Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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Stuart Balfour – World Road Championships Breakaway Driver

"I jumped away about 40km into it and in the end I was away for around 100km."

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Perhaps it was the ‘Scottish’ weather at Harrogate which made the Scots perform so well at the recent World Road Championships?

Anna Shackley was 12th in the Junior Ladies Road Race; Alfie George 7th in the Junior Road race and VeloVeritas regular, Stuart Balfour spent much of his u23 Championship ‘up the road’ to help set up GB team leader, Tom Pidcock for his eventual bronze medal; Balfour finished in 39th spot.

We caught up with Stuart the week after his excellent ride.

Stuart Balfour helped Tom Pidcock to a World Championship medal. Photo©Ed Hood

How did your winter preparations go?

“It was a good winter for me; I based myself mainly in Scotland for most of it.

“I find for me – even though the weather is not so warm – it’s a good place to spend the winter.

“I have all my friends and family nearby and it gives me a chance to disconnect from the cycling world when I’m not training.

“Then come the season I don’t find it so hard having to be away from everyone for long stretches of time.

“I was lucky enough to go away on a training camp with Israel Cycling Academy in December which was a great opportunity to see how the team runs and get some good miles in with the riders.”

Are you still with the Dave Rayner Fund, this year?

“Yes, I’ve spent another year with the Dave Rayner fund which has been a massive support again for me this year.

“Without their help, life abroad in the amateur scene would be nigh on impossible.

“They also give the riders more exposure back home so we don’t end up getting forgotten about.”

World Road Championships
Stuart Balfour before the start of the u23 World Road Championship. Photo©Martin Williamson

The Tour de Bretagne was your first big target, how did it go for you?

“For me the Tour de Bretagne was a bit of a disappointment. I had good legs and confidence going into it but the race just never went my way.

“I struggled to get into any of the early breaks and then behind it was always very controlled.

“A lot of teams came with a sprinter to protect so even on the harder days it would be controlled as much as possible for a big sprint which is not my sort of race at all.”

You had two Nations Cups in East Europe, what were they like?

“They were tough races.

“U23 racing is always chaotic but then at the Nations Cups it gets even worse.

“Both the Polish Nations Cup and the Peace Race were hilly races though.

“Poland was shorter steeper climbs with one hitting 25% and then the Peace Race was slightly longer flatter climbs.

“In Poland we went in with a clear leader in Ethan Hayter, so all was in for him to win the road stage – he came close, with second.

“In the Peace race I got the chance to ride for myself which was a great experience.

“I rode consistently and managed 25th on GC which was a solid result after not having spent much time riding at that level.”

World Road Championships
Photo©Cassandra Donne

How about those montagne in the ‘Baby Giro’?

“The Baby Giro was probably my favourite stage race of the year.

“The team and the places where we raced were just unreal.

“The team worked incredibly together, each one doing their job 100% and it’s down to that we managed to have such a successful race.

“With four stage wins and Ethan taking the points jersey at the end.

“I took on a big team role for most of the race and then suffered for it a lot on the higher climbs.

“The Mortirolo stage has to be one of the hardest races I have ridden.

“It was full on from the start and there was no way that you could get through that stage without having to go deep.

“Especially the way the Colombians flew up the mountains.”

You rode the National Road Race Championship, how did that go?

“The National Road Champs was a bit of a disaster for me.

“It’s safe to say I was pretty cooked going into it, with 16 days of racing already in that month I knew it was going to be tough to try and recover for it.

“From the start the legs were just not cooperating, there was no jump or any sign of freshness.

“It was just a slog the whole way for me sadly.

“I was disappointed not to have the legs as it was my first race back in Britain as an u23 so I felt I had to prove myself.

“It was definitely a race I was disappointed with.”