AN AMBITIOUS rider is taking the first step on the road towards a professional cycling career.
Roberttown teenager Harry Hardcastle set off for France yesterday (Thurs) to join the AC Bisontine team for the 2018 season.
The 18-year-old former Spen Valley High School student has plenty of experience and success riding for UK teams and has already competed as a junior for Team GB.
But heading to the continent is a major step into the unknown for the road cyclist, who harbours ambitions of making it a full-time career.
AC Bisontine is based in the eastern city of Besançon – a ‘twin town’ of the Kirklees district – and Harry will ride for them for the next nine months.
“I’ll be the youngest on the team and I’ve been having a few French lessons before I go,” he said. “This is the first step and I hope it leads to a career in cycling with a pro team.”
Harry’s season in France is being supported financially by the Dave Rayner Fund, a cycling charity which will provide him with a monthly allowance.
Mirfield-based Sowerby Brothers Cycles, where he has worked for the past couple of years, have also provided him with a Specialized racing bike worth in the region of £5,000.
This week Mirfield’s Tour de France cycling legend Brian Robinson called in to Sowerby Brothers to wish Harry all the best on his journey, and a surprise send-off bash at the New Inn was organised by his family, Dave Sowerby and Mirfield councillor Martyn Bolt.
Coun Bolt, a keen cyclist, has also written to the mayor of Besançon introducing Harry to officials there.
Travelling with fellow 18-year-old Yorkshire rider Jamie Ridehalgh and living in a team house owned by AC Bisontine, Harry will be competing in U-23 versions of famous races including the Giro D’Italia and Paris-Roubaix.
A team training camp begins tomorrow (Sat), with his first race coming in late February or early March.