Sam Watson becomes second British rider to win under-23 Gent-Wevelgem

20-year old takes biggest win of career with British national team

Sam Watson
Sam Watson riding for Groupama-FDJ at Danilith Nokere Koerse
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sam Watson won the under-23 edition of Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, becoming the second British rider to do so in the process.

The 20-year old took the victory in front of Denmark's Sebastian Kolze Changizi and France's Valentin Retailleau, while riding for the Great Britain national team.

Jacob Hennessy was the first British rider to win the under-23 classic in 2017, and Watson has now repeated the feat. Other riders to win the prestigious development race include Mads Pedersen and Greg van Avermaet, in 2016 and 2006.

Speaking after the event, the young man from Leeds paid tribute to the GB team which helped deliver him to the sprint victory in Ypres.

"My teammates did a great job," he said. "Since I finished 3rd in Ghent-Wevelgem Juniors, I wanted to come back to win and I did on the Espoirs race today."

Watson currently rides for Groupama-FDJ's continental team, but has raced twice for the senior Groupama-FDJ team this year, at Danilith Nokere Koerse and the GP Denain.

He finished third behind Quinn Simmons (who now rides for Trek-Segafredo) and Lewis Askey (who rides for Groupama-FDJ) in the 2019 junior edition of Gent-Wevelgem. The Belgian classic clearly suits him, then.

His coach, Jérôme Gannat, said that 20-year old had been "exemplary" in the two times he appeared with the senior team, and therefore deserved this victory.

"This victory confirms his excellent physical condition," the Frenchman said. "He showed it in the two races with the WorldTour, during which he played an important role. He was exemplary and he is now rewarded in turn."

The under-23 race came earlier in the day than the elite men's and women's races, which were won by Biniam Girmay and Elisa Balsamo respectively.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.