Quinn Simmons breaks British dominance at Ghent-Wevelgem U19
Updated: Apr 6
No less than four British riders were among the Ghent-Wevelgem U19 favorites. Samuel Watson (winner of the Guido Reybrouck Classic), Lewis Askey (winner of last year's Paris-Roubaix), Ben Tulett (current World Champion CX) and Leo Hayter were Britain's best cards for today’s Kattekoers (basically Ghent-Wevelgem U19). Although being the strongest team by far, the win was for the American ex-mountainbiker Quinn Simmons (who finished third last year). He first joined Lewis Askey in the break, and was able to drop him with an all out attack in the final kilometres.
Colorado's new cycling prodigy Quinn Simmons won the race, while Britain was left with spots two, three and four: Lewis Askey came second, seven seconds behind Simmons, Sam Watson had escaped the bunch to claim third and Ben Tulett won the group sprint behind for fourth place. After the finish, we talked to the podium finishers of the day and to Leo Hayter, an upcoming British cyclist who had a relatively bad day and finished 37th. What are their stories of the race and who are they?
Quinn Simmons (winner – United States)
Quinn, this is probably the biggest win in your career?
Quinn: “Yeah, for sure it's the biggest. I’m very happy.”
You escaped from the bunch with the Brit Lewis Askey, taking a Brit with you proved to be a good strategy. Was the British team the strongest today?
Quinn: “They were definitely the strongest team. And I knew Lewis from races I did last year, so I knew I had to follow him when he attacked.”
It seems that you worked together well, you held off a strong peloton. When did you realise the two of you would make it to the finish and how did manage to beat Lewis?
Quinn: “Probably with five kilometres to go, I felt they wouldn't reel us back in, the gap had started to get bigger. Then I was able to attack him with two to go. I knew Lewis was a good sprinter, so I didn’t want to sprint with him. I decided I wanted to go solo. There was wind ahead, so I put my head down, gave my best and hoped he wouldn’t come back, cause that would have meant trouble."
Something else now: who are you and where do you come from?
Quinn: “I’m from Durango, Colorado. Until last year, I had only raced on mountain bikes. Actually last year’s edition of this Ghent-Wevelgem was my first ever road race in Europe.”
Unbelievable, because you claimed the third podium spot.
Quinn: “Yeah, so there’s good memories of both years. Now I made the full transition to focus on road racing, so it’s my first full season on the road.”
Actually, you look more mature than most of the juniors. You have a beard for example.
Quinn: “I actually made a bet: now I'm not allowed to shave until Roubaix.” (smiles)
Who do you look up to in the professional peloton?
“Peter Sagan, for sure.” (smiles)
Now I see where your extravagant look comes from: two ear piercings with the American flag, thebeard,...
Quinn: "Those American flags are for good luck."
Your biggest objective is probably to become a professional in the future?
Quinn: "That’s the main goal: so now I want to get the attention of a European team and hopefully next year I can move to Europe."
Lewis Askey (second – Great Britain)
Lewis, you were in the two-man break that made it to the finish. Tell us your story of the race.
Lewis: “Actually, I wasn’t feeling great in the beginning. But with the tough course, probably everyone was feeling sore. Ben (Tulett) and Sam (Watson) were feeling strong, so I kept hitting it at the front, trying to thin out the bunch. I went for it about 20-30K [abbrevation of kilometres - Ed.] from the finish, and Quinn Simmons was on my wheel. We were riding in heavy crosswinds and just fully committed to it. We first got a twenty seconds advantage, then thirty, then twenty again, but once we had tailwind we knew we would make it. Then at one of the last roundabouts, Quinn attacked me and I gave everything to get back on his wheel, but didn’t have the legs.”
Did you expect that Simmons still had the legs to attack at the end?
Lewis: “I knew he was strong and we had to stay together until close to the finish line to be able to beat him. The team lost today, but we will come back stronger.”
Are you disappointed that you didn’t win today?
Lewis: “We’re always here to win. We’ll certainly discuss how we could have won the race, but I can’t complain too much.”
I can’t see any sweat on your face and I don’t hear heavy breathing. Are you sure you gave everything today? (laughs)
Lewis: “Ohhh.” (comically illustrates how much it hurt by pulling a sufferface) “It’s five minutes after the race now, so we’ve had a little bit of time. When you get a decent result, the pain goes away. It hurts more when you don’t get a good result.”
Does everyone focus on you more in the peloton since you won last year’s Paris-Roubaix?
Lewis: “Winning Roubaix surely means people look at you all the time, but I do the sport because I enjoy it, I like racing my bike and I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone else. I’m just here to do the best I can. If I hadn't been in the break and I’d have had to lead out Sam (Watson) today, that would mean I wouldn’t get a result, but it would have been fine for me. I’m not here to say: ‘Look at me: I can do this...’ No, I’m here to get the best for the team and to enjoy.”
Did the British team go into the race with one leader or a lot of leaders?
Lewis: “No! A lot of leaders, really. We had the Roubaix winner, the World Champion CX, the Guido Reybrouck winner, a really strong team."
Sounds like a junior Deceuninck – Quick Step Team.
Lewis: (laughs) “Yeah, we know how to ride as a team and we’re confident."
Samuel Watson (third – Great Britain)
Sam, after the win last week at the Guido Reybrouck Classic, it's a third place today. Are you happy with that result?
Sam: “Well, obviously, I like to win. But there were two riders away [Quinn Simmons and Lewis Askey – Ed.] and winning wasn’t possible anymore, so I’m happy with that third place.
What is your story of the race?
My teammate Lewis Askey was on the road with Quinn Simmons, so as we had a guy at the front, it was an easy ride for us. At the end of the race, I noticed an opportunity to go for it and even got third at the finish, but Lewis and Quinn were riding too strong to get across.”
Was it frustrating that you had a teammate ahead, as it left you stuck in the peloton with your good legs?
Sam: “Not really, I like riding as a team and I’m happy to let my teammates go for the win as well.”
Ghent-Wevelgem’s course is not flat, you had to manage a tour of three climbs which you did twice, totalling six climbs, with the heroic Kemmelberg being one of them. What happened on those hills?
Sam: “I like to ride at the front of the race, so I made sure that before the climbs I was already at the front. On the first three climbs, I wasn’t going well and slipped backwards. The second time, I had good legs. Because of the way the race developed, I could sit on and save energy for that final break.”
With your results of the last seven days, you can proudly say you're one of the best juniors of the moment. You can be happy, but you look a bit chuffed.
Sam: “I am happy, but I’m chuffed as well obviously. As I told you last week, this year I wanted to show who I am. So far, that’s going well and that’s what I can be happy about.”
Leo Hayter (Great Britain)
How was your race today? [Leo finished 37th - Ed.]
Leo: “Not great, actually.”
You had a really good result in Kuurne – Brussel – Kuurne, where you were leading out the sprint, but the guy you were leading out for fell, so you took the effort to the finish and claimed the fourth place.
Leo: “Yeah, he crashed. I just led out the sprint and didn’t know if he was behind me or not, I just kept going.”
After that result, you must have come here to win.
Leo: “We knew we had four to six riders on the team who could win the race. So we had the plan to cover the early breaks and to see what happened from there.”
Do you think the British squad was the strongest by far today?
Leo: “Yeah, and you can see it in the UCI ranking as well. We have three to four riders in the top ten.”
Then it must be frustrating that the team couldn’t seal the win today.
Leo: “Exactly, but there are plenty more chances to come."
What are your other goals for this year?
Leo: “I’m looking at the general classification of the Trophée Centre Morbihan and the Saarland Trofeo, after that the World Championships.
What is your specialty as a rider?
Leo: “Definitely time trialling. I’m fond of doing the 3K [abbreviation of kilometres - Ed.] on the track and the individual and team pursuit. I won the 3K at Apeldoorn, so that was nice."
Leo, you’re Ethan Hayter’s brother, who’s doing really well on both the track and the road in the U23 category. Does that give you pressure?
Leo: “Not really, but I can ask him for advice, cause he knows what he’s doing.”
Do you train together sometimes?
Leo: “When he’s home, because he’s abroad or in Manchester a lot.”
Just like your brother, you also ride the track?
Leo: “Yeah, I started off on the track when I was younger, but I only did it to beat Ethan.” (laughs)