British dominance at the Guido Reybrouck Classic (U19)
Updated: May 1
With Dylan Groenewegen, Jasper Philipsen and Remco Evenepoel as previous winners, the Belgian Guido Reybrouck Classic is one of the highlights in the U19 cobbled classics programme. Yesterday, Samuel Watson (17 years old - Team Fensham Howes - MAS Design) set up a strong solo to ride himself into attention. The Young Peloton was there to make pictures and talk to Watson (winner) and Finley Newmark (11th) about the British dominance: no less than four riders in the top five were Brits.
The young – but seemingly unknown - talent from Yorkshire grew up with Tom Pidcock and dreams of more than only Guido Reybrouck, with this years’ World Championships passing by his own front door. Next to Watson, we also talked to Finley Newmark, the Irish revelation who finished eleventh after a day of bad luck.
The Rise of Samuel Watson (1st)
Sam, you’re still pretty unknown in the cycling world. Who are you? And are the cobbled classics your favorite or is this a surprise victory?
Sam: “Well, I was speaking to my coach from the GB junior academy last week. I raced the classics last year and was eighth in Paris-Roubaix U19. Still, no-one really knows my name yet. He said I was a bit of an underdog and that this was the year to let everyone know who I am. At the start of today's race I thought: why not show it here?”
So you were really motivated for this race?
Sam: “Yes, I was pretty motivated.” (smiles)
And I saw that you didn’t wait for the sprint.
Sam: “Actually, I was in the peloton for a long while. There were two groups ahead and I left it until there were three laps to go. So I rode across to the second group alone. I sat on for a while, and then me and Lewis [Lewis Askey – who is on the same junior academy and won last year’s Paris-Roubaix U19 – Ed.] rode to the first group. We caught them on the cobbles of the finishing straight [Kerkstraat in Damme, Belgium – Ed.], and I knew I wouldn’t win the sprint so I immediately passed them. That’s what I’m good at, riding away in the last 5k. [5 kilometres – Ed.]”
Must have been nice to have time to celebrate on the last metres of cobbles. Would you describe yourself as a classics rider?
Sam: “I can climb, but obviously I’m better at the classics. I ride the track as well, in which I won the Six days of Ghent for juniors earlier this year.” [together with Zach Bridges – Ed.]
And still I haven’t heard of you before, now I’m embarrassed.
Sam: “That’s fine.” (smiles) “That’s what my coach meant, we want to prove who I am now.
This year’s World Championships are in your home country.
Sam: “I actually live in Yorkshire, I can ride the course from my doorstep. It’s kinda the roads I ride on. It’s pretty special. I’m definitely focusing on that race.”
On what other races are you focusing?
Sam: “Ghent-Wevelgem next week with Team GB. [the national selection – Ed.] Then I’ll be at home for a week to prepare Paris-Roubaix. Obviously, we’ll have a strong team there.”
Paris-Roubaix for juniors is the race that John Degenkolb saved.
Sam: “Definitely. I saw his petition on Instagram and I’m very grateful for what he did.” [Degenkolb saved the race which was €10.000 short by putting out a fundraiser – after 24 hours there had already been €11.000 collected – Ed.]
Are there any other riders you look up to?
Sam: “Obviously, all of the pros, especially the classics riders. But I’ve kinda grown up with Tom Pidcock and he was one of the best juniors in the world. So I started thinking: why can’t I be?”
Tom actually almost won the Guido Reybrouck two years ago, but suffered two punctures and came fifth.
Sam: “I’ll definitely have to tell him I won it.” (laughs)
Bad luck for Irish revelation Finley Newmark (11th)
Apart from Sam Watson, Irishman Finley Newmark (South East Region) had also expected a lot of the race. Last week, he finished second at Nokere Koerse after his teammate Alex Haines. Finley talked us through what happened.
Can you talk us through your Guido Reybrouck Classic?
Finley: “It was pretty unfortunate. I had a crash right at the start, then a puncture 80k into the race. [The race was 133 kilometres long - Ed.] It was hard to chase back after my puncture, because there had been a new crash, so I got caught up in that and the cars couldn’t get through. I had to wait for a couple of minutes before I could start getting back to the peloton. Then I stayed in the group for a long time to recuperate, but went for it at the end. So I went off with a couple kilometres to go, went past the second group and won that sprint.”
The British Samuel Watson won the race.
Finley: “That’s a really good result. The Brits are strong. You could see it in Kuurne [Kuurne Brussel Kuurne – Ed.] as well, where they were scattered through the top ten.”
There weren’t any South East riders in the first breakaway. What’s the story there?
Finley: “The weather conditions were quite relaxed. No wind, no rain, it wasn’t too cold. So the bunch stayed together for quite long. I feel like the South East team performs better when it’s hard, rainy and the conditions are worse, when other guys start losing a lot of their strength. So we were all a bit nervous about that, we didn’t get into the break. Fortunately, then Lewis [Lewis Askey finished fourth – Ed.] got across [together with winner Samuel Watson - Ed.]. And finishing 11th, I made the best of my own situation.”
Finley, something else now. You’re Irish, but you ride for an English team? Because sometimes I see a UK flag next to your name in the results.
Finley: “My mom’s Irish and their national team have some good opportunities. So next week, I’m riding Ghent-Wevelgem for the Irish team. But I live in London. On some of the results pages, they haven’t switched my nationality yet.”
You’re performing great this season with a second place at Nokere Koerse and now another strong performance. You must have had a good winter where you focused on the cobble classics?
Finley: “Yes, these were definitely the focus. I’m quite a big rider, so they suit me. And I’ve trained really hard during the winter, didn’t get ill and now that’s paying off.”
After those close results, you’re still looking for a victory?
Finley: “Ghent-Wevelgem is a big goal. Then the E3 Binckbanck Classic. I also hope to ride the European and World Championships with Ireland.”
I think the World Championship in Yorkshire should suit you.
Finley: “Yeah, I really want to have a look at the course. It's in England, so not too far away. There's some hills in thee course, which is good for me because it splits up the peloton and makes it a hard race.”
I witnessed today that you’ve got a nice sprint.
Finley: “I have an acceleration, a kick, which is always useful. It’s very rare that you’re by yourself at the end of a race, unless you’re very strong. So having a sprint is always a good thing.”
Are you a rider who splits up the peloton himself, or do you mainly try to follow the favourites?
Finley: “This is actually the first year that I’m consistently at the front of the race. People don’t necessarily know my name, but I’m getting more and more results. Now people are getting aware of me in the peloton.”
Last question: I think your Twitter name is really inventive. F I N L E Y N E W M A R K
Finley: “With all the spaces and in bold you mean?" (laughs) "Thank you.”