Rapha Condor JLT’s young team completed their first major challenge of the season at the Tour of Normandy last week.
The tough seven-day race once again proved a punishing test for the men in black, with untimely punctures and crashes hampering the team’s best efforts.
Rapha Condor JLT launch earlier in March
After a strong start on the first two stages, where the riders managed to avoid the numerous crashes the perilous run in on stage one, on stage three the team lost all hope of an overall challenge on the narrow finishing circuit in Elbeuf-sur-Seine. In the space of only five kilometers, a puncture each for Ed Laverack and Luke Mellor saw them both drop out of contention before a large crash in the bunch took out the rest of the team, leaving Richard Handley concussed and barely able to finish the stage.
Team manager John Herety was philosophical about the team’s performance in the race: “I’ve never seen a team going so well have so much bad luck all in one go. The boys have been performing really well so far this year and it was apparent that they had the legs, they just didn’t have the luck. The racing at this time of year is always dangerous, so you have to accept these things happen, but more than anything I felt frustrated for the boys because they were going a lot better than the results show.”
Indeed, both Kristian House and Richard Handley, the two riders who undoubtedly had the potential for a high overall finish in the gritty French race, both lost over six minutes following the crash on stage three. While House was able to battle on Handley, who’d had to finish the stage under the supervision of the doctor, was unable to start stage four.
Despite the tough luck though there were several performances that Herety pointed out the team should be very happy with. Most notably that of Ed Laverack who, at eighteen years old, was the youngest rider in the race and whose tenacious display of riding to finish the event was a huge achievement for the youngster.
“I was impressed with Ed in what was his first real European stage race. This is a hard race, it’s not age restricted so you have long stages and a lot of strong riders who are at their physical peak. We didn’t ask anything of Ed but to look after himself and get round, and he did exactly that. It was a tough baptism no doubt but, in terms of his and all of the young guys who completed this race for the first time this week, it marks a big step in their development.”
The team will now return briefly to the UK before heading back out to France this Thursday to ride the Boucles d’Artois stage race next weekend.