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MANOSQUE, France (VN) – It says much of Lewis Askey’s talent that the British neopro was the only rider from Groupama-FDJ’s otherwise very experienced team to make it into the front group when fierce crosswinds hit the peloton on the first stage of the Tour de la Provence, which put him alongside the likes of world champions Julian Alaphilippe and Filippo Ganna.
However, no sooner had Askey made the cut than his inexperience showed.
“I did all of the hard work and managed to get myself in that front split. Then I saw I was the only rider from our team who was there, and I made the mistake of thinking the best idea would be to drop back and help the guys work to catch the front group because there was quite a long way to go, and obviously now I realize that that was quite a stupid thing to do,” he confessed prior to the start of Provence’s second stage in Arles last week.
It was a lesson and, having been promoted from Groupama’s Conti feeder team this season, the 20-year-old says that this season is all about learning. “Ever since I joined the team’s Conti set-up I’ve been shown the pathway to the elite level and they’ve given me everything that I need to succeed,” he explained.
“It’s not been a massive jump because I was with the Conti team for two years and that’s made the transition really smooth,” said Askey. “I’ve also learned a new language, I can focus on what I enjoy doing and that makes me happy. As people often say, a happy bike rider is a fast bike rider.”
Fifth in the world under-23 road race in Leuven, Belgium, last year when he was also a stage-winner at the prestigious Ronde de l’Isard, Askey has the build of a classics rider and that’s where his French team will be sending him in the coming weeks.
“I’ve got a good classics calendar lined up and I’ll try to learn as much as possible from that,” he said. “I’m set to do ‘opening weekend’ and then after that we’ll see. All being good, though, I should be at quite a few of the classics. They want to give me as much experience as possible, so that I can learn.”
Having become part of Groupama’s elite, Askey witnessed team boss Marc Madiot’s typically rousing speech during the team’s training camp, which included a comparison between Allied troops preparing to land on the Normandy beaches on D-Day in 1944 and his riders readying for the new season.
“He’s very passionate about the sport and a lot of people think that he’s like that day in and day out, but he’s not,” Askey told VeloNews. “He’s passionate about us doing well and he just tries to rally the riders, which is good to have role models like that who make sure you have the right mindset and keep you focused on the job.”
The Briton agreed that tales of Madiot’s exploits can give the impression of it being very traditional in its approach, but he says that’s not his experience at all.
“I think there’s been a lot of stereotyping, that the team’s so French. While I’ve not been anywhere else but here, I like to have a bit of freedom and I find doing other sports really does help develop me on the bike and off the bike. It keeps me fresher, a more rounded athlete. And the team are quite happy with me doing that,” he said.