For the bank holiday weekend in Ireland (1-3rd August) Lewis Hartley travelled over to Donegal in North West Ireland to participate in the Errigal International Youth Tour.
The tour is currently organised by the The Errigal CC, and has been running for many years with past winners including Ian Stannard, Adam Yates, Mark McNally and many other professional riders.
The race has a truly international feel with around 100 entries in the U16 category alone. Riders this year travelled from all over Ireland with representation from the Irish National Squad, Wales, England, Scotland, The Isle of Man, Spain and South Africa.
The race is very well organised over the three days and requires around forty volunteers to make it happen each year. On arrival, the Inspire Racing Team was invited to assist during the race with neutral service for both road stages, covering all age categories. The organisers of the event were very grateful with this support and we also helped to marshal the final criterium stage in Letterkenny.
The race itself has three mixed age categories: U12, U14 and U16, racing over 4 stages in and around Letterkenny and Church Hill.
Stage 1 was run on Saturday afternoon in somewhat damp conditions and for the U16’s involved 5 laps of a 9.4km hilly circuit totalling 47km. The course started outside one of the pubs in Church Hill and rolled North and downhill towards Loch Gartain, turning sharp left at the bottom of the hill and then running alongside the Loch before returning back up hill for several km’s until the riders reached Church Hill again.
Riders were being shelled out of the back from the gun, and the peloton reduced in size every time the riders passed the start/finish line. At the end of the third lap, Lewis began to suffer and dropped off the back but with only 20-30 riders left in the pack he was satisfied with his performance. By the end of the race Lewis had held is position and finished 24th on the stage and 10th in the young rider category.
Stage 2 was the 3.8km individual time trial and saw an early start on Saturday morning with the first rider off at 8am. Lewis did not start until 11:38 as the riders set off in reverse GC (general classification).
Lewis finished mid-field in the ITT but had hoped to do better. He felt he may set off too slow thinking it would be wise to save some energy for the steeper sections of the climb. He posted a time of 6mins 38sec with the winner doing 5mins and 42secs. At least he knows where he can improve for next year!!
Stage 3 was the queen stage, a 36km road race over 5 laps of another very hilly circuit. The climb to the finish in Church Hill is a real spectacle and with lots of spectators out on the road, cheering the riders up the climb.
The stage also features a very fast descent out of Church Hill and towards Letterkenny. Lewis rode a good race on this stage, positioning himself near the front throughout the first 3 laps. On the 4th lap, Lewis got caught up in a crash and was distanced from the peloton leading to a frantic chase to get back in touch by the bottom of the climb. Once he was back on, the peloton charged up the first KOM and then hit it real hard up the final section of the climb for the penultimate time. The previous effort by Lewis to get back on took its toll and Lewis struggled up at the very back of the remaining bunch of 40 riders. He did, however, manage to recover and work his way through the bunch to get nearer the front for the final time up the climb. At the finish Lewis crossed the line in the main bunch and managed to move up on GC to 21st overall!
Stage 4 was the final stage in the larger town of Letterkenny. The race was a typical town centre criterium but pan flat (unusual for Ireland!). The weather was fine and dry but a little windy.
The U16 race was the final event of the weekend and involved 40 minutes of racing + 5 laps. There were many attacks throughout the race with each of the jersey holders trying their luck to get away and threaten GC. Again, the peloton reduced in size lap upon lap but Lewis had no trouble staying with the leading group and looked strong throughout. On the bell lap, Lewis decided to get nearer the front and as the gallop began and the riders approached the line it was clear that Lewis was going to finish strong. He managed 15th place which moved him further up GC to 19th overall after 4 stages.