South African Damon Fouchee won his first gold in Europe when he claimed victory in the Criterium of Brakel in Belgium on Saturday.
The 18-year-old, who is part of a South African federation team under a development programme organised by GAEA Sports, finished the 82.5km course, that consisted of 12 laps around a 6.9km circuit, in 2:18:13.
“I was super stoked about the win because it was my second podium and first win in Europe against strong competition.
“Although it is by far my biggest win to date I see it still as a mere stepping stone to bigger things to follow.”
Fouchee, who was forced to withdraw during stage two of last month’s Vuelta al Besaya when he suffered a mechanical, added that he felt a lot of pressure to prove himself going into the crit.
“I was disappointed when I had to exit the Vuelta Basaya. Last weekend I focused on the best result possible and was aiming to go for the win.”
In Saturday’s race he started at the back of the field and did not follow the early moves. In the second half an effort was launched by the Belgian riders and a break of five escaped.
“With my teammate Matthew Fortuin up the road trying to bridge to the break, I launched an attack and rode over to him.
“Unfortunately he suffered a technical and couldn’t keep up anymore. I kept on chasing and managed to bridge the gap to the break.”
Shortly after he joined the break two other cyclists started to counter-attack and he followed their moves. Fouchee then found himself in a three-man break.
“Strategies started to play out as the other two refused to work in front. Due to their lack of commitment I launched my attack with three laps to go.
“When a small gap was created I time-trialed as if my life depended on it. On the last lap my fuel tank was running low as I struggled to turn the pedals.
“Fearing that I was going to be caught I started to push myself over my limits. Fortunately I kept the lead till the end.”
Fouchee said he felt strong throughout, except when he started to struggle physically on the last lap.
“Due to this, the challenge mentally became a lot harder. I just kept believing in myself and fought to the end.
“It was quite an emotional experience for me because of all the effort that went into this European tour – not only by myself but all the people who supported me and made this possible. I was just so thankful.”
He added that this victory had given him a lot of confidence as he looked ahead.
“I also learnt quite a lot from the race, which I can use in events to come.”
Fouchee still has one more race in Belgium, but his main focus is the Ain Bugey Valmorey tour, which is a 2.1 UCI race in France from July 11 to 14.