Young Henry Uys is one of a growing group of SA pros currently plying their trade in Europe, and he has experienced some of the dramatic ups and downs of the sport over the past five weeks.
However, his undiminished enthusiasm shines through when he says the good thing is that it is heading in the right direction for me, thanks to some hard training over the last couple of weeks - including a 205km hilly training ride in the Ardennes.
His last few races in Belgium before May 1 were full of drama. Like most South Africans, the cold and wet conditions are not to his liking, but together with a series of punctures, it all meant that up until the end of April the longest race distance he had covered was just 60km, not really ideal considering the class of riders he is now competing against.
He raced in the Groote Mei Prijs Hoboken - Ereprijs Vic De Bruyn (1.2) in Belgium on May 1 and managed to get into the early break. Despite riding hard to keep the peloton at bay, after 110km his team mate, Hamish Haynes came across with three other riders. He then lost touch with the front group, as a result of all the hard riding early in the race and the toll exacted by the weeks of hard training.
Luckily Hamish was on red hot form and managed to hold on for a win to boost the teams morale.
Last week gave him a small chance to recover, with a 120km kermesse race on Thursday in preparation for the weekends big test at the Omloop der Kempen(1.2) in the Netherlands.
The race went well for me, although it could have gone better, but I’m still happy
with the way I’m feeling on the bike - it didn’t even feel like 175km when we
got to the finish to start the two local laps of 11km, he recalled.
The race was a real dog fight from the beginning, 200 riders - and all 200 wanted to be in front. Daniel who was hoping for a third time lucky and crash free race in Holland, as the previous two ended with him hitting the deck, didn’t get it, and he went down about one kay after the neutral flag, Henry went on.
He takes up the story, Everything happens in threes, hey. I was just focused on staying in the front and boy, did I fight, there was a lot of wind, and in the gutter it was fast. This split the race into pieces and I was in the front group, thanks to some serious tactical riding to get there, and then stay there in the gutters.
I knew there was gonna be a break just before the first feed zone after 110km, so when the attacking started I was there covering, but when the lucky break went I was boxed in so I still tried to cross alone but the bunch chased me down.
I knew that the last half of the race was going to be even faster and harder than the first half, which was already fast at a 43km/h average. The group was only about 75 riders strong now, so it wasn’t so hard to get to the front, however I decided to move up a bit too late and got caught up at the back when the group split up again in the gutter, he added.
Henry finishes: I’m scheduled to do my first tour in two weeks time and its a difficult one to say the least. The tour, Triptyque Ardennais, goes over some of the climbs in Liege Bastogne Liege, the most famous one being La Redoute, which will have to be completed twice on the last stage!
A bit of a break down of just how hilly this tour is:
Stage 1 155km: 6 Cat 2 and 3 Cat 1 climbs
Stage 2 77km: 2 Cat 2 and 3 Cat 1 climbs
Stage 3 85km: 8 Cat 2 climbs
Stage 4 170km: 5 Cat 2 and climbs
Things seem to going better for me, and with my form coming on hopefully it should carry on getting better, Henry commented positively.