Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) joined WorldTour on the eve of the coronavirus pandemic. Laughing, he obediently followed Mark Cavendish around the hotel during his first professional race in Saudi Arabia. The then 20-year-old excitedly talked about the big races he will ride in the future. Grand Tours, Monuments as he was ready to experience and experience them first hand.
Run ahead two years and he has just crossed the border after a tumultuous trip to finish seventh on the Flanders Tour. “I’m damn happy with that!” He exhales, crumpled behind the wheel.
The riders crawl through the mixed zone after an uncompromising 270km where Mathieu van der Poel and Thaddeus Pogachar put the peloton to the ball. Wright is empty, his eyes glazed, his face covered in salt and dirt.
It was a great day for Bahrain Victorious. Milan-San Remo winner Matej Mahoric was relatively anonymous when he gave the helm to the unpretentious trio of Wright, Jan Tratnik – who blew up Paterberg on the way to 12th – and the cunning Dylan Teuns – who eventually joined Wright by the end of the race to finish the race.
This momentous day for Wright began as he watched Dylan van Baarl’s transition from the front of an increasingly select group, remaining about 50km. It was a speculative attempt that came in handy when people like Thaddeus Pogachar and Mathieu van der Poel were ominously hiding, just waiting for the right moment.
“I knew that going ahead for Koppenberg and Taaienberg would help, because obviously Mathieu and Thaddeus are better than me on the rise,” Wright says. When this couple still made it, it was a blessing and a curse that pushed Wright further down the road and away from the competition, but with the realization that their terrible form would force him to meet the requirements at some point.
“I tried my best, but I felt my limits.”
Van der Poel and Pogachar achieved a break of half a minute, which gave them time and space to finish the bright race in the form of a cat and mouse. The victorious Dutchman cut it well, and Pogachar was overwhelmed in the sprint when two more joined the competition. By this time Wright was disconnected, teammate Theons had taken over, the British man’s legs had done, but his goal had more than been achieved.
“I’m not going to lie, not a drop,” he said of whether he thought he would return to the last few hundred meters to sprint to victory. “I told Dylan [Teuns] that he had to go. I ran miles. I swear it was the longest 10km I’ve ever done, especially in headwinds ”.
Wright spends too much to hide any emotions. As the scale of what he has achieved falls into his eyes, and what this will mean for his young career, his eyes water. A combination of exhaustion, admiration, love of pure cycling.
In tandem, he gets the most debilitating question athletes ask sports journalists: “What does this result mean to you?”
“Damn it!” he says.
Wright is a refreshingly unfiltered supplement to peloton. He speaks well for the rider of his fragile years in a bunch. He has a brain and a heart to match a formidable pair of legs.
Another reporter is trying to move the conversation to a more analytical replay of Wright’s speech, but he did. Today it is mostly about the fact that his legs have proclaimed themselves to the wider cycling world as a true contender for the classics, these toughest cycling races.
“I really can’t speak,” Wright admits, trying to be polite. “I’m so tired. I think I need to eat. “
Today will be the first holiday for many when Wright has felt what he is capable of.
Affectionate, tearful and very tired: Fred Wright was a discovery of Flanders
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