Racing Belgian Style with Rhys Howells (Twenty3c-Focus)


The tall one, that’s the Welsh giant Rhys Howells, in Twenty3C-Focus, went to Belgium for some racing where the bike is king and Cancellera is Spartacus

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After a long journey back on the Eurotunnel, it’s time to reflect on a week well spent by Luke Ryan, Olly Rossi, Pete Vincent and Owen Lake, – sharpening our elbows in Belgium.

The first race saw us lining up at the start next to the current Belgian National Amateur Road Champion in a 100 man strong field, just ouside of Brugge in Herzele. The kermesse was typically windy and blew apart from the start, with much of the Team including Olly, Luke and myself up working to get into the early break. As is the procedure in Belgium, unless you make it into the front move in a kermesse, you’re pulled out towards the end and placed – which is what happened to Luke, Olly and myself but it was a positive and competitive start to the week, and it was impressive to watch DuPont (Amateur Champion) rack up his 10th win of the season.


Rhys on the front at the CiCLE Classic last Sunday.

The next 2 days were spent enjoying the sights of Brugge; including, amongst other things, crepes and cobbles. Local Pro Niels Nachtergaele was available to show us some training routes and joined us on some loops outside Brugge to keep the legs spinning between races. On Saturday we drove past Ghent to Outer for Kermesse Number 2, and we lined up in what is likely to be the largest field of riders that we will compete against. Olly spent much of the race in the front 5 and was unlucky not to place in a starting field of 280 riders.

Luke and I made it round and were pleased to finish inside the top 90 in such a competitive field. We were also lucky not to be the only Brits racing. We rode next to British contingents from La Fuga, Wallis Cycles and Wheelbase and on this occasion we saw Tom Barras finish an impressive 20th place.

Sunday was a particular highlight and we travelled across the border into France to watch my good friend and training buddy Tao Geoghegan Hart) compete in his second Junior Paris Roubaix. An hour in the car, a quick dash across a field and aim for the Flemish flags on the horizon; these were the words of seasoned Paris Roubaix nut; Luke. We may have arrived three hours early for the Men’s Race but that didn’t help detract from the excitement of watching Tao flash past in the leading break of three, which went on to land the podium places.


It was a proud day for me and Tao finished an impressive third. An hour later we watched Cancellara and the rest come past us on the last corner of Carrefour de l’Arbre. By now, the Team were convinced that we were competitive enough to get one of us up near the front and place in of one of the races. On Monday, we worked hard and I spend some of the early laps working to get a move to stick with riders from local teams as well as some from the New Zealand National squad.

Coming into the last kilometre, all of us were present at the front of a field which had failed to split and Olly did well to place inside the top 20. Tuesday was a different story and took in a much more technical circuit including long stretches of weaving farm tracks. It was an exciting race and again I found myself at the front and competitive, but I was scorched by my early efforts and failed to finish. Luke did well to get around in a race that saw much of the field pull out and it was a solid end to a hard week which did well to prepare us mentally and physically for the upcoming Premier Calendar events in Britain.

Special thanks to Stephen Lake for his help and support throughout the week.

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