After my first ever UCI HC U19 race in Haiming, Austria at the end of April, I was fortunate to find myself standing next to Marianne Vos. She very humbly asked me about my race and seeing how disappointed and shell-shocked I was, told me: “It will sometimes feel like one step forward and two steps back but be patient and don’t take short –cuts, keep working hard.”

Over the past three weekends, I’ve raced two rounds of the UCI XCO Junior series and round 3 of the Benelux Cup in Erezee, Belgium.

Haiming was a hard race, the pace on the first lap was crazy. The descents were so technical, steep, rocky, dusty and narrow that quite a few riders went home nursing injuries. I was pulled out on lap 3 due to the 80% timing rule. However, the confidence I’ve gained from taking on these cruel descents is priceless and an important step forward for me.

After Haiming came Bike the Rock in Heubach, Germany. It rained from Thursday to Sunday with a brief let up on Saturday afternoon for an hour. Consequently, the race became a mudfest. Made up of one long energy sapping, relentless climb followed by a tight, twisty, and now treacherously slippy descent, the course was simply too tough for quite a few of the world’s top junior XCO riders and their equipment.

For two thirds of the race I held my own on the downhill and worked my way through the field on the climb. I was comfortably in the top half of the race until the final descent where I over did into a tight bend and lost it. Riders streamed past me undoing all my hard work. I finished 90th but on the same lap as the World Champion Simon Andreassen; progress not perfection!

I’m happy to say that we had absolutely no technical problems in these extreme conditions. The bike might not be the lightest, but it must be one of the most reliable, which for me is more important than trying to shave off weight.

At Bike the Rock Grant Ferguson spared us some time to chat about his season so far and crucially his tyre choice for heavy mud, namely the Maxxis Beaver. The Beaver seems to be the only tyre I’m racing on this year as the rain follows us around Europe.

My Dad’s highlights from Bike the Rock were the photo he got of Julian Absalon, the wonderful support we got from Christ Bakker of KMC Chains, Europe and the prototype rear thru axle from SRSuntour he spotted on Maxime Marotte’s bike.

After a few days training back home, we headed to Erezee, Belgium for round 3 of the Benelux Cup. We had a great spot for the van amongst the luxury motorhomes, most of which were plastered with enormous prints of the riders.

I wasn’t sure how hard the race was going to be. I started from the back of the grid, as usual, and hoped I would be able to use the long climb to move up through the field but on the twisting technical sections I got caught behind riders running instead of riding and any hope of getting up to the front was over. I came in a disappointed 32nd, one step forward and two steps back.

Racing is giving me so much more than I had ever imagined and I am very grateful to everyone who believes in what I’m trying to do and who work incredibly hard to make it possible. I’d like to say a big thank you to Hoshi Yoshida at SRSuntour, Harry at Field Cycles and of course to my family for all the sacrifices they are making.

Finally, it was great to meet some riders from Banbridge CC racing in Erezee. James Curry, rode strongly and finished 14th in the U19 race whilst his team mates Gareth McKee and Lindsay Watson finished 22nd and 30th respectively in a very fast and strong elite field.

It’s time for a rest and recovery period now before I start racing again at the end of May in Albstadt with only four races left before the British National Championships.

Words - Lomas Wefing