At the start of February I travelled out to Agadir in Morocco from Paris to race 6 UCI 1.2 races with my team VC Toucy. Once arrived we set the bikes up and went out together in the heat on a ride for 1:45 easy to spin the legs.
The next day we flew via Moroccan Military cargo plane down to Laayoune as we had 3 races there and 3 in Agadir. Once at the hotel we settled in quickly as the food and the hotel were both super nice despite Morocco known for being a poorer country.
For race one and three we would get the coach to the start, and from all three races we would get a very long trip back via coach as we would race along one road straight out.
Race 2 consisted of a lot of sand heat and wind…the desert, which obviously meant a very dry energy sapping race, which was super tough yet again. After only making the second group for most of the race on stage one, stage 2 I knew what I had to do, learning from my mistakes on race one I knew I could do well. The race was mostly a headwind all of the way, but there were some crosswind sections where I knew we could form a group. I got a few of us working in a crosswind section, maybe four abreast on the left side of the road, so eight riders and we rode through at a max sustainable power of one minute, so of course in one minute only a few had made the group, we had split the race but there was a new echelon behind and they were also chasing, we had 15 in the group so we drilled it to get the gap. with 10km to go we had 3 minutes over the next group, we turned left to head towards the finish, of course there was plenty of attacks coming now, 3 of us found it hard to stay in the gutter with the first guys, some continental riders and people that had ridden world tour level races were hardly going to be easy to stay with. With 1km to go I attacked with a Torku Sekersport rider (Ivan Baklyn) and I was pretty cooked, literally from heat and maybe overworking in the break, he won whilst I got caught with 100m to go which was gutting, as for me a podium would have been crazy, however I’m glad I tried to attack rather than sit in for 8th or 9th in the sprint…!
Military plane back to Agadir and a coach trip to Taroudant we arrived at 9pm, hungry as heck the reception had milk and dates so we just stole all of the food there as dinner was at 10pm which was a painful wait.
In race 4 I managed to get away with one hour to go to try to make it across to the first group of 18, 10 guys came with me, we worked very hard in the tailwind in the final one hour and eventually caught the first group with 5km to go, I completely mucked up positioning in the sprint, 4 guys up the road meant sprinting for 5th, sadly I got 24th, which annoyed me a lot…learn learn learn, little did I know everything In the first four races had added up and the next race was to be for me.
Race 5 and rain had hit Morocco for the first time in a while I’m guessing. I knew this was good for me as I’m from Devon where we don’t see the sun very often lets say. The course was a 6.7km Kermesse styled race, with crosswinds and many corners, I liked it. After a short recce of the course as a warm up I lined up at the front and straight away it was fast and furious. Eventually after 3 laps I could take the corners super fast getting used to the circuit, on lap 5 I went solo hoping maybe 5 or 6 riders come across, as that was plenty on this circuit to stay away, sadly after 15 minutes at sweetspot (not mega hard, two riders joined me, but it was clear they worked hard to catch me and had very little to give, we were then caught by a broken bunch of around 45 riders, so nearly 50 left still. At just under halfway into the race, a group of 15 got away a little, maybe 5 seconds off the front of the bunch, I towed my team mate and one other across to the move and this move was the winning move. With 27 minutes to go in the crosswind section a move started to form and I stuck with it hard in the crosswinds, meaning now 5 of us were away up the road, a Canadian, Torku, 2 from Dellio Gallina and of course myself, we worked up until one to go where an Italian from Dellio Gallina went solo, it was a tough game, seeing who would use more energy chasing. Eventually the other went solo with `1km to go, I followed after 30 seconds of the other two chasing, I then drilled it around the second to last bend and went as hard as possible down the second to last straight in the tailwind, causing the two behind me to chase hard, as I knew I wouldn’t win a sprint that was after something easy and I can rest for a couple of seconds and go again hard, so that was my tactic anyhow. After taking the final bend very fast I lead out the sprint, Ahmet Orken of Torku Sekersport (continental team) started coming around me, I had just gone full bore from the corner so kept on pressing full gas, he came even with me almost but I kept it down and beat him by half a wheel. I’d never of thought at 18 I’d of gotten 3rd at a Mens UCI! – For me this is a great achievement and of course was very happy, with my Moroccan carpet as part of the prize too.
The final day was sadly shortened to 137km, so the flat course wasn’t great, no break was allowed to go and the racing was super negative, so as it came down to a sprint I like many riders stayed out of the crazy top 25 sprint, It was Febuary and risking my whole season wasn’t on the list! However I came away with tons of experience on how to ride crosswinds and different types of racing, also some great results and strong rides to start the season.
As many of you will know, I left home to move to France on the 27th of January. After time in Morocco and out on my training camp near Mont Ventoux I have spent enough time at our ‘house’ to have settled in, life is good and I’ve gotten used to doing things for my self surprisingly well. I’ll talk more on this subject in another blog however.
I’ve done one race in France so far, last Sunday the 26th, not knowing the racing it didn’t go perfectly, however I did solo to the split up breakaway with 2km to go and picked up 9th just behind my team mate Siim. It was a little annoying but hey, I’m here to make some mistakes and learn, I’m sure in my next race I can improve and eventually get some wins out here. Peace!
Thanks to –
Bott LTD in Bude.
The Daverayner fund.
And Epic Cycle coaching for all of the support!