The suspension of Team SpiderTech was devastating for Will Routley back in the fall, but things have turned out OK for the Whistler cyclist.
Routley is now a few weeks into the season with his new team, Accent Jobs Wanty, a UCI Pro Continental team based out of Belgium.
Considering where things left off with Team SpiderTech, it’s been an ideal turn of events for the 29-year-old — being scooped up by a European team for the first time and continuing to race high-calibre events in the heartland of road cycling for 2013.
“For me to continue in Europe and at this level was important. For the moment, I want to stay at this level and in this environment,” Routley said in an email to The Question. “It is so tough racing over here in Europe and I didn’t want to stop abruptly after the past two seasons. I am much more comfortable here now.”
Despite that comfort level, there have already been some challenges and unusual experiences as he settles in with Accent Jobs Wanty — nights in a nudist hotel and afternoons spent in the back of Belgian police cars were among some of the highlights Routley posted to his blog this week.
There’s also the matter of communicating with teammates, since he’s the only North American rider on the roster.
“The team has one Italian and the rest are all full Dutch or French speakers,” he said. “I’ve been rooming primarily with French speakers, and am working fast on my French. It is coming along, but still a ways to go.”
Overall, Routley feels like he’s fitting in well after an eight-day training camp and 10 days of racing with the team.
“When we are racing and training, everyone speaks the same language of suffering,” he said.
Team SpiderTech, which announced in October it was suspending operations to focus on acquiring sponsorships and a UCI ProTour licence, continues to support Routley and other team riders who were signed for 2013. Routley said “it is still a big question mark” if SpiderTech will be back in 2014 and realizing founder Steve Bauer’s goal of putting a Canadian team in the Tour de France.
But Routley’s race schedule may have only improved with Accent Jobs Wanty when compared to his two years with SpiderTech.
“This year, I’ll race more in Europe and add in a few bigger ‘Classics’ … in the Ardennes; the hilly ones such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège — those known as the hardest one-day races out there,” said Routley, who is still hoping to return home in the summer for the Canadian Championships and B.C. Superweek if possible.
“In the next few months I’ll be based out of Belgium and racing a mix of classic-style events here and hilly stage races in France and Italy.”
The results have yet to come with Accent Jobs Wanty, as Routley said it’s been a “lackluster” start to the season. The team did pick up its first victory of the year on Saturday (March 2) at the Three Days of West Flanders race in Belgium by winning the first stage, though Routley wasn’t part of the eight-man crew racing there.
Routley made his debut at the Tour Méditerranéen, a five-day stage race in France in mid-February. He went out on the attack in the 146.5-km first stage with two other riders, but the small breakaway was caught with 10 km to go.
“I didn’t do anything amazing in the race,” said Routley, who battled a couple of days of 100 km/h winds, then flurries on the final stage. “I did my usual and rode the long breakaway on Stage 1 and then raced on slightly tired legs for the remaining stages.
“I am hoping to start to see some good form in a few weeks’ time, and if all goes well, have a good April with a French stage race I like a lot and then the Classics Ardennes.”