Thursday 14 June 2012

Will Stephenson goes to Belgium!

Primera /Specialized junior, Will Stephenson reports on his first taste of racing in Belgium……….We travelled up to London on the Friday night and stayed in a travel lodge before catching the channel tunnel over to Calais. From there we drove into Belgium. The first thing I noticed was the lack of any hills other than the motorway slip roads and bridges. The first race was on the Saturday afternoon and it was the windiest I've ever raced in, at least it was warm and sunny! We got there in plenty of time and road the course, which was essentially a 5.2km square with a tail wind finishing straight. We had 17 laps to do. The pace was high from the gun with a number of attacks going. Little shelter in the peloton from the relentless cross winds meant no one had an easy ride. The racing over there was very different to anything I've ever experienced before. No one wants to work together, even people on the same team. When an attack goes everyone just sits there shouting and screaming at each other, with the attitude that they'll bridge the gap on their own later. When a group of 10 went off the front, everyone just sat looking at each other. I went off the front with another rider who had travelled with us from the Isle of Man. We worked hard together and bridged the gap. At about half way it was breaking up further with more attacks going off the front. Again I managed to bridge the gap up to the front group. Then it was just a group of 7 remaining. One after the other 3 riders made solo efforts leaving me in a group of 4 with 4 laps to go. I put in another effort and managed to get away with the another rider. We worked well, catching the 2 of the 3 riders up the road. The caught riders were then dropped from the group. With about a km to go I put in an attack to try and get away on the cross wind section but the other rider responded well. He then attacked going into the final corner and opened up a gap of a few bike lengths. I thought I'd had it but I opened up my sprint and put my head down, catching him back and opening a gap to take 2nd. I was really pleased with the result, my first race abroad! On the second day, my legs were feeling very stiff from the day before. It was a very strange experience during sign on, where we got paid just for taking part (take note british races)! I kept attacking, but there were a lot of fresh legs in the peloton and no one wanted to let people go at first. Towards the end a big group of riders slipped off the front and despite my best efforts my legs didn't have enough to escape the peloton and bridge the gap. I put in a big attack with 2km to go but everyone was on my wheel straight away. I settled back in for the sprint. I managed to finish at the front of the bunch kick, picking up 17th. Not brilliant but respectable. A great weekends racing away, I'm looking forward to going over again in a few weeks. In the mean time I've got a few Junior National series races planned and some circuit races with the team during the week.

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