• George Mills-Keeling


SD Sealants Junior Tour of Wales 2019 | George Mills-Keeling The Junior Tour of Wales is the biggest junior race in the UK with 39 past editions with the first edition being in 1981. There are past winners such as Matt Stephens, Dan Martin, and Alex Dowsett, in 2004 Geriant Thomas got 2nd which is the result that I got this year! 😅 You can see all past results and this year top 3: HERE The race this year was comprised of 5 stages over 4 days, the first stage is an individual time trial starting in Brynmawr and finishing up the tumble climb but the other side to Abergavenny, stage 2 was a road race of 110km starting in Abergavenny and finishing on the Rhigos mountain, stage 3 was a circuit race at the Pembrey circuit, stage 4 was a 'flat' road race which started at the Pembrey circuit but finished at Nantgareding, this stage also used some of the Tour of Britain course and finally the last stage being stage 5 which is the hardest of the all started in Abergavenny and finished up the traditional Tumble mountain climb, this stage was 98km. Stage 1: Brynmawr - Blaenavon ITT Race The first stage of the Tour of Wales was an individual time trial, you could use any TT equipment but I chose to use TT clip-on bars on my normal road bike with standard wheels as I thought that weight was more of an issue as half of the TT was uphill and my road bike is pretty aero anyway. I used all my aero TT clothing such as skinsuit, gloves, overshoe, and helmet as they don't weigh anymore but obviously still carry the aero gains.

My TT position, which I thought was alright to say it was on a standard bike with clip-on barsBeing a time trial it was obviously quite important I did a good warm-up used a turbo trainer so I could use the last few minutes before my TT to get as familiar as possible without having the fear of falling off that I would have had on rollers. The race started on a ramp just outside the cinema in Brynmawr, the course contains a few roundabouts to start with so it was important that I carried what speed I could make up within the 300m before I reached them, after you have the roundabouts out the way it was straight up onto the almost common/ moorland that half the TT rides across, this was quite a hill being about 3/4 of the amount of climbing of the final climb being the tumble. As the course got to the top of this moorland it started a gradual descent where I picked up a lot of speed help by my TT bars and aero clothing, only issue was as we were all on junior gears there was only so fast I could pedal without putting no power down, I maxed out at 140RPM. Later on, with all this descending complete there is a 90degree left bend with a nice manhole cover just on the racing line, I think it was an advantage being on a road bike for this corner as you have more control over the bike and you can get your center of gravity a lot lower and take the corner in a normal position, after this corner is where you find out if you have paced your effort correctly, as it ramps up and doesn't ease off until you have crossed the line. In my case, I had paced it well and had the legs to push on and put more power out than on the first climb riding at around 400-410watts.

In the end, I finished 6th on this stage and 32second behind the stage winner, which was a great start as my goal for the whole race was a top 10.

Stage 2: Abergavenny - Rhigos Pen-y-Cymoedd Race Stage 2 was a hard hill stage of 110km which started in Abergavenny and finished at the top of the Rhigos mountain, this stage comprised of 5 main climbs all varying in length but the hardest by far was the final climb. The stage started for me much like any other road race in the last half of the peloton just trying to conserve as much energy as possible as I knew the stage would have come down to the climbs and that it would have definitely split up because of the terrain, the first climb we came to was around 4km after the neutralized had finished (which was 11km), the climb was called Bwlch, it was should and sharp and we flew up it with guys already being dropped this early on into the race. Later on into the start just before the feed zone which was about 40km in, I thought I would try my luck and attack as there was already a two-up breakaway up the road and there were also some time bonus sprints up for grabs so I thought if I got a placing in these sprints I could move up into the top 5. So I pushed on with a few other guys and we caught the two-up and we started to work, after around 10minutes we only had a gap of 22seconds with around 3km to the time bonus sprint so I thought if we could just get to the sprint the breakaway wouldn't have been completely pointless. So we got to the sprint, in which I finished 2nd so I got a time bonus of 10seconds and the time gap to the chasers had gone up to around 40seconds. We worked well together dropping a few riders along the way and the time gap rose up and up to a point with 20km to go, we were told we had 2minutes and 50seconds to a chasing group of 14riders., I had a feeling that we were going to be caught on the long dual carriageway climb which happened to be a headwind so it was painfully slow feeling, what didn't help is we had a straight line of sight to the chasing group, peloton and team cars around 4minutes down the road. As we got to the bottom of the Rhigos climb Tom Gloag, who had, had a free ride in the breakaway all day because he had the yellow jersey in his team in the group behind, attacked with around 5km to go. He opened quite a big gap on the three of us who were left in the breakaway and in the end, the gap was too big for us to close down, so he won the stage. I finished 3rd place behind Drew Christensen and in front of Lewis Askey who took the yellow leaders jersey. We finished 2:09min in front of the 5th place rider and 3:56min in front of a group. Stage 3: Pembrey National Closed Road Circuit Race This stage was a circuit race which isn't really my cup of tea, it was 34km in length around the Pembrey crit circuit, with a pretty fast downhill S bend. The race was fast from the start with a breakaway getting away, yet there was no one in the group who was a danger to the GC. In the end, I just finished in the bunch safely, surprisingly there was no crash which is not something I thought would happen, as the equation was 100juniors + crit =?

Stage 4: Pembrey - Nantgaredig Race Stage 4 was a rolling road race with one pretty hard climb to start with straight out of Pembrey after the lap of the country park, going up the hill was hard people must have had relatively fresh legs after sitting in the wheels on Stage 2, for this reason, I found it quite hard to start with but as I road into the stage I felt better and better. The stage was 92km which was 2h:15mins in length.

After the climbing was complete we were on the finishing circuit or local lap, of which the Tour of Britain will use some of the same roads later on this year. The lap was rolling but very fast in some sections with a few sharp bergs around 3km to go. On this stage, there were a lot of time bonus sprints so I knew I had to take note who was going up the road and stay around the top 3 on GC so the other guys could take time from me. For this reason, I was happy for a breakaway to go, with very little interest in chasing the break as there was no one within 3minutes of me on GC, so I just surfed the wheels and tried to recover as much as possible for the final stage.  I had an attack on the last lap and tried to distance my self from the peloton to try and get my self a few seconds back so it would have been easier for me to win the race overall, despite my best efforts I couldn't get away being chased back by the race leader within 30seconds of my effort. For this reason, I just rolled in at the front of the group and didn't get involved in the sprint as I didn't want to tire myself pointlessly as there is no way that I could have won the bunch sprint and it was only for like 8th.

Stage 5: Abergavenny - Tumble Mountain Race The last stage of the Tour of Wales always finished on top of the Tumble mountain which usually sorted out the final GC, this year was the same as the last finishing on top of the Tumble but with some new extra climbs which were pretty hard to wear everyone down before we all reached the Tumble. Going into this stage I was 7 seconds off winning the biggest junior race in the UK which is crazy to think, so the stakes for me were high, I didn't want to lose my podium position but I was so close to winning so I had to give it my all. To start the day off there was a time bonus sprint which thankfully the race leader didn't take any time in as the sprints competition was quite a closely fought competition. There were about 30km of flat road of the 94km of stage 5, after this rolling/flat section we started the first climb of the day, this climb wasn't steep but it went on for a long time and was steeper to the top, with already tried legs it felt a lot harder than it actually was, something which was quite cool was that the forest which the climb was in was completely covered in fog which meant the visibility was low, just added something a bit different to the usual sunny weather. Later on in the stage, we reached the second climb on the day which was called Tinturn or something similar, with a breakaway up the road which was around 40 seconds ahead we kept the pressure on up the climb and we reduced the gap to seeing distances on the descent over the other side of the climb. This meant that the gap would be easier to close on the run into the Tumble. As it turns out we next did close the gap to the last few guys in the breakaway as everyone really just looked at each other not wanted to burn any matched before the Tumble as they knew they would have paid for it. So at the end of the dual carriageway, we started our approach to the Tumble with the breakaway at about 2minutes but no one of concern regarding GC. So all I needed to do was keep up on the Tumble for a podium place in the Junior Tour of Wales and/or shake the leader on the climb and gain back 7seconds to secure the win. I tried twice to attack the leader and regain some time but due to the difficulty of the day's terrain I was all but finished, I managed to open up a small gap of a few seconds but no the 7 seconds required to make the top step on the podium. So, in conclusion, I finished 2nd in the Junior Tour of Wales 2019 which was way and beyond which I had in my mind as a good result, my goal going into the long weekend was top 10 and maybe a top 5 on the Tumble stage. Turns out I smashed my targets, now its time to recover and do some TT training as I have the National 10mile TT this Saturday in Cambridge.


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