank all of our Sponsors for their continuing support.
Pedal Potential, KCA and Dean Downing for the coaching.