Lewis Askey hopes to reach world top level as quickly as possible: "I really surprised myself in 2023" Cycling

Lewis Askey hopes to reach world top level as quickly as possible: "I really surprised myself in 2023"

Lewis Askey hopes to reach world top level as quickly as possible: "I really surprised myself in 2023"

Lewis Askey was secretly one of the revelations last year. The British youngster of Groupama-FDJ sprinted to multiple top-ten finishes in the Vuelta a España and then ended his season with a second-place finish in Paris-Tours. But there's more to talk about regarding the rider from Cannock, as he is also an avid cyclo-cross racer. IDLProCycling.com spoke with the amiable Englishman in early January!

Before the X2O Trophy in Koksijde, which took place on Thursday, January 4th (and was won by Mathieu van der Poel), we tried to catch up with Askey at his relatively small camper, which he shares with his younger brother Ben. The latter had just returned from the U23 race (he finished 43rd), which is why I mistakenly approached the youngest of the brothers first. "That mistake happens very often," 19-year-old Ben, who rides for the Groupama-FDJ development team, confides in me. "Lewis and I look a lot alike. The only difference is that he has a bit more facial hair," we both laugh heartily about the mix-up. Soon after, Lewis exits the camper, and we enter a great conversation about various topics.

"It's not like I'm completing a whole cyclo-cross season, I'm just participating in individual races," Askey explains about his brief cyclo-cross winter. "I'm reasonably satisfied with what I've shown, although it was mostly about enjoying riding my bike. When I compete in a cyclo-cross race in Belgium, I aim for a top-twenty finish. That's quite challenging since I almost always have to start from the back row. But essentially I'm here to enjoy cyclo-cross. I find it incredibly enjoyable. I'm also very curious about how it will influence my performance in road races. As for my cyclo-cross schedule, I can be brief about that. After the team training camp, I came to the European mainland for a couple of weeks of cyclo-cross, followed by the national championship in Great Britain. And with that, my cyclo-cross campaign is already over." From his explanation, we can conclude that his third-place finish at the national championship there was his last cyclo-cross race of this season.

Askey has fond memories of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix

Cyclo-cross is certainly not new to Askey, who mentions that he has been involved in cyclo-cross since his childhood. "For example, as a junior, I managed to achieve several World Cup podiums. I also became national champion around the age of fourteen. So, I have quite a bit of experience by now." However, it's the road season that takes top priority for the young man from Staffordshire. "After the British cyclo-cross championship, I will go on a month-long altitude training camp. When I return, I will start racing almost immediately and prepare for the spring classics."

2023 was a successful year for Askey, even though he didn't secure his first professional victory. "It was a great season. Of course, it would have been nice to grab that win. I finished as the runner-up several times. Besides, I often finished in the top ten, including in the Vuelta. All in all, I can't complain. I can feel that I'm getting better every year. And that's the most important thing. What am I most proud of? Probably that second place in Paris-Tours, my final race of the year. A real highlight to close out the season with. I'm also pleased with my performance in the Tour of Flanders, where I finished 32nd, and the same goes for Paris-Roubaix (where he finished 25th, ed.). In those races, I didn't achieve a top-class result, but I did surprise myself with my performance. During the Tour of Flanders, I'm usually in the third group, so that was a pleasant surprise. We could still sprint for 18th place. On the final Paterberg climb, I was the third one in the group to reach the top. That also felt like a surprise."

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Askey on the Paterberg (E3)

Giro, Tour or yet again the Vuelta?

So, in 2024, those classics are of immense importance to Askey once again. "In principle, I will ride a similar program to last season. That means I'll be doing a lot of Belgian and French races, indeed. I prefer to stay as far away as possible from the Italian classics, haha! However, it would be incredibly cool if I could participate in another grand tour. Hopefully, it will be a different one than in 2023. So, I'm definitely looking forward to participating in the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France. Nothing is certain yet, but a new participation in a grand tour is definitely on the agenda."

Is Askey someone who, considering his track record, is already willing to assert himself and claim leadership in certain races? "I think it's more a matter of having confidence in your own abilities. It also depends on how you define the concept of being a team leader. Realistically, I have to admit that I'm not fast enough to win in a pure sprint. Just look at the Vuelta, where I mainly achieved podium finishes. On the other hand, I'm not strong enough in the mountains to keep up with the very best climbers. So, it's difficult to position myself as a team leader in certain races. In races with a punchy finale, I will definitely raise my hand, though. I think that was evident in the Vuelta a España as well. Moreover, I'm always willing to take on a certain responsibility and go all out for others on the team."

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Askey did extremely well in the past Vuelta a España

An Englishman in France

So, Askey has been in professional cycling for a while now. When asked, he mentioned that he wasn't really into the sport when he was younger, at least not when it came to professional cycling. "I have to admit that as a teenager, I didn't watch cycling on television very often. It was only the Tour de France that I really followed. I didn't start racing because I saw it on television, but purely out of a passion for the sport. My love for cycling didn't originate from television. It was only around the age of sixteen that I started following it more closely. I didn't really have any idols."

Lastly, what is it like to race as an Englishman on a French team? History (and the present) have often shown us that there can be significant differences between these two nations and their respective cultures. "The atmosphere within the team is very good. I am also currently learning the French language, and it's going well. I have been living in France for two years now, so I am progressing somewhat quickly. Within the team, I spend a lot of time with Samuel Watson, as I have been racing alongside him since I was eight years old. Laurence Pithie from New Zealand is also a good friend of mine, and we've been close for a long time. I would also consider Lenny Martinez as a great friend as well. So, they are more or less my age group, but I generally get along well with everyone."

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