Photos as watermarked from Zoe Soullard/Direct Velo, others from Sam’s social media pages, with thanks to both!

Foreword Dany B: I know Sam for a while now, mostly from the under age road races and CX, racing for the Orchard CC youth team as his friend Seth Dunwoody, they both at their top of their game from young age, when Junior age arrived they where quickly picked up by continental teams, in Sam’s case the French team “Team 31 Jolly Cycles” which also have Adam Rafferty on their books, Seth races now for the Cannibal B -Victorious in Belgium, and as in earlier reports on this forum a very successful times in Europe!! I have found Sam as a very polite lad, bags of talent, a proven team worker, a great future ahead for certain, and as the others mention here a credit to their parents. It was a no-brainer to award a bursary to Sam, and wish I had a bigger budget to help even more, thanks Sam for this report, it gives a great inside of what experience you had, bad and good…very proud of you lad!!!

On the 7th of July, I headed to Dublin airport, with a one way ticket, not really knowing when I would be coming back home. It was a surreal feeling, knowing that I would be spending 7 weeks plus travelling around the 4 corners of France. I was based in between Carcassone and Toulouse in the south of France, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay, with the perfect roads for training, unbelievable weather and getting looked after super well by Marc and Sandrine Averseng (photo below) I also had good company living with Adam Rafferty for the majority of the summer. It really felt like I was living the pro life out there as a full time cyclist.

The summer wasn’t all plain sailing though, with my first few races not entirely gone to plan. When I was in France for a few weekends in May, I had 2 big crashes 2 weekend in a row, which really took a toll on me mentally. With cracking the frame of my spare bike at the Tour de Gironde, after a motorbike rode into me, and then getting catapulted out of a ditch at 60kph at the Trophée du Morbihan!!

My confidence in a big peloton was at an all time low, spending a lot of time at the back of bunches, making races super difficult for myself and nullifying the chance of any sort of result. It took me a month to regain any sort of confidence in the bunch, and at the Ronde des vallées in Brittany, I started to find moving up that bit easier and enjoying racing a lot more.

My last race in France I told myself that this was going to go well. I hadn’t achieved what I had wanted during the summer so I wanted to redeem myself in the last race, which was the ronde des Cévennes. As a team, we were aiming for Adam to get the overall win, and trying to ride as smart and as well as possible to avoid leaving him exposed. The first stage stayed mainly together so all was going well. The second stage was the TT in which I came 9th, a result which I was very happy with, moving me up to 7th in GC. Adam took the yellow jersey after this TT so it was up to us to hold onto it on the last stage, which was the hardest stage of the race. In the back of my mind I wanted to try and get the best gc result possible, but I knew the overall result was a lot more important, so I happily willing to sacrifice my result. The heat for this stage was crazy, hitting over 40 degrees, which was not good for us Irish men but we held it together. We stayed at the front for the entire race and with 10km to go up the last climb, I set a very hard pace, and with 2km until the top of the climb I peeled off and Adam was more than strong enough to hold onto the yellow.

This race definitely wasn’t the biggest race we had done as a team all summer, but it was a race that I was proud of and I took a lot of confidence coming out of it.
The last week in France, we had no more races to do, so we just spent the week as a bit of a mini holiday. We headed into the Pyrenees for a day, doing nearly 200km in the mountains which was a perfect way to finish out the 8 weeks away in France.

Me and Seth starting stage 4 of Valromey

I would like to say a big thanks to the Belgian Project for the financial support, and also a huge thank you to Marc and Sandrine Averseng for everything they done for me over the summer, and also to the team, Team 31 Jolly Cycles. It would not have been possible without you all.