Stepping up from the Junior ranks to compete in the u23 category is a big deal for any young rider, but to combine it with moving to a new team as well as living away from home in a different country takes courage and a rock-solid belief in your ability – qualities talented 18-year-old Yorkshireman Dylan Westley has in spades.
Easing the transition somewhat is the fact that Westley’s new team is the famous Spanish outfit from the Basque region, Equipo Lizarte – renowned for not only supplying a great many riders to pro squads over the years but also for taking great care of the riders in their charge.
51 riders from the team have reached the professional level in the 27 years team owner Manolo Azcona has run things, among them Joseba Beloki (three times podium in the Tour de France) and Isidro Nozal (2nd in the Tour of Spain), Ricardo Otxoa (who rode for Kelme), Andrey Amador (turned pro for Caisse d’Epargne, recently rode for Movistar and may yet be seen in Ineos colours), Dayer Quintana, Richard Carapaz (winner of last year’s Giro d’Italia), Héctor Carretero and Marc Soler (all Movistar).
With such a rich history behind the team and wealth of experience in the staff and personnel to draw upon, young Westley’s move is certainly exciting and filled with potential.
Our interest in Westley was piqued when we received a press release from Equipo Lizarte’s PR Manager, Fran Reyes (listeners of The Cycling Podcast will be familiar with Fran and his effervescent love of the sport) and we got in touch to find out more…
You’re racing with Equipo Lizarte this year, a very famous team with a great tradition in producing and developing talent… you must be excited?
“Yes, I’m very excited for the season ahead with Equipo Lizarte in what will be a big step up for me.
“I know that racing in Spain with this team is the best environment for me because I love the Spanish style of racing and it suits my characteristics as a rider the best with lots of climbing both long and short.
“It’ll be a new experience for me racing with no other British riders for the first time but everyone in Equipo Lizarte has been extremely friendly; at the Team Camp I attended before the Team Presentation last month they all made me feel very comfortable.”
You took a win on Stage Two of the Junior Vuelta a Pamplona last August, did that (and a strong showing in the race the year before) help clinch a place on Equipo Lizarte?
“I think that my stage win in the Vuelta a Pamplona helped a great deal in me gaining a place with Equipo Lizarte for this season, because it showed that I suit the Spanish style of racing well.
“On that stage I attacked with around 20km to go with another rider and gained on the peloton over the next few climbs and descents before being caught by a small group in the final couple of kilometres. I still won the sprint from the group to take the win which I think also showed quite a few different abilities as a rider.
“I had expressed interest in joining Equipo Lizarte even before winning the stage in Pamplona and I believe that this also helped in me gaining a place with them because it was clear that I wanted to be a part of this famous team.
“Through emailing the team I was put in contact with Fran Reyes [Equipo Lizarte Communications Manager, ed.] who really helped me better understand the team ethos and the processes I needed to do next.”
Will you be living in Pamplona where the team is based? What’s the arrangement?
“Yes, I go out to Pamplona at the end of February and will be living in the team apartment.
“I’m very grateful for this as it makes my living arrangements very straightforward and I don’t have to worry about getting to races since I’lll be living less than five minutes away from the Team’s Service Course.
“I will be living with two other riders also, both from the Kern-Pharma Team (which is a Continental Team for the 2020 season and is part of the Lizarte family).”
How’s your Spanish?
“I’ve been working on improving my Spanish on the computer ever since I found out that I would be racing and living in Spain, back at the end of September.
“I learnt Spanish at school to GCSE level for which I am now very grateful as I already had a good knowledge of basic Spanish. The only time I have really tested my Spanish was at the Team Camp and Presentation last month, which was quite overwhelming to start with but by the end of the week I was a lot more confident during conversations and I came away pretty pleased with my progress.
“I’m sure that there will be times this year when I struggle but I hope to learn quickly when I’m living in Spain and I’m looking forward to experiencing this new culture.”
Tell us about the support you’ve had from the team so far…
“The whole team have been extremely friendly and inclusive with me, from the riders to the staff everyone made me feel welcome which I have been extremely grateful for as it has made the process of preparing to move to a new country much easier.
“I have a coach provided for me which has helped me to have, I believe, my best winter of training so far.
“The team apartment is also a big part of the support for the season – it really has made life much as I’m not having to look for accommodation myself.”
What about the materials you’ll be using (bike, kit, etc.)?
“This year Equipo Lizarte will be using the Giant TCR Advance Pro 1 Disc bike equipped with Ultegra Di2, Giant SLR Carbon Wheels and a Giant power meter as well.
“The kit is provided by Etxeondo which has a great fit and in the Lizarte colours it looks fantastic.
“Lizarte is a manufacturer of car parts, and we also have as sponsors Kern-Pharma (a pharmaceutical company), Finisher (Kern-Pharma’s nutrition brand), Bolle (a helmet and glasses manufacturer) and Bkool (an indoor trainer manufacturer).”
The team are known to be very good at looking after their riders, both on and off the bike, and moving them on to the pro ranks…
“Yes, the team has a rich history in Spain of moving riders on to very high profile teams which is exciting to see and shows that they’re very professional. It gives its riders the best possible opportunities to have a career in cycling.
“For this season Lizarte have also created a Contintental Team in the form of Equipo Kern-Pharma, giving even more opportunity for riders in Equipo Lizarte to move on to the professional ranks which is very exciting for the future. Kern-Pharma started their season last weekend at the Challenge Mallorca.
“The experience that I have had so far with Equipo Lizarte has been very positive and I am excited to be a part of this team which encourages the idea of the Lizarte Family and not just a team.
“My DS, Jon Armendariz has also ensured that I always feel included in the team and I am really happy to be a part of this team that always ensures that its riders are well looked after.”
Do you know your programme for the season?
“I’m moving to Pamplona on the 26th of February with the season starting the weekend after that. I’ve been given the team’s calendar and everything is organised for the year, but I don’t yet know my full individual calendar.
“I have been given an idea of what races I will be doing – but no matter what the race, I will give my all for the team.”
You’ve raced a fair bit on mainland Europe and up and down the country (including the Kingdom of Fife!), which places and races stand out for you?
“For me, racing in Pamplona was the most fun that I had in both of my years in the Junior category. I just really enjoy the terrain and type of racing in this part of the world.
“Another race that sticks out to me is the Valromey Junior Tour in the French alps; this honestly felt like a mini Tour de France, it had a publicity caravan that was sent ahead of the race and we climbed up four Cat 1 climbs on one of the stages.
“I rode for HMT Hospitals Cycling Team last year, run by Mark Barry and Tony Barrett, which allowed me to compete in races all over Europe and helped me progress on to Equipo Lizarte. For this I am very grateful.”
Having raced on 33% gradients in Spain and slick wet cobbles in Belgium, on the track and in TTs, single day and stage races – is it too early to say which parcours and which events you’re best suited to?
“Not really; I definitely prefer racing on the hillier courses, especially the races in which you need a bit of a sprint and punch as well as being able to climb well, and that’s why I believe Spain is definitely the best country for me to be racing in.
“Ultimately though, I just love racing so no matter what the parcours I will give the race my all, whether for myself or for a teammate.”
This year you’re moving up from Junior to u23 level, how much of a jump are you anticipating and how have you prepared for it?
“Well, I’m under no illusions that this progression from Junior to u23 will most probably be the biggest jump that I will experience as the races become much longer and undoubtably harder as well.
“Having said that, I’ve been very pleased with my winter training and I think I have prepared very well for this season so I’m excited to get racing and to test my legs in the early part of the season.
“This winter I’ve done many more hours than ever before to prepare for these longer and harder races, and in December I spent a month in Calpe with some mates to get a big month of training in nice weather rather than spending all winter in Britain.”
Are you still using Trainsharp for coaching and/or does Lizarte provide a coach for you?
“No, I have a coach provided for me with Lizarte so I’m not with Trainsharp anymore. I have been coached by Higinio Fernandez since November and we have a really good relationship.
“I’m very pleased with the winter of training that I’ve had with Higinio and I’m really looking forward to the season ahead.”
How long have you been racing, Dylan?
“I first raced a road bike in 2012 at the age of 11 after watching the 2011 Tour de France and wanting to take up the sport; 2020 will be my 8th full season of racing.
“In those first few years I was just racing local races such as the West Riding Track League and White Rose Youth League which have helped develop many cyclists in Yorkshire.
“I won the final round of the National Youth Circuit series in 2017 on the hilly Oliver’s Mount motorcycle racing circuit in Scarborough before moving on to the Junior ranks and progressing to gain results in Europe.”
How did you get into the bike?
“It was after watching stage 18 of the 2011 Tour de France where Andy Schleck attacked solo across the Alps.
“My dad was also a cyclist so I started to go out riding with him and some of his friends and I haven’t looked back since.”
You showed early promise and were accepted onto the GB Apprentice scheme…
“Yes, I was very fortunate to be a part of the British Cycling Apprentice scheme which definitely helped me develop – as a person both on and off the bike.
“The main thing I took away from the scheme was the importance of organisation and how a professional should be, to best prepare themselves for racing.
“The apprentice scheme was a lot of fun and helped me develop to where I am today – with Equipo Lizarte, and I’m sure what I learned will continue to help me in the future.”
And this year you’re supported by the Dave Rayner Fund for the first time, what will that mean for you?
“Being a Rayner Foundation supported rider is a real big help for me as the funding makes living in a new country much easier and means that my parents and I have to worry a little less about money.
“I am very grateful for the support that the Rayner Foundation are providing as it massively helps a huge number of young cyclists like me take the big step of moving to a new country and try to become professional cyclists.”
What will success this year look like?
“That’s hard to say, because I’m taking such a step up.
“However, I hope to be racing at a level that will allow me to be selected for the Baby Giro and/or Giro Valle D’Aosta races.
“I would like to reach a point by the end of the year also where I can be competitive in the overall GC of stage races and compete for the win in hilly one day races.
“I believe that these are quite ambitious goals but I think that I’m capable of achieving them and hope to show this at Equipo Lizarte.
“I also want to help my team mates whenever possible in what I’m sure will be a great year – and one that I am very excited for!”
His enthusiasm is plain to see! With thanks to Dylan for his time and we wish him all the best for the season; he is duly added to the list of riders we’ll be keeping a close eye on through 2020.