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MOROCCO – PERFORMANCE CYCLES CMI U23 TEAM

An update from David Walters on the Performance Cycles CMI U23’s experience racing in Morocco:

“Well, that was an experience..With a gap in the race calendar before some upcoming tough races, the team were delighted to get invited to ride 3 International UCI races in Morocco with the senior CMI squad, CMI Trilogy Group. Some may say that the French don’t like the emergence of great young British cycling talent, but having an air traffic control strike to delay the team is taking it too far surely? Arriving at the race hotel in Casablanca well after midnight, and having to check-in, sort bikes AND get some sleep before the first of the Challenge des Phosphates at 10 am, the youngsters were thrown in at the muddy end; welcome to fly-away races.

With National teams from Morocco, Slovakia etc plus very good UCI trade teams, the races are prestigious and inevitably quick from the gun. Within 5 km’s of the first start on a chaotic Casablancan main road (c’est Afrique non?), a shower turned the road into the most unbelievably slippery stretch of road we’ve ever seen. Forget ice in the Cotswolds, this was diesel, kerosine and manure plus rain on smoothed tarmac. Inevitably, a pile-up involving 30 riders unsued, thankfully with our boys positioned well away up the front-ish. Watching mechanics struggling to stay upright walking gingerly to the fallen will remain in the memory, how the hell did the other 70 -odd stay upright??

Anyway, once the roads dried, the racing was fast, edgy and Morocco obviously wanted to demolish everyone on their home turf. Constant attacks off the front with howling crosswinds were the order of the day. Eventually, the bunch snapped and our Conor Ryan was in the leading group echeloned across the road, pushing on. With 20 km to go and up an exposed 2 km climb, Conor and 2 others got slightly distanced, and into those winds, knew they’d never see the front again today. Solo’ing to the finish with police escort, Conor finished a brilliant 23rd on a tough introduction to an uber-aggressive style of racing.

The second day, the shortest stage, was inevitably quick and windy. Morocco and Bridgestone were on a mission to batter themselves and others all day.The race split at half distance, our boys missing out on the selection, so came-in with the peloton, 2 mins down, with thoughts now on to tomorrow.

The 3rd race, at 170km, was a real test of strength and tactical awareness. The boys are now used to the style and tactics and rode a blinder. A quick note; the race headed due west for the duration, and only used 2 roads..the winds were constantly nagging and strong, and the roads open, long and straight, a real test of mental strength all day. 4 riders broke early but the gap was controlled by an ever reducing bunch. With 20km to go, a shower again changed the nature of the race, upping the attack rate, but our guys were vigilant and riding excellently. A puncture and hard chase for Conor, disrupted things a little; however coming into the last 5 k’s, the boys positioned themselves well on a broad, inviting run-in. Al Murison coming home in 20th position was a great reward for hard work and heads-up riding.
Todd Hotchkiss was coming back from a bad crash the week previously and riding below par all week, but got stronger as the races developed; good signs for the upcoming tough races. A huge learning curve.

All in all, a great experience to race at a very high level, in circumstances that test mental as well as physical strength and desire. If the boys can handle all that was thrown at them in Morocco, then what we ask of them in Britain this summer will be a breeze in comparison. Bring it on.”

Many thanks to David Walters for his words and photographs.