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West Mids Team at Junior Tour of Wales


Following the WM Board decision to select four riders for a WM team for the Junior Tour, the following riders travelled: Joe Brookes (Halesowen), Jacob Gilkes (Bridgnorth, Rowan Schaak (VeloRunners), Oliver Tandy (Solihull). They were the only team representing an English region in the race, which has been the UK’s premier Junior event since 1991. 

The quartet rode consistently over the first three days, with Joe Brookes finishing 23rd in the opening time trial up the Tumble from the Blaenavon side, and then getting in what proved to be the race winning move the next day when the race finished up the Black Mountain climb used in the Women’s Tour, finishing in touch with the main group of favourites. On day three, a circuit race and 100km road stage, Rowan Schaack suffered a crash but continued with cuts to knees and elbow; Oliver Tandy also lost time on the circuit race, but was still riding well ahead of the backmarkers. 

The team saved their best for the last day, which involved a nasty climb out of the Wye Valley near Tintern followed by the finale up the other side of the Tumble. Both Brookes and Gilkes made it into what proved to be the decisive move after the first major climb, and when the eventual stage winner Josh Tarling made his attack on the final ascent, he burned off all the rest of the break apart from Gilkes, who finished second, close behind Tarling. Given that Tarling is probably the strongest junior in the UK at the moment, and is about to turn professional for Ineos, this was a remarkable ride. 

Brookes had another consistent stage, finishing 21st and moving up the standings to 20th overall, while Gilkes leapt 28 places in the overall standings to 26th overall. Schaack finished in 56th, and Tandy ran in 67th, no mean feat in a race where there were more than 30 non-finishers. In the team standings the quartet finished 6th of some 20 squads, and they were in the minority who managed to finish four riders out of four. 

Thanks to the West Midlands board for part-funding the team, to the selection panel for choosing four strong riders, and to the parents involved for their support, in particular Ian Gilkes and Roland Schaack.