Aubel-Thimister-La Gleize and Ronde des Vallees
The trip started off with a very early get up before the long drive down to Folkestone for the Euro Tunnel that morning (thanks to the Dave Rayner Fund for the loan of the van). So we boarded the Tunnel and got on our way to Belgium where the racing would be starting Friday afternoon. Once we met up with the others we got our kit on and went out for a spin to loosen the legs. Once we got back we got ready for the following day.
Friday –Stage 1
We got up and had our breakfast before setting out for a TT recce. After the recce we got back and got ready for the first stage to begin. Aubel is notoriously known as one of the toughest Junior stage races in Europe. The racing started off faster than expected with everyone fighting for position then around 50 KM in when the pace was on I was taken out which left me with an injured shoulder and hip. After straightening my handle bars and jumping back on the gap was already a big one. I chased hard hoping to be able to get back on but the racing was fully on at the front with the race now splitting. I had to keep going hard but knew I wasn’t going to make it to the front of the race. I had to keep racing in order to make the time cut and race again the next day. After finishing the race there was a quick visit to the Ambulance to get patched up and I was on my way.
Saturday – Stage 2a and b
This was a split day starting off with a TTT (Team Time Trial) and we were hoping for a decent result as it was sure to have an impact on the GC for the guys in contention. We set off well and secured 3rd Team which was a good result as we were only a handful of seconds from the win against a lot of strong teams. The second stage was scorching hot and many bottles of ice were shoved down our backs in order to keep us cool whilst we waited for the race to begin. This race was set to be another tough one with the race starting fast and a break- away of 4 or so riders going up the road. This meant the race stayed quite fast with the break staying till the finish and me picking up 7th in the bunch sprint which gave me 11th on the stage.
Sunday – Stage 3
This was the Queen Stage and a very tough day out. It began as expected very fast with everyone wanting to get up to the front before the first climb of the day. I hit the first climb around 20th position with the pace being full on. 10 or so riders got a gap which I then jumped across to on the climb before getting caught again in the transition between the other climbs. On another of the climbs the pace was pushed on and another spilt happened with me managing to make it into the group of 12ish. The gap began to grow over the next climb before Remco managed to go clear on his own. There was a few dropping off from our bunch meaning there was now only around 9 of us left. We worked together reasonably well meaning we were not caught by the reduced peloton behind, with a few riders having team mates in the group a few attacks went which were not all followed so I rolled in 8th on the stage with only 50 or so riders finishing the stage.
Ronde des Vallees
After a short holiday in Brittany we drove over to the Mur de Bretagne on the Friday which was about an hour away. I then met up with the others and we went for a pre-race ride, (it’s fair to say morale was high in the sun). After this we got back to where we would be staying for the next few nights and got ready for stage one which would start the following day. Following an interesting meal with unusual concoctions it was time to head back to the boat house. If it was a good nights sleep we needed this wasn’t about to happen without a few choice words to the Danes below who appeared to be in the party mood.
Saturday- Stage 1
We got up in decent time to get ready for the first stage. The stage was 110km and set off fast and was fairly sketchy with numerous crashes in the first 20km. After this a break of around 6 riders established itself off the front but it wasn’t allowed a huge gap, then just over half way into the race on a long drag I decided to bridge across to the break which was around 30 seconds up the road, but the peloton then picked up the pace meaning when I bridged it was all but back together. I decided to keep pushing and went over the top of the break as the bunch was strung out and I was away for a few km solo before getting joined by 4 strong riders, we then worked well together until getting caught 20 or so km later. Once we hit the finishing loops another little break was able to go clear and small groups kept bridging across to this meaning there were 10 or so riders up the road by this point. Coming into the closing few km the break had around 1 min 30 and the gap wasn’t going to be closed so I attacked and soloed to the finish to finish 14th on the day. Losing a bit over a minute on the day which wasn’t the best!
Sunday- Stage 2a and 2b
After eating breakfast with 5 other Zombies who were struggling to open their eyes after the early start we set off on our way to the time trial. The first stage of the day was an individual TT which was around 12km I finished in 10th which I was pleased with as TTs aren’t my main focus and strength.
The final stage was 97km this set off also quite quickly with it being pretty wet and technical at the beginning of the race there were a few crashes and it was quite strung out as there were a few hills with the pace kept on. Eventually a group of 10 or so riders managed to get away including Ben which meant we were not going to chase this down. After a 10km I saw the chance to try and bridge across with a few other riders who had a little gap but the bunch didn’t let the gap go so we sat up and the pace slowed so the gap quickly grew out. Coming into the finishing circuits which we would cover 5 times, the pace was kept at a decent speed with the gap slowly coming down, once we got onto the final lap and I knew the break would stay away so I decided to press on hard up the short climb into the cross wind and I managed to get a gap with Ben Tulett so we carried on working together for the next three quarters of a lap to roll in 13th and finish around 20 seconds ahead of the bunch.