Lewis Askey is a rider who I’ve been keeping my eye on for a few years. He first hit the headlines by winning Paris-Roubaix juniors back in 2018, and last season was his first at the top level. Looking back at 2022, Lewis can be very happy with his progression.
“My goals were more geared towards the process of just learning and taking everything in. I wanted to get on the podium in a race but didn’t really think it was a super realistic goal.”
Well, turns out it was a realistic goal. In the middle of March Lewis lined up for the double header weekend, first up was Classic Loire Atlantique, followed by Cholet – Pays de la Loire. This is where he showed everyone just how strong he was but finishing 2nd in Loire Atlantique was a big disappointment.
“Loire Atlantic really hurt because I had the legs to win the race and only lost by a centimetre because of me making a mistake.
Yeah, that was a massive confidence boost actually. I think it showed a lot of people what I’m capable of doing.”
The Classics are where we’re going to see Lewis in the future. In 2022, he was already part of the squad, playing a supporting role for the likes of Küng and Madouas.
“I got my head kicked in a bit in the opening weekend. I still finished in the main peloton and managed to help out earlier on in the race, but it was definitely a big step up.
Different days were hard for different reasons. Roubaix was hard because of the injury aspect; Flanders was hard as it was 6h30m and I lasted quite far into the race, but Strade was probably the hardest I went on the bike as I was really on the edge of making each group at each selection point, so it meant I was digging so deep.”
At 21 years of age, Lewis has time on his side. The plan is for him to continue with the classics squad, with the hope of moving up the team order, but how far away does he feel he is just now?
“It’s so hard to say because if you’re 1% better maybe you make the winning split and then can play for the win. It’s always going to feel so far away until you get there but seeing people like Fred (Wright) step up really gives me the confidence that it’s not as far away as I think. But I’d say I’m going to need another 2-3 years and then I hope to be really mixing it up in the races.
I think explosively I’m not far off the best there is I’m just lacking in depth over a 6h race at the moment which is why I think you saw me flourish more at the shorter races.”
Away from the classics, Lewis was drafted into Démare’s sprint train at various points throughout the season. This train had been together for long time, so Lewis was normally riding around position 4.
“Yeah, I loved the time in the sprint train, it’s something that massively suits my characteristics, and I didn’t put a foot wrong in every race we did so Arnaud was really happy with the work I did for him there. I ended up 2nd to last man as I’m pretty explosive but obviously Arnaud has his trusted men that he’s done years with, so I didn’t get the call to be very last man last year.
We did a French cup race where I was leading out Arnaud, he came second but we absolutely smashed the lead out and (as it was a drag to the line) there was only about 6 people left at the front as my turn had dropped everybody else off the wheel. That was pretty satisfying to see back on the TV.”
With the classics not too far away, I’m excited to see how Lewis can step up this year.
“A good year for me would be making the front splits in the classics and being able to play around a bit more.”
And what does he need to do to achieve this?
“Get my training right. I performed really well last year but when I look at pure numbers I wasn’t as strong as I could have been so that will be different this year.”
2023 will be a season where we’ll see Lewis continue to work for Küng and Démare, with a few of the sprint train have departed, we should see him higher up the train too. Away from these big races, we should see Lewis getting some freedom to chase personal glory, and I think he’s strong enough to get a win.