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Rumble in the Jungel

At the start of May Fensham Howes MAS Design Junior Cycling Team set off on a major 4-day trip to the Belgian Ardennes for junior Liege Bastogne Liege and then just over the border into Luxembourg for the GP Bob Jungels. The trip was supported by the Rayner Foundation as part of the Gateway Scheme. Team Manager Giles Pidcock sent us this report.

"It’s a blinkin long way to Bastogne so we went on Friday. The plan was to get up early, cross the channel before lunch and try to get to Bastogne with enough time for the boys to ride the last 30km before dark and before dinner. It was a great plan. And all worked well - until the van broke down. The alternator belt snapped on what is only a 4-year-old Transporter. Nightmare. Fortunately, it would still go along the road, so it was nursed to the hotel. Which turned out to be on an airfield surrounded by a forest in which wild boar, deer and probably hansel and gretel still live. It was really quite lovely which is what the tow truck guy said when he came to tell us there was nothing he could do until Monday. We sent him away having told him in terrible French that we had Google maps and a credit card and would sort it ourselves.

So, Saturday morning before the start of the monumentally arduous junior LBL we had to get 6 riders, 3 helpers, 12 bikes and three vehicles worth of stuff into two cars. Which we did with wheels on knees and kit bags in faces.

Team presentation before Liege Bastogne Liege

The race itself was fine. I say fine, what I mean is that it was a big bike race over many massive hills with all the usual chaos, stress, and sheer physical effort that we know and love in Belgium. Our best was Alex in 8th having got in the days break early on and still being there in the final with all the other top riders. All the boys rode well so everyone was in a good mood made better by the news that the van was fixed, and the trip logistics were back on track.

Then a 2 hour drive to Luxembourg, a cracking Italian restaurant and bed. On Sunday Bob Jungels went well too. Bit like a British race, laps of a nice circuit with some hills and crosswinds. At the finish Jed breezily got second and everyone else was up there too meaning we were best team.

Best team at GP Bob Jungels

Jed Smithson second at GP Bob Jungels

Besides Jed’s podium the other piece of excitement was a team car rolling over in the convoy and just in front of ours. We all stopped, worried there were riders trapped underneath. Turns out it was just the spare bikes that were, a moment earlier, on the roof. All ruined of course and a tragic waste of some very expensive equipment. Once we realised no cyclists were harmed in the making of this drama the rest of the convoy left the scene tearing down the road to try and catch the race. This was moderately exciting. The driver and mechanic we were told got out of the rolled car shaken but unharmed.

DRAMA in the race convoy

On the way back to the UK we called into have a look round the factory where our lovely kit is made - Bioracer. Very impressive R&D set up there, so much thought and effort put into making the kit aero, hard wearing, and beautiful to look at. Amazing.

Then the van broke down again but couldn’t be fixed until the local (VW) garage had had lunch! This gave us time to go in one of the cars an hour back into deepest Belgium to get a spare part. Having been delayed by about four hours we got home early Tuesday morning.

Been a long weekend with some great racing and a lot of shared life experiences, which is of course part of what makes these trips so important for the young riders we take.

Thank you to the Rayner Foundation for helping to make all this stuff happen! "

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