International Racing in July


Thursday, August 16, 2018
July has been an extremely busy month for me this year with some of the hardest and highest quality races I’ve ever done all condensed in to this period. The month started with a long travel down to Durango in the Spanish Basque country near Bilbao to race the Junior Tour of the Basque Country in the first weekend of July. I travelled down by car with the team from Bladel in Holland over 2 days after racing Acht Van Bladel in the final week of June. This long journey and the two huge races I did, were as part of HMT cycling team with whom I got to experience these great 2 weeks. After the long journey, we had 2 days of no racing in Spain where me and the rest of the team and staff had some down time watching England play Colombia in the World Cup before heading out for a ride and recce of the mountain TT course on the 2nd day.

Junior Tour of the Basque Country/Bizkaiko XXIV Itzulia

The racing came around quickly and I soon learnt that this race was like nothing I had experienced before. Stage 1 was from Balmaseda to Guenes, going up three 3rd category climbs and one brutal unclassified climb. I felt good this stage but was having some stomach issues before the start which I suffered with a bit but overall, I was happy to finish in a very reduced peloton after being slightly distanced on the unclassified climb before getting back on to the bunch the climb after. A breakaway took the victory on this stage but thankfully we had two riders in the break, Joe Laverick and Oliver Knight who took 4th and 7th on the stage which allowed me, Harrison and Alex to have a free ride in the bunch slowing the pace down to ensure it stayed away. I rolled in in the bunch after being swamped on the penultimate corner meaning I didn’t do so well in the bunch sprint.

Stage 2 was a great stage taking in an insane coast road which stretched for miles and miles whilst hair pinning constantly. This was where a dangerous breakaway escaped so me and Ollie got on the front to chase it down and thankfully we managed to bring it back and split the bunch up a little also in the process. It was after this on the first climb of the day that the definitive breakaway went which I wasn’t in a position to get in. This break stayed to the end, but Harrison was able to bridge across to it at the top of the climb which moved him up on the General Classification and also again give the rest of us HMT riders in the bunch an easier day out. In the finale the remaining riders in the team led out Alex for the bunch sprint in which he took 3rd giving him 10th on the stage and in the process, I managed to pick up 20th also. Todays stage really was brilliant and like nothing I had experienced before.

On the 3rd day there were two hard stages with a short but hilly stage early on and then a hard-uphill TT in the afternoon which would be decisive in the overall GC. I was very motivated for the morning stage and attacked a lot to try and get away before the final categorised climb of the day to try and have the best chance of winning the stage from a winning break away. I attacked numerous times but could never get away for more than a kilometre or two and never in a group with the fire power to stay away. When the winning break did go just before the start of the final climb, I was in a position to go with it but just didn’t have the legs after going so hard to try and get away earlier in the stage. After going so hard earlier on, I really struggled up the final climb and was slightly distanced from the small main group. Thankfully I put my descending skills to good use and managed to make the catch at the bottom of the descent using every corner to my advantage. In the afternoon the hard TT came around very quickly and, after a good warm up, I put in a good ride that I was happy with finishing in 14th on the stage, equal on time with my team mate Ollie! This moved me in to 20th overall also.

On the final day, I really wanted to make something of the stage and leave everything out there on the final day of racing and I am pleased to say that I definitely did and put in my best performance on this stage. The day’s stage was extremely hard with a very hilly finale but downhill finish in to Balmaseda once again. The race was reasonably tame at first with everyone tired after a very hard day previously but then on the first 2nd category climb of the day, the racing kicked off and I made it in to a very small peloton of around 30 riders. It was at this point with around an hour of racing to go that I attacked and managed to escape with another rider before being joined by a 3rd later on and I managed to win the intermediate sprint from this group as we crossed the finish for the bell lap. We worked well together and built up a gap of 40 seconds at its maximum but were caught by a small group of 7 as we crested the penultimate climb of the day. Luckily for me this contained Harrison and I worked as hard as I could for him as he was in a good overall position, but it wasn’t enough as we were caught by the rest of the main group at the foot of the final climb of the day which we then went straight back up. I really suffered up this climb having just been caught from the break but dug deep and only lost a small distance over the top which I was able to bring back, with the help of other riders, over the top and on to the descent. It then came down to a very depleted bunch sprint in which I took 12th. I had started the descent and sprint too far back having suffered up the climb after the hard day in the break.

This performance however was something I was very pleased with and was glad to finish 19th overall, 5th young rider, 7th in the sprints competition and 3rd team overall with HMT. This was a fantastic experience over 2 weeks with the highlight definitely being racing in the Basque Country. I would like to say a huge thank you to the staff of Mark Barry, Tony Barrett, Craig Simpson and Simon Wainwright for all the support that they gave over this time. A big thanks also to the riders Harrison Wood, Ollie Knight, Joe Laverick, Alex Haines and Tom Cornwell for the brilliant time that I had with them and also to congratulate them on their great performances also.

National Champs

Next up in the racing for me was the National Championships near Loughborough the weekend after. This was a very different style of racing where I unfortunately messed up a fair bit and went far too hard early on in a long race trying to force an early break, but it ultimately didn’t work, leaving me too tired to do anything in the finale. This was disappointing as I felt strong but messed up and didn’t take advantage of my good legs in the right way.

Tour of Upper Austria / Oberosterreich Juniorenrundfahrt UCI 2.1

The weekend after this was another huge race being the Tour of Upper Austria UCI 2.1 in some very hard and hilly terrain. I went to this race with Giant Halifax RT and the riders of me, Josh Greenwood, Tom Dussek, Alex Haines, Matt Ellis and Joe Howcroft.

Stage 1 was a rolling race in the evening on a big loop with three category 3 climbs over the stage and also three small uncategorised climbs also. The race kicked off on the first categorised climb of the day where I was right in the thick of things in the front small group but over the top of the climb, I just didn’t have the power to close a small gap and couldn’t stick in the winning breakaway of 8 riders. I was gutted about this as I was so close but just didn’t have enough to stay with the break. However, I took the positive that I was in the position to go with it when in other races I haven’t been so improvements were made. I finished in the depleted bunch, but the race was neutralised with 10km to go due to a car crash in the city centre. The organisers then made us race 10km downhill which was extremely sketchy but also fun at the same time and I finished towards the front of the main peloton.

Stage 2 was a loop very lose to where the team was staying so the day leading up to the evening race was very chilled. The race was grippy and also had a huge amount of crashes which I thankfully managed to avoid. I was pleased with today as I was always right at the front of the peloton and was in numerous splits and breakaways throughout the stage. However due mainly to the wind being mostly head or tail instead of cross, the stage finished in a bunch sprint where I finished in the bunch after giving it my all to try and break away with a lap to go but was caught as the race entered the final dual carriageway section.

Stage 3 was the queen stage with a really hard finale and summit finish which was made especially hard with the torrential rain and awful conditions. After being too far back going in to the 2nd climb of the day which was really steep, with a dirt road descent, I was slightly distanced in a 2nd group but was able to bridge and was in a front split of around 30 riders which me, Alex and Josh then took turns counter attacking to try and keep the pace up and for this break to stick. It didn’t unfortunately as the yellow jersey had missed the split, so all the German riders were working to bring us back and then were reluctant to let any more breaks off the front. I however managed to get in to a fairly large split before the start of the penultimate climb. Three of these riders then went off the front of the group on the climb and I unfortunately couldn’t get across to it to my disappointment. I did however manage to stick in a small group of 4 who were working together well but I then attacked them with 3km to go putting me in 4th place on the road.  Unfortunately, I had no idea how hard the final 2 kilometres were going to be with a 20% average when others had and saved themselves, and I didn’t have the legs or a big enough gap on the main bunch to stay away, so was caught at 1.5km to go and just then went further and further backwards.

I was really upset about this at first, but after a bit of time to calm down I realised that I did a good ride and risked it to try and come away with a good result which I so nearly did. This has given me confidence going in to the final block of racing with the Tour of Pamplona and Tour of Wales coming up in August. I would like to say thank you very much once again to everyone who helped me over the month and in Austria, especially to my Dad, Barry Greenwood and Tom Haines who took me and the team the long drive away to Austria, it was much appreciated. Thanks to everyone else also at Trainsharp, Pedal potential, HMT cycling team and Giant Halifax Race Team for all the support they have give me. I am now looking forward to the final push going in to the Vuelta a Pamplona and Tour of Wales in August!