It started with moving house and changing team. I have now moved to the Limburg province of Belgium after being offered a place on a Wallon Continental team called Tpalm PCW, it’s a small continental team but it is a good opportunity to race at a higher level and gain some experience that will help me to become stronger and improve. I was also nominated for the South Ribble Council Lewis Balyckyi rising star award, unfortunately I didn’t win but it was an honour to be nominated.
After my transfer and house move I started my first race with the team which was a UCI 1.1 race with the professionals called the Ronde van Limburg, talk about throwing myself in at the deep end! It was a great experience, it was a 210km race with lots of cobble sections. I managed to hang in the peleton (first main group on the road) until around 30 kilometres to the finish then I got dropped with a small group on one of the cobble sections. My new manager was pleased with my race as it was my first time with the pro’s. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t make it to the finish with the leaders.
After that I raced some small kermess races and managed 3 or 4 top 15 results after a bit of a chest infection I caught after limburg. Then I went onto the under 23 omloop het nuisblad with yet more cobblestones ‘YAY!!’ I am not best suited to the cobbled climbs as I am still only 56 kilograms so it would be another day of just following and that is what I did, I managed to get around in the 2nd peleton after it split into two. It was a great experience though and the first time I had ridden on the classics cobbles and I surprised myself with how strong I was, if I had ridden smarter I could have made the split I think.
The next week was the start of the Tour of Liege which was a 5 day stage race with 140km-160km every day. The first 2 days where mainly flat with some small climbs, nothing serious and I got through fairly fresh. At the beginning of the tour I spoke with my coach and she said as it was my first 5 day race at this level I would do good just to make it through, so that made me determined to do more and not just follow and make it through – I wanted to race! On the 3rd day it was the day where it was supposed to get hard as we started the climbs and sure enough it was hard! In the beginning a large group rode off the front and I tried with a team mate to bridge across a few times with no luck, then there was a crash between the yellow jersey and a moto marshal and a fellow british rder Dan Mclay which neutralised the peleton until the jersey got back into the race, but doing this caused the break to gain a large advantage. After a lot of attacking and fast climbing I reached the finishing circuit in the 1st peleton but maybe the 4th group on the road and lost nearly 8 minutes on the leaders.
Stage 4 was just as hard, after a very fast first hour trying to get into a breakaway the team of the yellow jersey decided to set a hard tempo on the front and all we could do was just follow the peleton. We came to the finish with no more than 70 riders after starting with around 130 and I managed to get to the finish without losing more time. The next day was the last day but by far the hardest with 11 climbs and a hill top finish after a fairly fast 4 days of racing in the legs already. I managed to stay in the front group for the majority of the race and was fairly happy with how I was riding. I was climbing with the front guys all day right up until the fireworks started, and when the current under 23 world cyclo cross champion attacks you know its going to go hard. I got round to the finish in 50th place in a group with some respectable riders and finished 45th on GC, around 13 minutes behind the winner. It was one of the hardest races I have done in a long time. My coach and manager were more than happy with my result and my coach thinks I can go back next year and race for a good place on GC.
The next race for me now is a 1.2 in France and I am feeling pretty good, so I am hoping if I am still there at the finish I can have a go at getting a good result.
Again I would like to say a huge thank you to the LBTF for all their support, every time I pin a number on I feel a massive sense of pride and motivation because I am representing the fund and a good friend.