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Lets GO !!

On the spot reportage from Sonja Harper of the FHMAS/TEA Team racing trips to Junior Nations Cups. Paris Roubaix and Eroica

To FRANCE !! It's Roubaix Baby! We were stoked, as were our mates from the Tofauti Team, to secure a last minute Mixte team invite to Junior Paris Roubaix. Stoked and a little trepidatious. It’s a Nation’s Cup, possibly the biggest one day race on the calendar so competing against all the National teams & World Tour funded Junior teams, we’re boxing above our weight. We like a challenge through. The boys were up for it. 


Seb and Elliot had already been selected to ride for GB. Our team selection was Joe, Oli & Toby. Tofauti selected Josh, Matt & Max. UCI rules dictate we needed new jerseys for our new Mixte Team & Pariah speedily came up with the goods in the form of easy to spot, white jerseys.

Friday, a recce of the toughest cobbled sectors. Saturday, an activation ride. Sunday, race day. Lets go!


Tom Pidcock sent an encouraging message to the boys “Be sure to enjoy it because this race is the best race you’ll ever do”. We’re not sure if he still thought that at the end of the day, his previous 2 visits to Roubaix had resulted in victories at u23 & junior level & may have left him with rose tinted glasses. This race is not dubbed ’The Hell of the North’ for nothing. 


We had a feeling our trusty team car, DS Giles and mechanic Dexter would be kept busy but didn’t anticipate that would be before they even hit the 1st cobbled sector. A nervous and twitchy start meant a huge crash; Toby, Joe, Josh and Oli were all held up, some with damaged bikes and bodies. All tried to chase back on with varying degrees of success but in reality after such a poor start they were all out of contention. 


As Lewis Askey, previous winner of the junior race, told us after his race “if you lose contact with the bunch, you’ve had it!”. And so it was. 


Joe, Matt & Max made it to the velodrome and the finish line battered but not broken. The others tried their upmost but injury or mechanicals prevented them from getting there. You’ll have to ask them if they agree with Tom about it being the best race they’ve ever done. 


Next up EROICA !! 


Another Nations Cup we’ve been invited to?! A 4 stage race in Tuscany?! Oh yes! 

Hang on. It’s in term time! How do we get 3 vehicles, 18 bikes, 6 riders & 6 volunteer support staff to Italy? How do we afford it on our budget? Let’s just find a way and make it happen. 


Various planes, trains and very very long automobile rides later we arrive at Punta Ala on the stunning Tuscan pine tree lined coast overlooking the azure Tyrrhenian Sea & the island of Elba. 2 minutes to enjoy the view then lets get on with the job in hand. Seb, Joe, Toby, Oli, Luca & Harrison funnily enough all happy to be here and not missing school at all. 

Toby Bush, Harrison Dainty, Seb Grindley, Oli Dawson, Joe Cosgrove & Luca Bednarek


Stage 1A. Team Time Trial. Outgunned by the big National and World Tour supported Teams with their matching bikes, time in wind tunnels, practice sessions. We still managed 12th out of 27th a decent result but GC wise 1.30 down on the leaders from Bora’s junior team. On occasions though, the boys looked this slick! Impressive eh?


Stage 1B. A shortish lumpy road race. It was all going so well all the boys in the mix, Seb being particularly proactive…. Until 1 rider barged to the front of the peloton then shifted across swiping out a riders front wheel with a catastrophic domino effect. 50+ riders in a huge pile, some badly hurt, some hurt less so including 5 of our boys. Although delayed by it, Luca escaped the crash and was our 1st finisher. The others limped to the finish in various degrees of bashed and broken. Thankfully the rider responsible for the crash was DQ’d. 


Stage 2. The road to Siena & Piazza del Campo. Bikes repaired, wounds licked and dressed, ice packs applied, ibuprofen swallowed. Seb proudly wearing the most combative rider jersey. Over 100km up Tuscan hill and down Tuscan dale and there’s a much reduced peloton at the front of the race. Under the medieval gates to the city, with 1km to go up the climb to Piazza del Campo, Seb attacks. He gets a good gap! Thoughts already swirling around his head of a victory in that auspicious location but it wasn’t to be. He was caught by the leaders. No result to show from his effort but chapeau Seb. 

A solid ride from Luca, and Joe finishing in the bunch.

Seb (sporting the combative jersey) and Luca exchange war stories

Stage 3. The Queen Stage. Siena north into the mountains. 18’, sunny, forecast fair. Can you tell what’s coming next? The Tuscan mountains had other ideas. Within an hour the temperature dropped by 15’ accompanied by simultaneous hail, snow and rain. There were 120 shivering boys in Lycra all over the countryside. Stage abandoned. Teams cramming cold boys into warm cars as the whole convoy awaited support vans and helpers. We managed to rescue all our boys before full hypothermia set in. 


Stage 4. Final stage. Siena to the western hills. An attritional stage with the GC still up for grabs for some (not us). The National teams and Bora tried to take control. In the final stages a group of 7 riders got away. Seb tried to bridge with one other rider but was thwarted. 


All our riders finished. No mean feat when only 3 other teams managed the same. Great work from the 6 boys showing tenacity to fight off injury and hypothermia to do this. No great finishing positions to write home about but a very good collective performance and a massive learning experience for the boys. 

 Luca was our top finisher, 19th on GC. A result not to be sniffed at for a 16 year old.

Photos and words by Sonja Harper

These trips were supported by the Rayner Foundation under the Gateway Scheme


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