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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.
It’s not just any youngster who gets a ride with the Dutch SEG Racing Academy but ‘Brit’ Harrison Wood, who recently finished a solid top 10 in the Chrono des Nations, will be riding in SEG colours for 2020.
It doesn’t seem like it but it was season 2017 when last we spoke to Ross Lamb, a David Rayner Fund man ‘doing good’ in The Flatlands. Flanders gets under a man’s skin so we were surprised to hear he was moving to La Belle France – that said, times are tough with teams folding everywhere from the UK to Columbia and all points in between. But that was our first question...
Stuart Balfour’s win in the supporting u23 race to the GP Ouest France Plouay, one of the most prestigious amateur in France, was special. The Dave Rayner Fund thought so too and made him their ‘Rider of the Year.’ As well as his Plouay success he won in Montpichon and at the Ronde Briochine; he was top 20 in the tough Kreiz Breizh UCI stage race and top 10 in the Tour de la Manche.
When friends of VeloVeritas Dave and Vik – both devotees of Belgian palmarès websites tell me there’s a young British guy I should be speaking to then I take notice! Scott Auld is the man, with an ever-growing list of podium finishes in the Flatlands. We caught up with him recently...
Up there on the list of ‘cult’ races is the GP Plouay, now known as the Bretagne Classic Ouest France; not a race that’s high in the cycling public’s consciousness outside of Brittany but always hard fought on a tough parcours by a quality field since 1931. This year the winner was Belgian hard man Oliver Naesen (AG2R) who shrugged off the rain and took the laurels.
We spoke to Scotland’s Stuart Balfour at the start of the season but word has been trickling back that 21 years-old from Heriot who is a Rayner Fund rider with Cotes d'Armor-Marie Morin Veranda Rideau, ‘en France’ has been ‘doing the biz.’ Best have another word, we thought to ourselves...
Jacob Vaughan is arguably the most successful of the Rayner Clan, this year with his move to the Lotto-Soudal U23 team. A solid first year U23 in 2017 was capped with an excellent win in the Guido Reybrouck Classic. We caught up with him prior to his first big get together with the team.
Time for VeloVeritas to catch up with Scottish, David Rayner funded rider, Stuart Balfour. It's been a year since last we spoke to Stuart so a wee bit to catch up on.
The David Rayner has been helping young riders realise their continental dreams since 1995 with David Millar one of the first to benefit, and Theo Hartley from Bolton in Lancs will be one of the grant recipients in 2018. He'll be joining the Belgian Illi Bikes squad, run by long term Six Day soigneur and track aficionado, Etienne Illegems and his son Ken who was for a time a mechanic with Team Sky but could get round a tough kermis on his good days.
It’s not just the boys which the Rayner Fund supports, the young ladies get their opportunities. Here’s what 19 year-old Miss Henrietta Colborne from the north of England had to tell us...
A long time ago, Dave, Victor, Ivan and I raced in Brittany; when we saw this young gentleman had two wins on roads we remember from our youth we just had to have a word. Like many of our interviewees - they are helping almost 40 young riders this year - Louis Modell is a beneficiary of assistance from the fabulous Dave Rayner fund.
The last few weeks we’ve been catching up with the young men who are out there in the Heartlands across Europe ‘doing it’ – Brittany, Lombardy and of course, Flanders. Englishman Ross Lamb – another man supported by the stalwart David Rayner Fund – has been notching up the results in the Flatlands: 4th in Heusden-Zolder, 2nd at Pulderbos, 2nd at Booischot, 3rd in the Memorial Vanconinsloo, 3rd at Huldenberg, 2nd at Geetbeets and 2nd in Linden Lubbeek.
The season of 2017 started with positive vibes. I was extremely dedicated and trained hard all through winter. My progression was measured by regular testing with my coach. By February I was counting down the days until I moved to Belgium where I would undertake my first season of racing on the Continent. Prior to leaving for my new home, I discussed a handful of targets to aim for during the season. This really motivated me to knuckle down and complete the last few weeks training.
Italy’s Bassano-Monte Grappa U23 Classic has been around since 1930 and lists Italian Legend, Gino Bartali as a winner in 1934; with Leonardo Piepoli, Giro winners Ivan Gotti, Gilberto Simoni and Damiano Cunego, not to mention Fabio Aru all on the more recent role of honour. It’s a beast of race, flat then rearing up the feared Monte Grappa climb – of Giro fame - to finish at over 1700 metres.
It’s hard to believe it’s 10 years since last I spoke to Paul Watson about a great ride he pulled off in 1987. Paul was British Amateur Road Champion in 1985, the same year as he was third in the Tour of Britain, ‘Milk Race’ behind Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner, Eric Van Lancker of Belgium and the man who should have been a super star but never quite was, Roy Knickman (USA). He rode pro with Van Lancker’s Belgian Fangio team at the end of that year but returned to Britain to ride for Raleigh in 1986.
One result which caught our eye recently was a win in the InterClub race at Zandhoven over 138 K where Englishman Jake Scott beat Stef Vermeulen of KWC Heist Zuiderkempen to take the win. InterClubs are ‘big deal’ races and the pro teams keep a close eye on the results – naturally, they’re not easy to win.
So its been a few months since my last blog posting but now a week into my off-season its time to put some words together and sign off on this 2013 season. Having stepped on the plane to the USA way back on February 4th and now already in November its been a busy nine months; five months in the USA to start with and four months between USA/Belgium/UK is a lot of km's covered... by plane, car, boat and of course by bike!
Once again its been a hectic month or two and so too much to write about in a single blog post. I really should start writing a book! So I am going to keep this fairly short and sweet focusing on another victory (in the Winston Criterium) added to season 2013 and a return to Europe after five months away!
With our Flatlands boys Douglas Dewey and Llewellyn Kinch heading south to race in France for 2013 we decided we’d best have a word with Rayner Fund rider Joshua Cunningham to see what’s happening in Belgium?
So this is my first blog post from across the pond aka stateside aka the USA writes Dan Patten. Despite everything tending to be bigger here in the US, I intend to keep my blog postings shorter and more frequent this year (well this is the plan!). It's been a little over 3 weeks now since I took off from London Heathrow. A smooth flight to Philadelphia was followed by some airport time before another flight onto Greensboro, North Carolina...
So there I was in Berlin and it's the ladies’ Six Day - well, three days, actually - and I hear one of the lasses waiting to go to the line speaking in a good Lancashire accent. Check the numbers, #7: Hannah Walker, GB.
It was Vik (for those who don't know, our pal pedalled the hard roads of Belgium in his day, still trains hard and is our outspoken elder statesman, observer and 'critic in chief') who was first to spot the Kiwi’s potential as his name edged up the results in the heartland's kermises. So the call came; ‘you should be talking to that Manchester laddie, Jack Cousins, he’s doing well!’
Dwars door Vlaanderen saw the re-birth of Nick Nuyens (Belgium & Saxo Bank) as winner; for those who know their Spring Classics it branded him as a potential Ronde winner - and so it proved. However, on the same day on similar roads, the Under 23 version of the race, the 'GP Waregem' saw another young Briton take an important step up the ladder with an excellent win over the cream of Flanders' young cycling talent, Dan McLay.
It's Christmas time, which means the first half of the off-season is coming to an end. Time has flown by since finishing up my season in Belgium mid-October. The body was certainly in need of recovery, after hitting the ground too many times in the second half of the season. Not least because on two occassions I was hit by cars, with the last time coming just a week before the end of the season...
So, was Lance's bike nobbled in the 2003 Tour? I'm referring to the rubbing rear brake story... "Media hype, the calliper was probably bumped against a wall or another bike on the way to the start." When the man telling you this is one of Big Tex's mechanics and a no-nonsense Nottingham man to boot you cannot argue. Eh - a Nottingham man? You thought that Lance's personal mechanic was Belgian? Only for Le Tour - the rest of the season Lance's Trek is cared for by the USPS team of mechanics under the leadership of Julien de Vries.