We hit the International Belgian Youth Tour (#IBYT) last weekend, near Brussels for our first trip to this 3 day youth cycling tour with 11-year old Connor competing for Team HUP.  What better place to test our new HUP straatrace bikes?

It all kicked-off on thursday evening with the official recce of friday’s prologue stage which takes place on a twisty and technical military training road on an army base at Heverlee, near Leuven.

The prologue itself started at 9am on the Friday morning, with the super efficient signing on held in the nearby Cycling Vlaanderen building. Start positions drawn at random, running in batches for each age group.

Well day 1 didn’t go to plan for our Connor as he ‘...hates time trials’ (in his own words) but sadly that’s Tour life! 18th/32 for the youngest rider on this year’s tour, but he’s wasn’t happy!

A hot day and technical twisty course with some drags, it’s not the easiest of TT courses. But Saturday was a new day, bringing a totally different beast, with a big climb repeated 4 times for the youngest category and a great 22km stage length for the 11yr olds.

As the first of two closed road races at Bertem, day 2 was a big one for young Connor and a great learning curve. Up with the lead pack for the first to ascents of the big climb, before he was barged off the road and onto the grass and a stop! Got going again but with the chasing pack for next two laps, before rolling in 15th. Needs to learning to barge back and hold his line, it’s definitely more physical than back home, but he’s learning.

Matt Kent rode the perfect race, taking Sprint points and the U13 race win - cracking day! 

Adam Lea riding from last bike to leading the train in 1 lap was something to behold. Well done Team MK race squad’s Lotty and Ewan in what was a tough race all round with several accidents, but looks like no serious injuries.

Sunday and the last race of the tour and probably the biggest challenge, based at Ottenberg. Another closed road race, however a particularly steep, narrow cobbled climb of Wijmingenstraat was always likely to break up the pack. Brutal!

With just the 6 ascents of the brutally steep cobbles in their 20km race, day 3 was always going to hit their legs, which it did! Dutch rider and yellow Jersey Max de Lincel made a break off the front on the first climb and never looked back.

The pack soon split and it was a fight to the end in smaller groups, victory for all who got to the chequered flag! Mathew Kent had another good race coming in 8th, to seal his 3rd overall for the tour! Connor had a better race coming in 14th and Will not far behind in 15th.

It was a similar affair in the older age groups, possibly the toughest race these riders had ever faced. Team MK’s Adam Lea, Lott Dawson and Ewan Grady all had tough races, with Ewan tackling 54km in the U17’s! Try finding one that doesn’t want to go back though. A great performance from the Brits that made the trip including Will and Ben Flatau, Skye Willis, Abigail Biggs, Spencer Corder amongst others. Flandriens all of them.

It was a great year to take part in the IBYT as the grand depart for the 2019 Tour de France was taking place in Brussels on the same weekend, with Saturday’s opening stage just 3km away from the kids race! 

Top tips: look out for the seeding draw on the nearest lamp post - rider numbers ending in the numbers listed, are girding in that order. If a rider drops off the main pack, they can (and will) be taken out of the race by the Broomwagon - theres is a time limit, just like the real tours! Don't forget maximum of 30mm deep wheels too.

All the riders in our little group had a fantastic weekend of racing, tough but a great experience. Our HUP straatrace bikes performed faultlessly which was great! For info on next years event: www.ibyt.be