Goes, The Netherlands – Chris Lawless of the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team went the distance Saturday to grab his first victory of the season
Riding for the British Under 23 national team, Lawless sprinted from a long ways out to win ZLM Tour U23, a one-day, 181.3-kilometer Nations Cup contested by national teams in The Netherlands.
"There was a crash with about 1,700 meters to go and my teammate Jake (Hennessy) was on the front, ahead of me," Lawless said. "I felt I had to hit out from there because I knew I could get a gap. I shouted to him to go but he said he couldn't. So I had to take it up myself with 1,400 meters to go. I just tried flat-out from there."
The 21-year-old from Manchester held off Jasper Philpsen of Belgium and Jérémy Lecroq of France, who finished third. Axeon Hagens Berman's Ian Garrison, riding for USA Cycling, wound up 19th following a solo attack in the last five kilometers.
It was Lawless's first victory since capturing the British national criterium championship last year. Three times this season, he finished runner-up on stages: twice at Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal in February and once at Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux in Belgium last month.
"I came into this race the same as I came into any other race," Lawless said. "I knew at Triptyque that I would like to win a stage, but it did not work. The same goes for Portugal, I wanted to win and it just did not work out. Today, all things just fell into place and it was the day for me."
Lawless's win is the fifth on the year for Axeon Hagens Berman in a UCI race and the 17th overall in three disciplines (road, mountain biking and track). It is also the team's second Nations Cup victory, following Eddie Dunbar's win in the Under 23 edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen one week ago.
Garrison, runner-up at Gent-Wevelgem in his first Under 23 race last month, said he sensed a lot of tired riders who might be content to see the race end in field sprint as the lead group started on two laps of a 10.7 km finishing circuit.
"I hardly had any energy myself but thought I would give it a go knowing that my sprint most likely would not match the favorites that we had in the group," the 19-year-old said. "It was a strong group and I was quickly reeled in. But I could not be happier for Chris. I know he was gutted to have barely missed out multiple times this year so for him to finally get that win is awesome to see."
In other competition by Axeon Hagens Berman riders around the globe Saturday, Will Barta finished fourth and Neilson Powless was sixth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège Espoirs in Belgium. (Story here: http://bit.ly/2oL00bn.) In Hong Kong at the UCI track world championships, Ivo Oliveira followed up his sixth place in the individual pursuit Friday with a 10th-place finish in the omnium.
Header photo courtesy Les Professionnels du Peloton.