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Darren Rafferty is moving on from Hagens Berman Axeon after two years and tomorrow starts his first camp with World Tour team EF Education-EasyPost (Photo: Next Gen Giro)

Darren Rafferty is set to start his first team camp with EF Education-EasyPost on Friday as he moves up to World Tour level after a very successful two-year stint with one of the world’s best U23 development teams Hagens Berman Axeon.

The 20-year-old from Co Tyrone has told stickybottle he is looking forward to getting going in the big league, also assessing how he sees the step up from the U23 international scene to the pro peloton proper.

He believes the make-up of EF Education-EasyPost this year, especially the number of young riders signed during the winter, will make the team easier to fit into. And while Rafferty knows next season will be hard, he sounds very much up for the challenge, saying he would take it in stages.

“I think there’s always nerves,” he said of progressing to the World Tour after working so hard for years to get there. “With the team this year, sending so many new pros – like there’s seven of us – it should be quite a nice environment.”

Rafferty added he knew some of the riders – including compatriot Archie Ryan and some he had been team mates with over the last two years. While that would make the transition “manageable” making the move up to World Tour racing will be an adjustment he must absorb.

“I don’t think it’s huge, but I don’t think it’s small either,” he said. “It’s always gonna be another step up. You just need to find that endurance to put it all together, to just have a really strong final hour or hour and a half in most of those races.

“So it’s all about a bit more endurance, a bit more speed. As I said, (the step up) is not tiny and it’s not massive, it’s just a regular step up. I’ve got a couple of years to try and move up through the ranks.”

The first EF Education-EasyPost camp starts tomorrow, Friday, in Girona, where Rafferty has been living.

“It’s a a media camp, training camp; get out on the bikes and get to know everyone, that’s the main thing. It’s the first meet up, then back home for Christmas, spend some time at home and then back out to Mallorca in mid-January for another camp. So it’ll be busy.”

Rafferty said after the season ended he took two weeks off before doing some training again and going to the US for a holiday with his girlfriend, Katie, including going to see family in Chicago. On returning home he said he “got back into training, doing a mix of everything, bit on the bike, bit in the gym”.

He said he had been “taking it pretty steady” in training in recent weeks and had change his bike position a little.

“I’ve just taking it easy and easing back into it, there’s still a long winter. I’m not rushing into anything, so I don’t need to panic with the training.”

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