From April 2nd to 6th the U23 riders of Performance Cycles CMI joined their senior colleagues in team CMI Trilogy Group, to race 3 UCI 1.2 level races in Morocco.
With the thoughts of lining up against National teams, plus very good trade teams in their minds, a smooth trip would have been good. However, a 3 hour delay in the flight meant arriving at the hotel very much later than planned and having to make the best of a bad job, which is all part of a cyclist’s life at this level.
The first race from Casablanca to Kourigba was a slog against cross winds on rolling terrain. Echelons were formed from the start upon leaving the chaos of the city. The national Moroccan team were obviously on a mission to demolish the field, constantly attacking and forcing the pace, until at half distance a group of 25 formed that wouldn’t be brought back; the group included our Conor Ryan, riding superbly in difficult conditions.
Attacks continued, with Bridgestone, Slovakia and Morocco pushing hard. At a 2km climb, Conor and two others got distanced in howling crosswinds. Conor rode alone to the finish, escorted by police outriders, to finish a brilliant 23rd on about 5 hours sleep! A great result and performance at this level.
The second day was from Kourigba to Youssouffia, a shorter 110km day, which inevitably meant full-gas racing. Attacks from the start again, crosswinds once more, but the boys were in the thick of it. At 60 km, two distinct groups formed with our guys in the 2nd group, holding the lead group to under two mins all the way to the line, but somewhat saving their legs for the next, long day.
The 3rd day, at 170km, from Youssouffia to Ben Guerir, was the hardest test of the three days, which is saying something given the standard of racing. The wind was possibly at its strongest of the week and with the course heading due west for the whole distance, would prove to be a constant battle. Again attacks came early, but the boys countered every move, getting used to the tactics and positioning now. A group of 4 got away, but was controlled now by the ever decreasing bunch.
With the roads narrowing and a heavy shower making the roads very greasy, the bunch closed in on the break. Conor punctured, but with a good chase was able to get back on to the leading group. With a long, open sprint laid-out in front of them, the boys worked well together, with Al Murison ending up a great 20th amongst this very good opposition. Todd Hotchkiss is coming back from a bad crash and injury a week earlier, and rode progressively throughout the week, got stronger with every race, whilst being on a huge learning curve.
A good, solid week that will soon pay dividends as the season hots up. This was a week of very hard racing, showing that the young riders are competitive at UCI level.