Seven young riders from Thanet Road Club had a taste of international racing in Belgium at the weekend. Cycling is considered by many to be the national sport in Belgium, it is the home of the great Eddie Merckx and the famous Spring Classics traditionally start the European road racing season.
The seven riders made the trip to Passendale in West Flanders with travel and accommodation costs covered by club sponsor Whites Transport Ltd of Minster near Ramsgate.
All are highly ranked nationally but for most this was their toughest test so far. Youth races in Belgium take place on open roads with the riders protected by a “rolling road block” of police and officials’ vehicles, something which is not permitted on UK roads, so this was a totally different experience to those used to riding closed circuit UK races.
The “Nieuwelingen” (U17) race was 10 laps of a 6.1kmcircuit and George Pittock was unfortunate to be involved in a crash on the second lap and was unable to continue. Joshua Chivilo and Hamish Reilly rode well at the front of the peloton and both scored points in the intermediate sprints. Chivilo finished in the main bunch in 26th place in 1 hr 33 mins, the same time as the winner, but Reilly suffered in the heat and dropped off the pace with two laps to go, finishing 38th and 2 mins 45 secs behind.
The “Juniores” (U19) race was 13 laps of the same 6.1kmcircuit. Oliver Robinson tracked British national champion Jacob Vaughan for most of the race, with both boys contesting most of the intermediate sprints, Vaughan finishing third in 2 hrs 2 mins and Robinson eighth in the same time. Toby Hammond started well but dropped off before attacking away from the third chasing group to finish 14th at 4 mins 57 secs behind. Toby Perry was 19th at 5 mins 40 secs, but Alex Ashman also suffered in the heat and dropped out of the race.
“This was a fantastic experience for our young riders” said Thanet RC head coach Colin Robinson. “The standard of these races is very high, with riders from Belgium, France, Germany and Great Britain. I am proud of each and every one of our riders and they all want to come back. I am grateful to Whites Transport Ltd for giving us this opportunity and now we will look at how we can do it again”.
Nieuwelingen, left to right Joshua Chivilo, George Pittock, Hamish Reilly
Juniores, left to right Toby Hammond and Toby Perry
Robinson, left to right Oliver Robinson with Jacob Vaughan (VCL)