Heroes of Junior Paris-Roubaix
Story posted ; by Larry Hickmott
Britain has a good history at Paris Roubaix in recent years. In the senior version, Roger Hammond has done the country and his teams proud with a podium in 2004 and a memorable 4th place this year. In the Junior category, Sky Team professional Geraint Thomas has won the race with other British Juniors following that performance by riding to a place on the podium.
This year was no exception with no less than three Brits in the top 10 in the Junior version of this monument of events. The same three riders were racing last weekend in the Somerset Junior Road Race and they talked to British Cycling about their Paris-Roubaix experiences.
The best placed of the British riders in this years Junior Paris-Roubaix was Dan McLay (right) who finished second riding (podium pic) in the colours of Team GB. Talking about his best result in this race, he told us “it was fantastic. I was gutted not to get the win but the Belgian proved too strong at the end of the race.”
It was a race that Dan has been looking forward too for a long time after his ride last year but he says that there was no specific peaking for the race. “I don’t think I was at 100 percent but it’s a race where you need to be strong so I’ve been doing my general training of getting in plenty of miles and some efforts where I was suffering for a long time.”
Dan has plenty of experience in cyclo-cross and he says that this helped him during the race. His bike for Roubaix however was pretty much a stock standard road machine with only special pave tyres for this gruelling event. The race for the Juniors started halfway along the roads used by the pros and the junior riders entered the course just after Arenberg. Ahead of them were 16 or 17 sections of cobbles, just 10 sections short of the pro race.
Dan says that there was quite a good crowd along the route although he admits that there probably wasn’t as many on the last section of pave as the year before due to the ban on drinking! But like any bike rider would, he did enjoy the atmosphere that surrounded the race even if he didn’t notice it a great deal when he was in the red trying to win the event.
After a preview of the cobbled sections the day before and his experience of having done the race last year, Dan had a good idea of where everything was on the course but the GB riders had no specific strategy outside of staying near the front and getting involved. “I don’t think you can overly plan a strategy for Roubaix unless you have a lot of experience on the cobbles and you know who is strongest at the beginning.”
“In GB, we were all strong and that showed when we were all over the moves during the race. Sam Harrison was up the road and overall as a team, I think we were the strongest team on the day.”
With three riders in the top 10 after over 120 of the world’s best Juniors started the race gives an idea of how competitive the British riders were in this classic. Dan admits the result hasn’t changed what he wants in his cycling career, but it has given him a few opportunities should he not achieve his most immediate goal and that is to be invited onto the GB Cycling Team Academy next year.
Above: Tom Moses (right) attacks on a flat section of the Somerset Junior RR in a bid to get away and join the leaders.
In sixth place in the Junior Paris-Roubaix was the winner of the first round of the British Cycling Junior Road Race Series, Yorkshire’s Tom Moses. He says when asked about his ride, “I felt quite strong and the race really suited me.”
“I hit the first section of cobbles about 40th wheel so I hadn’t done too well moving to the front before then but when I got onto the cobbles, I was picking people off and after the first few sections, I was at the front of the race.”
“I was finding I was able to sit at the front on the cobbles of the lead group quite easily and I was there when it split and it came down to a group of 20 of us at the end. Then, when Dan and Sam were up the road, I was in a largish group and I was able to ride across to them on the cobbled sections. When Owain Doull (a teammate of Tom’s) crashed, a lot of the other riders panicked but I just kept riding and after a few k, I had got across to Sam’s group. Sam and I sat in then (Dan was away) and let the French do the work and I felt quite strong in the sprint for 5th.”
With three in the top 10 for GB, I asked Tom how does a race like Paris-Roubaix compare to a British event where competition for the victory is very high. “The only real hard thing about those races like Roubaix is keeping your position. It weren’t too hard on the legs but staying in the right place was pretty hard.”
“If you want to be at the front here, you can be but over there, everyone was fighting to be at the front. Even after 10k when the cobbles were not until 30k, everyone was fighting for position and wanting to be at the front.”
Talking about the cobbles and how he handled them in the race, he explained “I think my cyclo-cross racing has helped me in giving me the right technique over the cobbles. I didn’t hut my legs on the cobbles as I was spinning a gear and kept my legs fresh over them. The only thing that hurt were my hands; I wasn’t used to that.”
Finally, we spoke to a rider who is forever pulling faces in the races we see him riding and that is because Sam is one of those riders who is ultra aggressive. On the bike that is. Sam finished 7th in the Paris-Roubaix race after being away out front for a long time. Looking back at his performance, he says “I’m pleased with my race and with Dan second, it was a good team effort.”
Above: Sam Harrison in attacking mode during the Somerset Junior RR.
“I attacked with about 60k to go just because I was suffering on the cobbles and I thought I’d give Dan an easy time. That worked out perfect because he got second in the end and I hung on for 7th. It was a completely different style of racing over there especially with the cobbles. It was like a points race for me, big effort over the cobbles and then back off."
Writing on his Blog, Dan McLay takes up the story of Sam’s break. 'With about 60km to go my team mate Sam Harrison attacked exactly where he said he would the day before and flew away from the bunch. This was ideal. Behind we tagged every move and sat on the back bringing them back to the bunch. It was hard to jump with everything but we were in control. Eventually World Champ Jasper Stuyven attacked on the cobbles and a front group formed with Stuyven, an American, a Russian and me. I sat on till we caught Sam then rolled through.'
Sam’s big effort though took its toll and he explained a week later “I’ve been suffering this week after Roubaix; I think I got my head kicked in a bit!” Not that you’d know it because in the Somerset Junior RR, Sam was riding very strongly indeed but still that win eludes him. Based on his rides though in Roubaix and other races, it shouldn’t be long in coming.
Junior Paris Roubaix Result
1. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Belgium National Team 3:21:55
2. Daniel Mclay (GBr) Great Britain National Team
3. Lawson Craddock (USA) United States Of America National Team
6. Thomas Moses (GBr) Great Britain National Team
7. Sam Harrison (GBr) Great Britain National Team
35. Owain Doull (GBr) Great Britain National Team
46. Josh Papworth (GBr) Great Britain National Team
57. Josh Edmondson (GBr) Great Britain National Team