By Paul Verkuylen
Young Australian junior rider Joseph Lewis has began producing strong results in Europe after narrowly missing out on selection for the national Junior World championships team which competed in Mexico earlier this month. After missing out on the national squad Lewis made arrangements to ride out the rest of his final junior season with a prominent Dutch junior squad, de Volharding, which has seen many Australians pass through its ranks.
Lewis, who hails from the regional New South Wales town of Gloucester, took a few weeks to get accustomed to the European racing but quickly realised what he needed to do in order to be competitive. In one of his first major junior events for the team, the Trofee Von Vlaanderen, the junior version of the Tour of Flanders, Lewis finished mid pack taking the race as a positive learning experience.
"This race was one which I had raced nothing like it before, the wind, large number of riders, high speed and narrow roads made it one of the hardest races I have ever done," he told Cyclingnews. "The trick to these races is to just ride hard at the front, as being in the front group and working is better than being 50 places back and getting dropped because you cannot get any protection from the side wind as the bunch is already in the gutter."
The following weekend during the Johan Museeuw classic in Gistel, Lewis finished a strong 15th, after chasing down the lead group of 14 during the final 15 kilometres, slashing their one minute 10 second advantage to just 10 seconds by the finish.
Only days later Lewis lined up for the junior support race at the Drai Van De Kai in Roosendaal, one of the largest post Tour criteriums in Holland. With nine laps remaining in the race, Lewis attacked and was able to hold off the chasers till the finish, to claim his first victory in Europe.
His next target, the Tour of Antwerp, a four day event in Belgium, saw him finish in the lead group on the first stage, leading out his team-mate for the win, and taking seventh overall himself. Stage two saw him have some bad luck when he crashed and lost a lot of skin from his backside and slipping to 11th overall.
In stage three he faired much better, getting away in the last 10km to finish in fourth on the stage and take third on general classification.
Going into the final stage, Lewis was aiming to attack, in an attempt to take overall honours, but the high speeds quashed any ideas he had. In the final kilometre, a crash only a few riders in front of him brought down a large chuck of the peloton including Lewis. The crash snapped his bike in two, but Lewis still wheeled himself across the line in order to gain the time of the bunch, eventually finishing fifth overall.
His next major goal in the Tour of Munsterland, a 2.1 category junior event in Germany.
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