Rider Diaries

Rider Diary: Leif Bryan from the 2023 Junior Tour of Ireland

In July 2023, BJC made its inaugural trip to Ennis, Ireland for the Junior Tour of Ireland. The Tour is a 6-day stage race that covers 350 miles of scenic Irish countryside and coast. It is one of only a handful of stage races for junior riders only. This year our team consisted of 5 riders: Luke Robison, Magnus White, Eli Deboom, Luke Walter, and me (Leif Bryan). This was our first time racing on the road in Europe and most of us had not done a stage race before.

Stage one kicked off with a short loop through rolling farmland that started and finished in the town of Ennis. The stage was just under 50 kilometers or 30 miles, and we finished in just over an hour. The tight roads and confusion of navigating a 150-person field made the stage chaotic. A large crash around 15k into the day caught most of the team behind a split, and we frantically chased to make it back to the front of the race. Around halfway through, a breakaway of 4 riders went clear and 2 of them stayed away until the finish. My job for the day was to lead out Luke Robison, delivering him to the final 200 meters where he could launch his sprint. In this first stage, there was no arch or banner marking the finish except for a crowd of people and a line on the ground. And since I was expecting a large banner or flag on the side I ended up launching way too late and sprinting past the finish in confusion. Despite the chaos I still ended in 9th place with my teammate Luke close behind in 13th.

Stage 2 featured the much-photographed Cliffs of Mohr. Although we were all too busy navigating the fierce ocean winds to pay much attention to the views, it was a fun stage.

Stage 3 was a long point-to-point stage that didn’t really affect the GC at all. The finale featured a gnarly off-camber right-hander into the line that played favor to the Irish boys who knew how to corner at breakneck speed.

Unfortunately stage 4 was canceled due to heavy rain. It was set to be the queen stage with 115k and 1,200 meters of climbing. The day started super wet. We drove around an hour out of town to a more hilly part of the country where the stage was set to start and finish. But the weather did not agree. It rained for the entire drive to the start and continued to do so while we huddled under the cover of our mechanic’s van warming up. After a delay, they decided to cancel the stage due to the extremely wet rods and unsafe visibility at the time. So we packed it up and went back to the hotel a little disappointed but still ready for the stages to come.

Stage 5 featured the most hills of any of the stages that we got to race, although they were not steep or long enough to play to the strengths of our team.

The last stage was 9 laps of an urban circuit that finished atop a slight rise. With the general classification time gaps very tight, we came into the stage ready to leave it all out there. Our plan was to set up our leader Magnus for an attack with around a lap or so to go. We executed it well and Magnus got up a 20-second gap before an effort from the Hot Tubes team brought the peloton back to him with around 3k to go. None of our riders ended up factoring in the final sprint, but because Magnus still finished with the front group, he secured 5th in the general classification.

There were many memorable aspects of the trip outside of the race as well. Some of which were the friends we made with the riders on the Lee Valley Cycling Club from the UK with whom we watched the day’s stage of the Tour de France during our downtime at the hotel. Another was the local Chinese restaurant just down the road which became the go-to source of carbs post-race. Definitely, a lowlight of the trip was the 150-Euro Mcdonald’s run sponsored by Magnus’ prize money. The epic 5-course feast left us a bit worse for wear.

I want to say thank you to my team, my parents, and everyone who helped make this a great trip. It was an amazing experience. Thanks to Joe (our coach) for organizing and guiding us through this first-stage racing experience. Thanks also to Patrick (our driver), and Gary (our mechanic.) Overall it was a super fun way to finish my last season in the junior age group and I look forward to seeing BJC return to this race for many years to come!

16 July 2023; A general view of the peloton during stage six of the 2023 Junior Tour Of Ireland in Clare. Photo by Stephen McMahon/Sportsfile