Groupama FDJ’s Lewis Askey Gets PEZ’d!

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Rider Interview: The 2022 Paris-Roubaix was dry and dusty and Britain’s Lewis Askey thundered over the northern French cobbles to finish in the famous Vélodrome André-Pétrieux, bloodied, but a ‘L’enfer du Nord’ finisher. Ed Hood caught up with Lewis to hear about Roubaix and how his season has been going so far.

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Roubaix action for Lewis Askey

Bradley Wiggins is long gone, Chris Froome looks to have won his last big race, Geraint Thomas won the Tour of Romandie last year but that looks like a ‘last hurrah,’ whilst even Cav will have to slow down soon. But fear naught, the ‘New Wave’ of young British talent has already arrived, to give but a few examples – Fred Wright [Bahrain Victorious] was excellent in de Ronde, INEOS ‘Bens,’ Turner and Tulett are making names for themselves on the cobbles and climbs respectively, Ethan Vernon [Quick-Step] has already had his first win for the men in blue and meanwhile over at Groupama FDJ, Lewis Askey has come close to a French UCi 1.1 semi-classic win and is always in the thick of the televised action.

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The dusty cobbles

Unfortunately, Lewis’ progress has been pulled up short by a crash at Paris-Roubaix – most likely caused by the dreaded disc rotor. Crash or no crash he made it to the hallowed concrete of the velodrome in 42nd spot – no visit to the legendary showers though, straight to hospital for the 20 years-old who has moved up from the Groupama FDJ continental team to the World Tour équipe. We caught up with him as he recuperated back in England, a day or two after his epic ride across the pave.

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Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var

PEZ: How’s the injury?
Lewis Askey:
Much better, I’m walking now, the hospital did a good job on me; it wasn’t just the cut, I gave my knee a real hard whack when I came down, there was a lot of swelling; bending and mobility have been a problem but it’s improving day by day. I only had four stitches, the doctor said it could easily have taken 10 but the cut was clean and reckoned that four was enough to hold it together and for it to heal. With the cut being so clean I can’t think what else might have caused it other than a disc rotor?

PEZ: Tell us about the crash.
There must have been a burst pipe somewhere causing a section of cobbles to be wet, the guy in front of me – I think it was an Astana but I can’t be sure – panicked, grabbed his brakes, locked up and came down, he went one way and his bike the other, I went over the top of him and took out the guys behind who piled into me.

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Roubaix before the crash

PEZ: That big split in Roubaix early in the day was a bit of a surprise?
I don’t know why folks are saying it was unexpected, there was a cross wind and INEOS didn’t really go that hard, it looked inevitable that echelons would form, I was up front and a bit shocked when I heard that there had been a big split behind.

PEZ: What was the charge into that first Secteur, #31 like?
Because it had split there were only 60 or 70 guys going into it; so it wasn’t as manic as it would have been if you have 200 guys piling in there.

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Tour de la Provence stage 3

PEZ: Despite your injury, which the race doctor bandaged up on the move, you still worked had for the team?
Our team leader, Stefan Küng was caught out, he went back for a pee at the wrong time, it split and we had to work hard to get him back up the head of the race. [Küng would go on to finish third on the day; it’s been a good Classics campaign for the big Suisse ‘chronoman’ with third in the GP E3, sixth in Dwars door, fifth in de Ronde and eighth in the Amstel Gold, ed.]

PEZ: The crowds looked enormous, were you ever nervous – Lampaert’s crash was caused by a spectator?
Yes, vast crowds through every secteur, it must be cool to come into the velodrome with the leaders and hear that roar, but no, I never felt threatened. Even when we did our recce ride on the Wednesday before the race there were already hundreds of camper vans parked up at the Arenberg Forest and the team bus was swamped by hundreds of fans looking for autographs.

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Bloodied, but in the Roubaix velodrome

PEZ: Did you sample the famous showers?
No, it was straight to hospital for me – but there’ll be another time, I’m sure. . .

PEZ: You were prominent in de Ronde.
I’d say that was one of my best races of the season, I was working hard all day – the crowds there were huge, on every berg.

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Gent-Wevelgem

PEZ: But DNF at Gent-Wevelgem?
I was sick, I did the GP E3 but really shouldn’t have, the idea was I was supposed to keep my heart rate down but I wiped myself out in and just wasn’t right for Gent-Wevelgem – I was okay for Dwars door though.

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Dwars door Vlaanderen

PEZ: Classic Loire Atlantique, second to Anthony Perez, any ‘what ifs?’
Plenty! I was fastest there at the end but started my sprint too late, we were coming in fast but I hesitated and lost momentum – it was pretty close.

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Tour de la Provence prologue

PEZ: When did you get word that were stepping up from the continental Groupama FDJ team to the World Tour?
Last April, that was nice to know, it means you can get on with racing and enjoying it and not have to worry about chasing a contract.

PEZ: Was there any of those daft French ‘initiation rituals’ when you joined the team?
I had to wear a weird hat made out of a napkin then sing a song using an upside down wine bottle as a ‘microphone’ – and that was in a busy up market restaurant in Spain.

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European U23 cyclo-cross champs in Rosmalen

PEZ: How’s the language coming along?
I can speak it now and engage in conversations at the dinner table; all the team briefings are in French but it depends on the composition of the team at each race – sometimes with the Classics group we’ll converse in English.

PEZ: When do you hope to be back in action?
I was down to ride the Dunkirk Four Day but that starts on May 3rd so I won’t be back by then. It looks like I’m going to be off the bike for two weeks before I can get back in to training so my first race will most likely be the Boucles de la Mayenne in May.

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Roubaix photo with thanks to Gary Main

# With thanks to Lewis and looking forward to seeing him lighting things up again, soon. #

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