This season has gone very well, I have done a real mixture of races in Britain and Belgium. Thanks to the coaching input and training plans from my coaches at TrainSharp, and the work I had put in over the winter, I had a really good start to the season, winning my first race solo at Hillingdon in January. This was important as it gave me a lot of confidence and belief, especially as I had some early season targets in Europe coming up.
In March I had my first weekend in Belgium racing in Ichtegem and Damme. I had raced both of these last year (2016), so I knew a bit about what to expect. I got a great placing in Ichtegem with 3rd on a very windy weekend with winds hitting around 45 km/h. In Damme, I missed the break just at the same time as my teammate got a puncture, and in the extreme wind there was no way back. I was really disappointed with the result as this race had been one of my big targets this year.
Three UK wins in a row followed, at the Archer Crit (Hillingdon), CC Hackney Primavera (Lee Valley circuit) and Alan Rosner Memorial (Hog Hill). I thought I had blown the CC Hackney race, as despite making 5 separate attempts to break away, nothing would stick. With half a lap to go I was near the back of the bunch, but somehow I managed to find a route around the outside of the final corner, finishing fastest and squeaking home by less than half a wheel – my first bunch sprint win this year.
Towards the end of April I went with Dave Williams to Wim Hendriks Trofee in Netherlands for my first UCI race, and my longest race so far at over 83km. It was a fabulous experience with a few short cobbles sections and some fast roads. I stayed in the bunch for the majority of the race, until the final lap of the finishing circuit.
The next day came my first win of the season in East-Flanders, Petegem Schelde. I got in a 7 man break after the first lap prime, and we stayed away for the rest of the race. I kicked hard out of the final corner onto the final straight at about 300m, beating into second place the rider who had cleaned up all the other primes – I was much happier going for the win rather than the intermediate sprints, and it also meant I won a huge bottle of beer. This was my first race in a series of 12 races for the Flemish Ardennes Cup, in which I finished 2nd overall having only competed in five of the races in the series. The series winner completed all but two. In the races that I did, I finished 1st, 10th (TT), 5th, 2nd and 5th.
Two of my best races this year were at Zingem (Huise) and Langemark (Hagebos). In Zingem I attacked solo with 35 km from the finish getting a good lead, before being joined by a strong rider from the Denmark national track team, who subsequently went to the Youth Olympic Games. We worked well together, not fighting each other for the intermediate mountain points, to make sure we stayed away, as the bunch were starting to close us down towards the end. In the final sprint, I messed up a bit and went too early allowing my breakaway partner to get the run on me.
In the Langemark race, my friend Fred got in a three man break at about the halfway point, so I didn’t have to do too much work in the bunch, but eventually 7 of us bridged across. In the final lap, Fred went long from about 1km out, but I waited until about 400m out, kicking hard so that nobody else in the group could go with me. I chased all the way up the draggy finish, winning by about half a wheel in the end – my second win in Flanders this year!
On the time trialling side, I did my first two 25s, the first one in 56:15 at High Wycombe, followed by the national event in Wales where I did 54:35 in blustery conditions. At the shorter distance, my best time was 21:21 on the Bentley course, and I finished 18th in the GHS final – for some reason my time was adjusted down by 20 seconds putting me out of the top 10 – improving that result is going to be a big target for next year.
I have learnt a lot this year about myself and about racing, making loads of new friends both at home and abroad. I am really excited about what next season may hold, as I move into the Junior category with bigger gears, longer races and higher quality fields. Hopefully I’ll be racing lots in Belgium again, and maybe some of the UK Junior Nationals, as well as some time trials of course. I cannot wait and will be training hard with TrainSharp over the winter to be ready!
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