World Cup Win for Rowe
An easy victory for Luke Rowe racing for Great Britain. Photos courtesy of www.zlmtour.nl
Great Britain Olympic Academy rider, Luke Rowe from Wales, has had his biggest win to-date with victory in the Dutch Under 23 World Road Cup race, the 180 kilometre ZLM Tour on Saturday, April 18. Rowe, who was the Silver medal winner in the European road race championships last year (Junior), finished ahead of some well known names such as World Track champion Taylor Phinney (5th) in the UCI World Cup event for Under 23 riders.
Speaking to British Cycling, Luke explained that going into the race, the team were going to look after Alex Dowsett who has been riding strong lately but early on, the team messed up and missed an important move. “A big group went away and none of us made it into the break so we had to chase really hard for 35k in the cross winds” he told us. Those representing GB were Russell Hampton, Alex Dowsett, Jonathon McEvoy, Andy Fenn and Luke. Mark Christian would also have ridden but for a crash the week before in Flanders.
The race is pan flat with Luke saying that the highest point on the profile was 22 metres! But the race didn’t need any climbs to break it up as the cross winds over the exposed roads were enough to do that when well drilled teams starting to drive the race at the front. There was also the added danger of the street furniture which caused the pros in Amstel so many problems and also the Under 23 riders. Luke told us that he himself had a few ‘moments’ missing the obstacles on the road and there were crashes but thankfully he managed to avoid being part of them.
GB with the five riders at the ZLM race, Andy Fenn, Jonathon McEvoy, Luke Rowe, Russell Hampton and Alex Dowsett. Photos courtesy of www.zlmtour.nl
Each nation in the race were able to have six riders although the Dutch were able to field two teams and they made those numbers count by putting the race into the gutter in the cross winds and splitting the field which was around 150 at the start. Having missed the early move, GB were as Luke admits, on the back foot from the start but the race did eventually come together and it was time to make amends which the GB team did.
“With about 30 kilometres to go, I attacked and a group of ten riders formed quite quickly and then another ten riders came across to us so with 20k to go, there was a group of 20 riders in the lead. A lot of jumping around followed so I attacked with about 16k to go with one other lad and we just drove it as hard as we could all the way to the finish because behind we heard that the race had come together and the Norwegians and Germans were chasing us down.”
The hard work of the two leaders, Luke and Vojtech Hacecky of the Czech Republic, paid off though and with four kilometres to go, they had a lead of 35 seconds and that only dropped to 25 seconds with 1 kilometre to go. “I knew at that point it was between me and him and with a track background, I was quite confident I could outsprint him. I think nine times out of ten you’re going to have the kick and the leg speed because of all the work we do during the winter like the standing starts and track drills we do which add up. It’s all fast twitch stuff so generally I feel you’re going to beat the other rider in a sprint finish like that.”
Luke Rowe with GB carer Hanlie Perry all smiles at the podium. Photos courtesy of www.zlmtour.nl
Despite the lead they had with 1,000 metres to go, Luke and his rival didn’t have a lot of time to play with to mess around tactically but Luke explained that “although we had 25 seconds, we knew the bunch was chasing hard and so I just rolled through to keep the pace going and with 300 metres to go, he tried to jump me but I had the kick to respond and in the sprint, I opened up a gap of a few seconds so I had time to put the hands up and enjoy the victory.”
Luke admits the win was undoubtedly the biggest victory of his career following on from a second in the European championships and a second place in a smaller road race in Italy earlier in the year. The success in Holland though could have come even earlier with the La Cote Picarde which followed the Under 23 Tour of Flanders where he was again the leading British rider in 27th place. In Picarde, Luke explained how he went close to doing well in that race. “I got away in that race pretty early in a group of 10 which ended up being a group of six and we were doing through and off for 140k but got caught with 15k to go. That was on the Wednesday before the ZLM.”
Last year as a Junior, Luke (left) showed the potenial he had with a Silver medal in the European Road Race Championship.
Luke explained that his training is being looked after by Max Sciandri, the team’s manager in Italy and Luke added that the former professional World Cup winner was putting together some good plans for the riders. After a winter where the riders in the academy had differing priorities, many of them on the track, it took them a little a while to get the necessary base in to tackle road racing at this level. Luke and some of the others had travelled to Italy after the World Cup on the track in Copenhagen in February and for a while, they struggled with the distances of the races which Luke admits has been the biggest challenge for him coming out of the junior ranks last year.
"When we first came out here, the distance of the races was a big shock but a block of racing every weekend and doing the five hour rides on a Wednesday, is starting to pay off now.” Luke went on to say that having had a lot of races in Europe this season already, 11 one day races in all since they arrived six weeks ago, that he is starting to feel more confident with the distance and the style of racing and that he’s looking for more victories in the season to come. “It takes time to adapt to the style of racing here and I think I have been able to adapt to it all quite quickly” he said finally.
The team’s next big race is the Gran Premio della Liberazione in Italy next Saturday, one of the major races on the calendar there before they do a national race on the Sunday. Well done to them all for a great British result.
1. Luke Rowe (GBr) Great Britain 4.13.58 (42.525 km/h)
2. Vojtech Hacecky (Cze) Mixed Team 0.02
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) Germany 0.06
28. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Great Britain 0.14
37. Russell Hampton (GBr) Great Britain