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Josh Atkins talks Tour of California
May 22nd, 12. From the Tour of Southland to the Tour of California, 19 year old Kiwi Josh Atkins talks about spending a week as part of a world class pro-peloton.
"It was pretty exciting racing against some of the guys that you look up to, and some of my favourite riders that I like to watch race," the Bontrager Livestrong Kiwi told RoadCycling.co.nz last night.
"You're riding right beside them. There was a whole lot of world class riders - it was really exciting. It was a really good experience, I was pretty happy to experience a pro-tour kind of level race like that so young."
2012 is Atkins' second year racing as a Kiwi international, to just get a start at a UCI2.HC race was a huge accomplishment but Atkins was not there to just sit in.
He was there to learn and to help his team be part of the action to prove the race organisers were right to have given his development team an invite to race.
After eight days in the midst of the action, what stood out for the 2011 Tour of Southland winner was the strategy and planning that went into the racing.
"Everyone has goals, each of the teams. The tour is long so you have to consider the coming days. In amateur racing, it is full gas all the time and everyone wants to win.
"If I was going in as a GC rider I would have to plan a lot more – energy is really valuable and you have to save it, not to burn your matches too early," he shared.
He could also see up close, the value of working as a team.
"The pro tour teams work towards one goal. The break goes, you see who is in the break, the team decides if they want to let it go or not. Then the tension eases and there is lots of feeding. It's broken down into parts."
The young Bontrager-Livestrong team proved they were worthy of their tour start with a string of top ten places and, thanks to a breakaway on Day 1, Atkins was wearing the Young Riders Jersey for the first three days - he was 2nd in the classification behind early tour leader Peter Sagan (Liquigas).
Best moments - teamwork
The highlight for Atkins and his team was Joe Dombroski's climb up Mt Baldy. Amongst the best climbers in the world, the young American placed 4th up the punishing ascent to finish the tour 12th overall. Atkins was pleased he had a part to play in that success.
Although he noted his time in the break on Stage 1 and lining up in the jersey were a few of his best moments of the tour, the most satisfying was helping his teammate on that final stage, he said.
"We all worked really well as a team for him and protected him and it was a team effort getting him there. Joe was struggling through the valleys because of the wind, and he punctured and nearly didn't get back on – just helping him and really protecting him was great.
"It was always really satisfying to help him that much, and then have him tell us at the end that if it wasn't for us he might not have made it. In the end he got fourth, just to be a small part of the was probably the best moment."
Most challening issue - food
"The most challenging thing was back to back days, and the eating! We had to load up on food because I was burning 4,500KJ per day. After the fourth or fifth day we were over eating, you were just stuffing yourself and it was horrible."
Atkins joined the first break of the tour after just 1km. He was out front for the best part of 185km, which took its toll as the tour progressed.
"Each day I was slowly starting to suffer from my first day in the break, it was starting to really tire me out – saving energy, planning where you are going to make your gains and really going for them and believing that you can do it on that day."
"You are so used to hurting yourself and stuff so it's great to finish each day. You push through. "
Atkins is now back at his base in Texas to have a bit of a break and plot the next part of his season. Although he does not yet know what his next race will be, he knows he has a lot more experience, strength and knowledge to take to it and the rest of his season's races.
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