Feature Interview: Lucas Towers

What a year for Lucas Towers (Cero/Cycle Division RT)(Preveily Conforma)! Junior Tour of Wales Stage win & 3rd overall, 2nd on GC in a major Spanish Junior stage race, GC and stage wins in the Tour of Sussex and L’Etape de la Defonce  and lots of top 10s too. We chat to this talented Junior

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Feature Interview: Lucas Towers 

The pandemic has affected the world in so many different ways and for junior cyclists like Lucas Towers (Cero/Cycle Division RT)(Preveily Conforma), it has restricted the number of events they can use to show the world they have what it takes to race at the top level.

A crash for Lucas in his first Spanish stage race this year in June, restricted the number of events he could target even further but if one thing is for certain, it is that when the pressure was on, Lucas rose to the top and kept on winning. We caught up with Lucas in the Cycle Division shop in Barton-under- Needwood.

Anyone who was in Sheffield in 2019 for the Elite Circuit Race there, will have seen a glimpse of the talent that young Lucas has. He was won the senior Bioracer support event after escaping the field with one other senior rider .When you look down that result, there’s the name Max Poole (British Junior RR Champion 2021) who has signed for the DSM dev team.So even as a Youth, Lucas was bang in the mix with the best.

The pandemic then came along and all road racing was cancelled in Britain in 2020 after a few of the early season races. So Lucas set his sights abroad. “I was racing for Atra Sport in Spain where the level was high and I liked the style of racing. The terrain we raced on too was good for me so was I keen to go back there this year.”

During that 2020 excursion to Spain, Lucas raced high ranking Spanish Junior races as a first year junior. He scored many top five positions in some of the best stage races in the country attracting international fields, often finishing as the best first year junior as well. But the racing everywhere for juniors was limited so 2021 was set to be a big year challenge for him. The season for the now second year junior, started, as it did for most riders, in June and it started well with a near podium (4th) in the Liam Holohan Coaching Road race (National B).

Lucas then went to Spain where he was 7th in a high ranking Junior race (Memorial José Luis Junco). He says of that time of the year that he was feeling good, something he’d felt already the year before when in Spain.

“I got a decent result in Memorial José Luis Junco but I think I knew I was capable of more so to then the crash in Vuelta al Besaya was a bit gutting. I didn’t realise on that first day, how bad the crash affected me. You think you’ll bounce back and whilst I knew GC was gone, I knew I could reset the goals and instead try and win the last stage. I got up the next day after the crash and didn’t feel too bad so I thought I’d give it a go but when I got on the bike, I just couldn’t turn the pedals hard. I started at the front and within five k, was at the back and was swinging.”

The wheels, you could say, had fallen off his season in dramatic fashion in the Spanish stage race, a race that was one of his season’s big goals. The effects of that crash saw him have to take a break from racing and training. “I struggled for a month and the crash took more out of me than I thought it would”.

Lucas kept on racing and training. Next, after the nationals, was the Bath Road Race which is always a tough one and then he went to Spain for another stage race before the Tour of Mendips (3 day race). Talking about the start of his stunning period of victories both here and in Spain that began in the Junior Tour of Wales, Lucas explained “I think that form came off the back of having raced quite a bit. I had been targeting the Vuelta al Besaya but after the crash in that on stage 1, I had to reset the season.”

Because Vuelta al Besaya had been such a big target for Lucas, he realised he had to find new targets. “I started training again before racing the British Junior Road Race Championships and then did the Bath Road Race before going to Spain for a stage race in July called Vuelta a Valladolid. That proved to be a good block of racing to get the form back after the crash.”

The racing also saw him learning a lot of things like the need to get refuelling right in a race, things which would help him later on in the season. “The Tour of Mendips set me up well for the Junior Tour of Wales and I came into that race feeling really good. It was a good weekend for me” Lucas explained.

It certainly was a good weekend for Lucas with third overall and just seconds off the GC victory along with the win on the queen stage on top of the iconic mountain, the Tumble, beating the best juniors in the country. When you look at what those other juniors have achieved, it shows the significance of that Junior Tour of Wales stage victory by Lucas and the wins that came after that.

A rider who knows how to win a bike race is pretty special and Lucas was certainly doing that. Looking back at that special day in Wales and his stage victory in the Junior Tour of Wales, Lucas says “it was one of those days where I got to the first climb and felt really good. So, I attacked on the first climb, drove across to the split before we got to the Tumble and dropped the rest of the break and then took the sprint from Tyler Hannah to take the win up there.”

The win also, when he looks back and realises the significance of it, was he says, his first proper road victory on a bike. That stage has certainly had some big winners; Tom Pidcock, James Knox, Eddie Dunbar and others so it is no wonder that Lucas says he’s pleased to have won that stage. Who wouldn’t!

“It was really cool to win there and I am very happy with the ride that day” he says. To end up on the podium of the race, made that ride on the last day all the more special for Lucas.

But what came after the Junior Tour of Wales showed just how much he thrived on the racing. Lucas headed to Spain where he wore the King of the Mountains jersey in the Vuelta a Talavera where he was also second overall. “That was a really hard race over four days” he says of it. “Long stages, a time trial before finishing with the queen stage with an 18km climb.

For the queen stage, a breakaway went up the road collecting all the KoM points while Lucas was looking for his moment to attack the yellow jersey. “We got to an 18 kilometre climb and it was brutal and I learnt you can’t go into the red because you can’t recover from it so quickly when you’re on a climb that lasts that long.”

“I thought I’d try to distance the yellow jersey, a rider from Contador’s junior team Eolo Kometa, so when we got to the steep bit, I tried to put a dig in before there was a counter attack and the yellow jersey followed him. It was up to me to chase him down and I managed to bridge back to the front. I went really deep to do that but I still managed to get to the top with the front main group.”

“That was a fantastic race and I learnt a lot about managing myself and going for GC” he says. “After returning from Spain, I thought that my season was done and prepared myself for the off season and planning for 2022. But then I got a call from Chris Pook of Holohan racing asking if I would like to ride for him in the Tour of Sussex then the Le Etape De La Defonce the following weekend. This meant 2021 wasn’t over!”

Lucas followed up his junior race success with overall stage race wins in both Sussex and Wales which also saw Lucas winning a stage in each of them.

Talking about the Tour of Sussex stage race, Lucas says “That was one of my favourite races of the year with such a cool course with the climbs on the coast road and really nice scenery and I was really well supported. I was 5th on GC coming into the last queen stage on Beachy Head and got into a move with some other GC riders. I had to make up time so I attacked and managed to put enough time into them to take the GC as well as win the stage”.

Lucas followed up the Sussex stage race win with another in the L’Etape de la Defonce 2-day stage race in Wales. “That was a nice race too” Lucas says. The race showed his fighting spirit and determination after he lost 30 seconds in the stage one team time trial. Lucas hit back with a solo attack to win stage 2 and the GC win after three stages.

Lucas takes up the story starting with stage 2. “It was a rolling stage and I attacked and one guy came with me. We worked together really well, and then I attacked him with 10km to go and ended up winning by over a minute and so had a 50 second lead going into the final stage which was a very hard day.”

The last stage ended up with Lucas being in quite a reduced group. “Three Sheffield Uni riders were hitting me over and over. I’d bring one back and the next one would go and it was very hard but I managed to seal the GC. Two riders did get away but luckily my teammate James Satoor bridged back to our group and he was a big help in keeping the gap down close enough for me to win the GC.”

“I was quite confident going in to the races as I knew I was going well and had been racing at quite a high level. I was feeling a bit of pressure to get a result though and didn’t want to mess it up. But I also wanted to enjoy it and I did have some fun racing hard and getting the result. It was good to learn how to beat riders in all these stage races which is really helpful.”

The learning process for riders like Lucas was helped in 2021 a great deal with racing returning and he takes that forward into 2022 by racing as an Under 23. One of his key strategies in a race is to attack when the race is on the limit. “I always think in a race, ‘it’s hard’ and there’s a flurry of attacks and you feel like you’re on the limit but you know so is everyone else so if I hit them then, it will be the best time. So, I’m always looking for that moment when it is hard and hit them hard”.

The final question after having chatted over a season of so many highlights was what moment gave him the biggest buzz? “The Tour of Wales stage win” he says. “Up until that point, I hadn’t got a proper road result. I’d been up there with tops 10s but I knew I could do more so that win was really satisfying and it was the moment when all the hard work had paid off and it was the highlight of the year.”

Lucas now though has that step to take going from the Junior ranks to race against the seniors in national and international level races. That will be a challenge and we can only hope that his talent is spotted by the big teams in Europe and he gets the chance to show himself on the roads of Europe in the coming years. He certainly has proved he is capable of that …

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