American Gage Hecht took victory in the KOM classification at a torrentially wet edition of the Famenne Ardenne Classic in Belgium. The 24-year-old was a key part of the race’s six-rider breakaway and led over the majority of the route’s eight categorized climbs to stand on the podium for the first time in Human Powered Health colors.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Hecht said from Marche-en-Famenne afterwards. “I received a lot of help from teammates and staff throughout the day helping me get to the finish. I owe them a lot of thanks.”
The Coloradan has had periods on the sideline battling injuries during his first full season as a professional in Europe, but today’s result is a return to road racing form.
“It’s nice to have something a bit more tangible to show myself that I do indeed belong here. It also helps a lot to be on a team with a culture that really strives to focus on treating riders as humans where we all share in the successes.”
Climbing the podium in any race also acts as a huge mental boost to morale for a rider.
“With the way the rules are working this year, we’ve raced some of the best in the world on a pretty regular basis and my teammates have had some really nice results, so it can be a bit difficult not to feel like an imposter at times,” Hecht says.
— Human Powered Health (@HumanPwrdHealth) October 2, 2022
The team plan was to get into the breakaway and Hecht eventually was joined by five others in rainy Wallonia, Tim Marsman (Metec – SOLARWATT p/b Mantel), Mark Stewart (Bolton Equities Black Spoke Pro Cycling), Matthew Teggart (WiV SunGod), Emile Mielke Vinjebo (Riwal Cycling Team) and Maikel Zijlaard (VolkerWessels Cycling Team).
After battling over the climbs, Hecht was eventually swallowed by the stampeding peloton with the race finishing in a bunch sprint won by Axel Zingle (Cofidis). Stephen Bassett came over the line in 17th.
Behind, having secured the competition by leading over the majority of the climbs, Hecht was facing a battle to finish on the lapped circuit.
“The staff kept me really well fed all day but in the last two laps, I really started falling apart,” Hecht says. “Chad [Haga] and Adam [de Vos] dropped back and pulled me to the line so I have a lot of gratitude for them.”
The conditions called for plenty of protection from the Pactimo rain jackets, something Hecht is used to with his illustrious history racing cyclocross.
“The lower velocity on a cyclocross bike helps with keeping the core temperature up, but I’ll take what I can get,” he jokes. “Riding in the rain isn’t as bad when you’re in the break. I don’t think I would want that sort of weather every day but it’s pretty cool to have some epic conditions from time to time.”
Lessons from 2022
This year has been a learning curve for Hecht in his first season focussing on the road above cyclocross, but the main thing he will take into 2023 is the theme of patience.
“Patience can mean how to calmly and confidently pick breaks to go for instead of just desperately chasing everything and worrying you’ll miss the right one,” he says. “But also how to pursue new skills and abilities in a way that doesn’t totally burn me out quickly, seeing the goal and observing little improvements as progress and not getting upset with myself when I don’t do things right the first time around.”
Being a first year professional can be daunting, so this theme is one that has permeated both on and off the bike for Hecht.
“Knowing the little things I do are contributing to something bigger like being there for the team or in growing my faith as I jump into this new and foreign environment.”
The Human Powered Health men’s squad concludes its season this week in Belgium with two one day races, Binche-Chimay-Binche on October 4 and the Kempen Classic on October 9.