With thanks to Sabien Himpe and Rik Masil for looking after them, and Martine Verfaillie (our other guest mum, who looked after Paul-Antoine Hagan this August, one of our U23 graduates) for the photos…You all are part of the keys to the success the project reached over the years, The Irish cycling fraternity and I are in your debt!!

The Sam Bolger report

Over the summer I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks just outside Moorslede with Sabien and Rik, thanks to the support of Dany Blondeel of the Belgian Project. The day after I arrived, we went to watch a pro-Crit race in Roeselare (just 5km from my home) with lots of pro riders, including Tom Pidcock and Wout Van Aert. It was here I realised why Belgium is regarded as the home of cycling. With over 35000 people watching, the atmosphere was unreal.

Over the 3 weeks, I competed in 7 Junior Kermesse races, each with over 100 junior starters. The flat racing definitely took some getting used to. It’s almost like a different sport, with intense sprints out of every corner and constantly rubbing off other bikes and riders in the bunch. My favourite race was in Denderwindeke, with 2 “climbs” per lap. Probably the biggest thing I learned from my trip was the importance of positioning. In a bigger, tighter bunch it’s crucial. In Ireland, if you lose concentration, you can cycle up the other side of the road to regain position. On tight, twisty Belgian roads, this isn’t an option. You then pay the price in the crosswinds and often can get caught out by splits. I am really grateful for this opportunity and it has definitely improved me as a rider, while also giving me a taste of a life racing abroad. Thanks again to Dany, Sabien, Rik, and Curtis Neill for such an enjoyable few weeks

Here at the start with some other Irish juniors (Christopher Marshall and Patrick O’ Loughlin)

The Curtis Neill report

A quick review of my first solo trip to Belgium thanks to the @belgianproject. 3 x weeks in +30 degree temperatures, big groups with up to 150 riders, 8 races completed, over 750km raced, a few top 20 finishes, and a couple of primes won. Absolutely loved the experience and the time spent with my guest parents Rik and Sabien. Massive thanks to the Belgian project for giving me the opportunity and to everyone else who helped make this possible.