Feature photo courtesy of @ANADOMINGUEZ PHOTOS, other photo’s as indicated & review races Adam Ward
Foreword Dany: ” I know Adam since he was an underage rider with Omagh Wheelers and follow his progress ever since. His juniors years very successful with becoming champion in Sligo at the Nationals in 2018 and a few wins in Belgium that year. Adam was staying with the Belgian Project guest parents Sabine and Rik (all known to you by now…see photo below) in the summer and became a feared rider in the local kermesses. One anecdote…I was over in Belgium to support some of my graduates that year for a few races and was standing near the starting line having a beer with some locals…they didn’t know me, but we got in a conversation…suddenly Adam passed us in his Irish Champion jersey…the local man said to me …feck! it is racing for second place again, the bloody Irish are here…I had a big smile on my face and explained to the man who I was and what I was doing, and told him this is the best compliment towards our Irish racers I ever heard…Adam didn’t win that day but don’t remember much about the race as one beer became a few more. Adam didn’t get what he deserved as an Irish Champ…never got the call for the Irish team for the worlds…a decision that was challenged but to no avail…never mind….look at him now…a talented young man with a belief in himself…when the head is right, the legs will follow” Good luck for the remainder and see you at the nationals in the autumn mate.
The story so far in Spain after leaving Ireland a few weeks ago (after his win in the Lakeland GP in Fermanagh)
Hi, my name is Adam Ward and I’m currently living in Banyoles near Girona in Catalunya, Spain. I’m riding for the amateur team “Antiga Casa Bellsola Girona”, and have been for the past year. I left the North of Ireland to come and live here in Girona at the beginning of June. For my first couple of races at home, I had some bad luck but was very relieved to take my first win of the season in the rain & hailstones of Fermanagh at the Lakeland GP just a week before I left to come to Spain. I’m living in the team house in Banyoles, Spain just off the main square of this bustling town. I’m currently living with 3 other riders in the team house – Jeroen, Ari, and Bernat who are from The Netherlands, New Zealand, and Catalunya respectively, meaning our dinner table conversations are quite interesting! I’ve gelled well with these guys and I feel at home with some really good friends. Whenever I arrived in Spain I was very lucky to be given a stacked race calendar to start my European racing season. My Spanish racing season kicked off with the Huesca Challenge B Guara. A two-day Challenge race featuring a 21km TT on Saturday followed by a 135km Road Race on Sunday. I was happy with my performance after only spending 1 hour the day before on a brand new TT bike I was given by my team, a Trek Speed Concept. With the best equipment the next day I had no excuses and was thankful to put it to good use by placing 3rd overall in my first TT in over 1 year, around 1 minute off the pace of the winner. On Sunday I was ready to get stuck into my first Spanish road race of 2021. Thankfully I was able to towards the front end of the race featuring 2000m of climbing over the undulating 135km course on tight and narrow roads. I ended up holding onto 13th place, losing around 29s to the Stage winner but thankfully this was enough to hold onto my 3rd place on GC. A good first weekend here in Spain! A huge shoutout to my teammates Edgar & Jeroen who placed 2nd and 3rd respectively on the final stage as well as being award the team prize for the weekend. After that I had a few days to recover before heading to my first ever Copa Espana in Murcia. Copa Espana races are basically the highest amateur level races in Spain, where all the best riders come to prove themselves, and it’s a very common theme that any winners of a Copa Espana race generally end up with a Pro contract the following year. For me my first Copa Espana was a complete shock to the system with a relatively flat course featuring a 20km climb with an average of 4% starting at 70km into the 156km race. I couldn’t stick with the leaders over the top of the climb and was stuck behind a crash on the descent meaning after this I didn’t see the front of the race again. Still, a great learning experience, and I was happy with my performance considering the quality of the field.
After this, I had another 2 days to recover before heading to my 2nd Copa Espana near Valencia. This was the toughest race I’ve done all year with 156km of racing featuring 2500m of elevation gain, including a nasty 2.5km climb with an average of 10%. Looking at the roadbook and with my previous experience of the speed the climbers have here in Spain I guessed that this 2nd climb at 10% would possibly be a bit too much for me to get over after 75km of racing, so I helped out my team mates and did some work on the front to keep them well placed for the beginning of the race into and up the first climb of the day, a steady average gradient of 3% for around 20kms. After this I tried to conserve as much energy as possible and just paced myself up the 2nd climb of the day. I managed to get into the 3rd group on the road at the time and eventually finish around 10 minutes down on the leader after 156km of this brutal course. Not a result to write home about but still a positive learning experience and I was happy to help out my teammate Marcel on his way to 12th on one of the toughest races on the Spanish Calendar. As I said, this was a double race weekend so we had to pack everything up sharpish and head back down to Girona and prepare for racing the next day in my first Copa Catalunya in Lleida, around 2.5hrs from our team house here in Banyoles. This course was a bit more suited to me with around 1100m climbing over the undulating 155km course. I started the day on domestique duties for my teammate David Gomez who was the current leader of the Copa Catalunya and was wearing the Leader’s jersey. An early break went and we had Jeroen in it along with 12 other riders. This group had some strong riders in it so myself and the whole team made sure that the gap didn’t get too big in the early stages of the race. Fortunately, another team had missed out on this break and were eager to bring the move back with around 30km of racing left just before a short 3km climb at 4%. This is where the break would split apart with around 4 groups forming on the road after this climb. I was in the main peloton with our leader David and I was looking after him and was feeling strong enough to bring the race back together closing the gaps between the 3 groups on the road, leaving only the break remaining ahead of the peloton. I was feeling strong so after getting permission from David I made my move and started bridging the gap to the break with another rider. After a tough chase, I managed to get to the front with around 30km of racing left. Now making 3 Antiga Casa Bellsola riders at the head of the race. My teammates and I felt the pace in the front weren’t hard enough so from here we started to ride more aggressively attacking the group of 10 in the hopes of getting a smaller more cohesive group clear. Fortunately I was able to get clear with an Australian rider with around 20km to go and we were able to establish a decent gap on the rest of the break as well as the remains of the peloton. With around 1km to go, I found myself in the front of the Aussie rider and that’s whenever the cat & mouse began. I was confident in myself for the sprint and I kicked hard up the drag to the finish at around 200m to go. Thankfully I was able to gap my compatriot from the front and hold him off for the win! Definitely a good start to my first two weeks racing here in Spain. Hopefully I’ll have more to report in the coming weeks.