While the star of Polartec-Kometa’s debut season in the Continental ranks was undoubtedly Italian Matteo Moschetti, the team’s climber Michel Ries put together a very strong set of results in his second year in the age category.
The 20 year old from Luxembourg was solid over both professional and U23 stage races, and will be a name to watch for the 2019 season. He took some time out to speak exclusively with U23 Cycling Zone.
Firstly, since Michel is obviously a climber, we talked a little about the types of climbs he prefers, as well as what he sees his weaknesses as.
“I think the long and hard climbs suit me best. I think I still need to progress in a lot of different places and for sure gain more experience, but I think my biggest weakness at the moment are my sprinting abilities.”
Part of team owner Alberto Contador’s plan to develop elite U23s is have them race against pros, which was why his team applied for the UCI licence. This was a new experience for Michel, and he talked about racing against WorldTour pros for the first time.
“This year we did a lot of pro races, like the Vuelta Valencia at the beginning of the year for example. For me, the biggest change was the style of racing. It is different than in the U23 category where often you go fullgas all day because no team really controls the race. In the pro races, everything is more controlled and the final of the races are always really hard.”
With Contador’s pro career ending at Trek-Segafredo, the WorldTour team was keen to establish a relationship with the Spaniard outside of his own career, and they have provided Polartec-Kometa with a lot of equipment, including Trek bikes. The young team has also become like a feeder squad, with Moschetti turning pro in 2019 with the team. Ries himself spent the autumn as a stagiare with the team.
“For me it was a really nice experience to be stagiaire with Trek-Segafredo. I learned a lot during the week in Utah, because there were a lot of experienced riders in the team who can give you a lot of advice in the race.”
According to Google, the population of Luxembourg 18 months ago was just under 600,000. Yet the nation has produced the Schleck brothers and Bob Jungels, whilst Ries, Kevin Geniets and former U23 Cycling Zone interviewee Pit Leyder lead a crop of strong U23s. So just how is this small nation so good at producing top riders?
“I think in Luxembourg we have a really good support as young riders from the national team and from the local teams, so that you can progress in a good way. I also think it is a big motivation for all the young riders when you have riders like the Schlecks or Jungels in your country who can be an idol.”
Ries was 11th overall at Tour de l’Ain and 18th at Tour de la Provence, both pro races, but his big results came with 9th at the Baby Giro and 10th at the Tour de l’Avenir. These two races are Michel’s big targets for 2019.
“My goals for next year are a bit the same as this year that means that the Giro d Italia U23 and the Tour de l‘Avenir are the most important races of the season for me where I want to confirm my results from this year.”
With compatriot Bob Jungels winning Liege-Bastogne-Liege this year, a race Andy Schleck has previously won, the event is steeped in Luxembourgish history. This is also the pro race Michel dreams of winning one day.
“I really like the hard, climbing races so to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege one day would be a dream because of the history of the race and the fact that the race is not far away from Luxembourg, so every year there are a lot of supporters from Luxembourg there.”
Michel Ries is going to be one of the most exciting GC riders to watch on the U23 scene, and he will be keen to test himself against the pros and crack the top ten of some stage races. He is also likely to be on a few WorldTour team’s watchlists, especially Trek-Segafedo, so don’t be surprised if a WorldTour team picks him up for 2020.
U23 Cycling Zone wishes to thank Michel for taking the time to answer our questions and we wish him all the best for the 2019 season. We also wish to thank Juanfran de la Cruz at Polartec-Kometa for setting up the interview. You can follow Michel on Twitter at @RiesMichel.