British Cycling Olympic Development Programme coach Matt Winston is delighted with the progress displayed by Great Britain’s junior riders after they ended their UCI Nations’ Cup campaign at the Trofeo Karlsberg.
The four-day race in Germany witnessed Chris Lawless win the points jersey - sprinting to victory on stage two en route - and Great Britain finish second in the team classification.
It is the latest success in a promising season for the group of youngsters, who will now miss the GP Général Patton and Le Trophée Centre Morbihan to turn their attentions to the UCI Juniors Track World Championships at Glasgow in August.
“We look at the Nations’ Cup as a key set of skills that everybody needs to go through to learn about,” Winston said.
“Things like dropping back to the car for bottles, riding on the front as a team, preparing to start a time trial in a road race - different bits that give you the key elements to becoming a pro bike rider.
“As well as qualifying for the worlds that’s what the Nations’ Cups are about, giving the riders the tools. It all came together in Germany, we’ve been consistently good all year really, we raced well.
“Second is fantastic [in the team classification], when you look 12 months back we finished last, that shows where we have moved to.”
"They’ve learnt a lot over the past eight weeks of bike racing. We’ve not really had a bad day, we have done consistently well across the board."
Third for Tao Geoghegan Hart at Paris-Roubaix Juniors before general classification success for the burgeoning rider at the Tour of Istria in Croatia was followed by a one-two for Germain Burton and Chris Lawless on stage 2b at the Course de la Paix. The results helped to place Great Britain second in overall rankings in the competition, which also determines spots for the junior men’s race at the road world championships.
Further fortitude over five stages in Germany reaped more rewards with Lawless, in his first season in the series, triumphing in Ludweiler after his second place ahead of Germain Burton at the previous day’s racing.
Lawless had been succumbing to the difficult conditions on the 100-kilometre course but great endeavour from his teammates enabled him to stay with the bunch and then deliver in the sprint finale, not only ending the day with the yellow jersey but a precious lesson.
“We said we were going to ride for Chris, he got half way through the stage and he was a little bit ‘I’m not sure I feel it today’ so the lads worked really hard, protected him, looked after him,” Winston explained.
“It ended up getting a little chaotic at the finish and Chris came round and won the bunch sprint and the yellow jersey with it which was a great result, the conditions were absolutely terrible.
“Chris learnt an important lesson there, that you can be swinging with 20-kilometres to go but you can come round for the finish.
“That’s a really good lesson because if you had asked him with 20-kilomteres to go whether he would have won the bunch sprint he would of said no as he was about to get dropped but actually he got over the top, recovered and won.
“It was an excellent all around team performance, everybody was up at the front looking after the team and everybody contributed to the results.”
Lawless secured the green points jersey on the next day with ninth place ahead of Chris Gibson in tenth. Not only contented by the result, Winston’s mantra of the process being key was fulfilled with a well delivered lead out.
“The feedback from the lads was that was the best lead out they have ever put together as a team so it showed that those tools were clicking together,” Winston said.
“They were understanding that they’re not professionals, they can’t take it up with 10-kilometres to go and ride all the way in but when they hit them they’ve got to hit them hard with say, 1500m to go and when you do it you commit to it and you commit to it 100%.”
Riders will shortly switch such commitments to the track with a similar work ethic required as they begin preparations for the UCI Juniors Track World Championships.
The worth of their work on the road is invaluable according to Winston as the group builds to the focal point of its season at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, a challenge they are relishing.
“They’ve learnt a lot over the past eight weeks of bike racing. We’ve not really had a bad day, we’ve done 12 days of Nations’ Cup racing and there’s only been one day we’ve not been on the podium.
“We have done consistently well across the board - in Croatia, in Czech with stage wins there, we’ve done well at Trofeo and on the podium at Roubaix.
“They were all saying in the van ‘I can’t wait to get on the track now’,” Winston added.
“A little rest after the nationals, a few days off the bike and then they’ll come into Glasgow on the 13 June and we’ll start that worlds prep. They’ve got a good road base to develop and switch onto the track.”