Alex Richardson has served a timely reminder of his potential.
The 27-year-old, from Kingston, delivered a fine ride to finish seventh in the star-studded Heusden Koers pro kermesse in Belgium last Tuesday.
He then notched second place behind team-mate Rory Townsend in the South East Region Road Race Championship on Sunday – gapping the field to secure a BIKE Channel Canyon one-two.
The first-year professional crossed the line ahead of big names such as Quick-Step Floors’ six-day hero Iljo Keisse in the full gass, 168km tear-up on the continent last week.
Kenny Dehaes, of Wanty-Groupe Gobert, celebrated victory, while AG2r’s Belgian road race champion Oliver Naesen finished a couple of places in front of Richardson in a select front group.
For Richardson, who has spent a significant amount of time off the bike because of illness following his An Post Rás debut, the return to form was a much-needed boost. He said:
“Heusden Koers was a huge result for me and one which gives me massive confidence in my ability, especially after having to take time off with illness.
“I actually just wanted to head over to get a really solid race in the legs, everything else was a bonus. I knew some good form was coming but most importantly I was buzzing to be on the start line.
“I’m proud of the result and have quite a few more lined up that I aim to target.
“I think this style of racing suits me as it is fast and instinctive, so thanks to the team to being able to wear the jersey in such an epic race.”
While he was buoyed by his physical strength in the contest, Richardson was also pleased with the tactical performance he delivered on the continent as he continues his development in the professional ranks.
With riders from Lotto Soudal, Wanty Groupe Gobert, Veranclassic Aqua Protect and Tarteletto – Isorex all missing out on the early six-man break, he refused to panic and sat tight in the bunch.
And the decision to conserve energy paid off, when he was able to respond to the decisive move and bridged the gap to the break with an elite group of around 15 riders.
Richardson admitted he probably hit the wind a little early in the final shakedown but, regardless, was delighted with the result in such esteemed company. He added:
“The race went full gas from the gun and, over the full 168km, I spent about 40 minutes in zone six!
“With 35km to go, I felt people’s legs were getting tired with gaps every now and again forming. So I moved up and held my position around 10 to 15.
“The pace was high and, inevitably, the back went out of the race and I ended up being an elite group bridging to the six up the road.
“We caught the leaders with a lap go. I was rolling with the punches then and wary of splits forming.
“With a kilometre to go I was seventh wheel, having to hit the wind with 200m to ultimately roll seventh against some of the best in the world.
“Maybe I could have podiumed – 10th wheel would have been better with a kilometre to go.
“But I felt strong and I am excited about getting back out there again.”
Richardson is back in Belgium on Thursday for the GP Lucien van Impe Erpe-Mere before the Victor Berlemont Trophy in Oxfordshire on Sunday.