April’s blog sees the start of racing for me and the first race in over a year.
My April blog starts at the end of March, with my first race of the season.
On the 21st of March we headed up to the Basque country to Astilleros. A ‘flatter’ course that featured 120km and 1700m of climbing. This was my first race of my U23 career and a shock to the system. I was happy with my legs and the team roll I played in the race giving my team leader my front wheel when he had a puncture. However, there were some negatives to take away and useful lessons learned such as positioning and being confident in the bunch more and being able to ride back into the bunch using the cars whilst keeping a cool head.
After Astilleros I had 2 weeks till my next race. This was used to get some good training in the legs and explore some new local roads to Cocentaina.
The next race was the Murcia Criterium championships on Easter Sunday (April the 4th ). This race was a great success for the team. We all worked incredibly hard to keep the pace high to prevent attacks so that our sprinter (Gomiz who is from Murcia) could be the regional champion. This paid off with Gomiz taking the win and our other sprinter-Nahuel- taking a 2nd place. On a personal note, this was great for me as I took my positioning error from Astilleros and then worked on them to be able to be more aggressive and move up the group more effectively. I also set a personal best sprint power and was able to successfully work on the front of the bunch.
It was then another 2-week block of training until my next and biggest ever race of my career. On the 18th of April in Torredonjimeno. The 3rd round of the Copa Espana. A tough 160km course with 2700m of climbing. The course looked ideal for me. The first 80k were relatively relaxed although I did follow 4-5 moves to mark them out as they had all the other major teams in them. My positioning was good consistently in the top 30 riders or so and moved our team leaders up the bunch when they asked. Then I made my error of going back to the car to get a bottle about 5km before the main climb. Meaning I was at the back of the bunch for the fast narrow approach to the climb then the climb itself. Lots of riders just kept crashing up the climb which meant I clipped put 3 times and had more stop starts of max acceleration then braking which really messed my legs up. I felt good on the day, but I needed to prepare more and get a bottle earlier or later on in the race and hold my position better. I got pulled 25km to the finish which was unfortunate but that’s the way racing is. Lots more important lessons learned which I can take forward to the next races.
Then the original plan was to have another 2 weeks of training then race again however on Thursday the 22nd I found out I was racing the Masters in Yecla on the 24th. A very Spanish way with only 2 days’ notice. But the more racing the better as I need practise and just more racing. This was only a shorter race at 85km. It was mainly on narrow cami roads it was important to have a good position which I did so I was happy about that. However, I wasted a lot of energy moving up into the wind on the side of the bunch and on the front. I made the split over the top of the main climb but then ran out of energy on the finish climb which could have been good for me. More lessons learned and I am slowly getting stronger.
The Spanish is coming along well and I am excited for more racing!
My First Month
It’s March the 12th and here is my blog of my first month in Spain.
On February the 12th I got through customs no problems and had a real smooth journey. Met by my team manager Jose in Alicante’s airport carpark, we set off to the team house and set off to commence my year in Spain.
When we got to the team house, I met the lads, unpacked and got settled in. The team kit and bikes were delayed due to some virus as per! So, for the first 2 weeks I was in last years HMT kit but when we did get our brand-new Ale kit that was an immediate swap. The Ale kit is class, and the design is a smart monochrome look. I am planning to do a kit and bike review video on my YouTube and a review blog too so keep posted for that. The bike was a more complex affair to say the least. Initially I was on a BH climbing bike for a week borrowed from a friend on the team but then it was taken away the day before the big team ride. This meant I had no bike for that which I was pretty annoyed about initially as I had trained specifically for the team ride the week before. However, at the end of the day it was one ride and none of it was in my control. Then the day after (Sunday) I was on an old team bike from a few years ago. This served me well then for the following 3 weeks managing to get some decent hours in. Finally, today I have me team bike which should be ready to go from now, it is a BH RS1 4.5 with pics and a review to follow.
The roads round here initially took some getting used to, but I am slowly but surely adjusting to them, and will be able to send it some more now I am on my permanent bike for the year.
The weather has been interesting to say the least. The 2 weeks were lovely, loads of sun and not much else. Then for the past week and half it was- to put it bluntly-crap. Rain, low temperatures and wind made it difficult to do a bunch of stuff, from drying clothes properly to staying on the bike. Yep, that’s right I managed to have a get down last Wednesday. Going up the Puerto de Tudons I started an effort that was meant to be 20 mins long, however 20 seconds in I went round a chicane at maybe 5% at 30kph and my front wheel just went on some oil. I landed hard on my left cutting up my knee and hip (tearing my new shorts in the process), but it was my wrist that was worse off. I had to go to the doctors here where the wrapped it up in compression bandages gave me some drugs and said I’ll be reet (alright for those of you not familiar). The bandages weren’t working for me, so I walked round Cocentaina (where I live) to find a wrist splint. I did manage to at 16 euros!! This better last a while aha. Fortunately, I was able to ride from Friday onwards, but it meant my week went from a planned 18 hours to 10 hours (on the bike, I still managed to do some adapted gym work).
The language barrier is hard, but I am learning more and more Spanish daily. Personally, I am finding just practising Spanish with the locals and team riders is the best way for me to learn. Also, although people slate Google translate for its inaccuracies it is proving a really useful tool for me too learn. A great example is when I had my first massage by Davide (a soigneur who works with Astana occasionally and who’s whole family is involved in cycling, from is dad who is a ex Vuelta podium finisher and agent for Superman Lopez to his sister who also has ties as a soigneur for Astana!) Davide speaks Spanish and Italian and not so much English. So I managed to have a massage length conversation with him (50 mins ish) using translate to ask him questions and also to understand some of the words he was saying to me. I am slowly getting there!
Other than all of that the food shop is cheap split 6 ways and Mom and Dad have said they’re saving a bunch by me being here! And the coffee stops are a euro each- a personal highlight.
Now then that’s a wrap for my one-month lowdown. Overall a class month despite its downs. Now I am in a nice routine and settled it can only go up from here, especially as racing is just around the corner.
So, I just thought I would do a short update before my one-month review on the 12th. The races I mentioned in the Feb blog have both been, unfortunately postponed. Meaning my first race now is on the 21st of March at a place called Astillero near Santander. I will do a pre race review before hand, not sure what on yet may make a Instagram reel or TikTok to experiment on my socials. Trying to expand and do more so let me know if you have any ideas! Team bike YouTube video and kit review coming up also some more exciting Path to Pro’s coming up. Now I am in my routine consistency is coming.
February for me so far has been getting everything in place for my move to Spain. I have my Spanish residency now so I can fly no worries, the PCR test is booked, and suitcases are down from the attic ready to pack. I am writing this on the 7th of feb and from today are only 5 days until I fly out to Alicante. I will be joining my other British teammates; Tom Martin, Louis Sutton, Matt Watson and Joe Bennet in our house based in Cocentaina on the outskirts of Alcoi. The area is very mountainous, well suited to my preference as a rider.
The first race of the year was due to be the Spanish cup Don Benito on the 28th (Spain’s equivalent of the UK national series but on a large scale). This race has been cancelled due to some virus that’s going round. So, the next raced planned on the calendar is the next round of the Spanish cup- Guerrita on March 7th. Fingers crossed that goes ahead.
The plan when I arrive in Spain on the 12th is to move into the house and get settled. Then collect the team bikes and kit (very excited about this) then the next step is to the training camp on the 18th to the 21st. Here I will get to meet all the other Spanish teammates and practise my newly learnt Spanish- or what I can of it.
Other than the excitement of moving to Spain and getting all my team kit, for the 2021 season I am being supported by Pedal Potential and the Lewis Balyckyi Trust Fund. These funds do an amazing job in supporting young riders chase their dream of becoming professional. I am extremely grateful of their support for this season and will do my best to achieve the results deserving of the support they give. Check out my sponsor/support page on my website for their links!
Team Announcement 2021
A late change of plan but I'm delighted to announce I'll be riding for Fundación De Ciclismo Benicadell in Spain next year.
They are part of Bahrain Mclarens feeder setup. Living out there and racing and training, looking forward to hitting some big races and stage races that suit me.
A huge thanks to everyone who's helped get me here on this journey so far. All in now for a big winter of traning with cycling performance coaching.
An elite/U23 Spanish team with many years of experience. Last year the team moved 4 riders up to the pro ranks, and with direct links to the Bahrain Victorious world tour squad there is some exciting pathways to follow.
With all my summer racing cancelled this year at the start of June, I told Oli (my coach) that I wanted to work towards an Everest. With previous experience of this discipline, taking the youth off road record a few years back, I decided on a climb which would require the same amount of ascents, 65.
Careful planning and a lot of maths went into this, we wanted to make sure we didn't make the mistake of under estimating how many reps we would have to do and utilised the knowledge from Andy Nichols, a big shout out to Andy for his advice on my nutritional strategy.
I also set up a Just Giving page, in order to donate towards Cardiac Risk In The Young and Alzheimers Society where £3000 was raised, truly amazing. Support on the day was incredible, many gave up their Saturday to help marshal and support the attempt, it was this support which helped me through the hardest reps in the second half and the fact that people didn’t choose to lose their loved ones really put the pain I was experiencing into perspective. A completion time of 8:53 puts me in the seat of the fastest junior rider worldwide to complete an Everest. Something I am incredibly proud of.
Thank you to all those who came out to support, with special mentions to Ilkeston Cycle Club, my mom and dad and Oli for their continued support.
I set myself the target of ascending from High Peak junction to Black Rocks 63 times in one day to achieve 8940 metres of climbing for my Everesting challange. It was on Saturday 14th April, and I started at 05:30am. After a mammoth 17 hours of riding successfully completed the challenge at 22:30 that night. I was aided by Steve Heading who rode with me almost all the way. I was totally physicallly and mentally drained after the ride.
I would not have been able to complete it without the amazing support of my friends, family and Matlock CC members who were there throughout the day. My Everesting raised £2651 for Cardiac Risk in the Young and CLIC Sargent.