Last winter Sean Wilson of @teamcajuniors and I decided that we wanted to take juniors to race in Europe. So we combined resources and came up with a program where a small group of 17-18 juniors would first race The Junior Tour of Ireland and then travel to Belgium to race a block of kermesses.
My friend @frankyverhoye who, along with his wife Chantal, has been hosting me and a number of other young American cyclists over the years generously offered to help support the project. We were even able to come up with a pretty sweet jersey. Best part: not only is a bear the symbol of California it is also the symbol for Meulebeke the town where Franky and Chantal live!
Why Europe? Because the development pathway leads through there. If you want to be a professional road cyclist you have to race in Europe. This is even more important now that road races in North America are fewer and farther in between. Yes, there are some good races in North America but nothing like what is available in Belgium. A typical 17-18 junior race will have at least 80 and sometimes as many as 150 riders and will be between 88 to 99 kilometers in length. The last kermesse that the guys did on Saturday was one of the “shorter” ones at 87 kilometers and was finished by the winner in just over 2 hours. Mack Parshall finished his first kermesse on the last day and was with the main group on a very difficult parcour until the last lap. He finished in 2 hours 12 minutes at an average speed of 40 kph. He weighs about 60 kg and did over 1700 kilojoules of work. So yeah, not a 45 minute office park criterium – which brings up the roads the races are typically held on: narrow, twisty and with road furniture everywhere.
The kermesse block finished with a final race this past Saturday and as of this writing all of the boys are back in the U.S.
Stay tuned for some entries from the juniors on their experiences.