European Junior Cycling Tour of Assen - A Dutch Adventure
A very wet points race – Charlie here behind the yellow jersey and eventual GC winner.
Aidan, Benedict and Charlie represented Stratford CC (and the UK!) at the European Junior Cycling Tour of Assen, a five stage / day race centred around the Dutch city of Assen. There were over 500 riders across 10 categories from all over the world. Each category took a single year group of boys and girls that were one year older, a formula that looked to work well. Despite it being mid-summer, it was a very wet Day 1 in which they completed the prologue, a short time trial in Assen centre. It was a great experience for the riders, with a proper start ramp, countdown and live timing. Aidan came 17th out of 48 with a deficit of 10 seconds to the leader, Benedict came 6th out of 19 with a 13 second deficit. With very little previous TT experience the boys were happy with their opening day. Charlie was a bit further adrift in his category, having not realised quite how short the stage was – but plenty of opportunity to improve his position.
Day 2 was a circuit race with sprints. The finish line sprints determined points for the green jersey and at the top of a short sharp climb for the white jersey – a different challenge to that which the boys normally see in the UK circuit races. And the rain was ever present, short heavy downpours just as you thought the sun was coming out. Aidan raced for 30 mins with 8 sprints (4+4). 35 riders finished together with the same time; Aidan was 13th in the group unfortunately missing out on the bonus seconds awarded to the top 10. This left him 17th in GC, 10 seconds away from the top 5. But he did manage a 1st and 3rd in the white jersey sprints leaving him in 2nd place for the white jersey.
Benedict was very clear on his objectives, to win the race and every sprint! Confidence goes a long way! He raced for 17 minutes with 4 sprints (2+2). He was a bit confused as to when he needed to sprint, so he sprinted for every line! He paid for all this work when he lost the final sprint by a whisker finishing 2nd, but earning 9 bonus seconds. All his sprinting earned him a 1st and a 3rd in the green jersey putting him into 1st place! He also got 2 second places in the white jersey putting him into 2nd place. Moving up to 3rd in GC and Benedict got to wear the green jersey (with a lot of pride!) in the points race on Wednesday. Charlie’s race started badly getting caught in a start line crash, but then putting in a great effort to get back to the group – whilst the other riders involved took a lap out and rejoined at the back of the peloton. Fortunately, the commissaire thought Charlie should also have this opportunity, so he also got put back on the group, but only after four laps of trying to TT back to the group. A bit fatigued from his early efforts Charlie finished at the back of the main group.
Day 3 was a points race for the Green jersey only – no GC time available. Due to the size of Aidan’s category he had to get through a semi final in the morning to qualify for the final in the afternoon. So the challenge was doing as little as possible whilst qualifying in the top 10. As his race started, so did the rain! He scored in 3 of the 5 sprints and qualified 5th! He was however drenched, so the next challenge was getting everything dry for the final in the afternoon. In the afternoon the best 20 riders sprinted for glory. Aidan won 1 of the 5 sprints and finished 10th leaving him 8th place in the race for the Green Jersey. Benedict proudly wore his Green jersey starting on the front row. It was a fast race, and Benz managed a 1st and two 2nd places in the 3 sprints. Unfortunately, his main competitor (GC yellow jersey leader) managed two 1sts and a 2nd edging Benedict into 2nd place in the race and the Green jersey competition. Benedict will however get to wear the jersey for the yellow jersey leader on Thursday. Charlie’s race was also soaking wet, which surprisingly he thoroughly enjoyed. In his semi-final he picked up some points in the final sprint, but not enough to get through to the final.
Time Trial Day Aidan & Charlie - 7.5 km - flat for 7 then 16% to the finish, headwind for the 2nd half. Benedict - 3km flat all into the wind! Aidan managed a time of 13mins14s and 13/48, moving him up to 13th in GC. Charlie managed 12mins54s and 19/56 moving him up to 28th and the top half of the GC, a really good result. Benedict managed 6mins46s and 4/19. He dropped a place in GC to 4th. He was also reported to the Commissaire by a competitor’s mum! His aero socks were too high (or were his legs too short?)! If she had known Benedict, she would have known that they were more about style than speed.
A tough technical criterium was the final challenge for the boys, and provided a day of mixed fortunes. Aidan and Charlie both found it very tough starting towards the back of a large field to make up places. The circuit also included narrow cobbled sections which strung out the peloton and made it very difficult to gain places, especially if you are not used to the rough and tumble of European racing. Aidan finished with the leading group in 26th place, maintaining his 13th place in GC, 8th in the Green jersey and 5th in the White jersey. Charlie also finished with the peloton in 32nd place, improving his final GC position to 27th. Benedict benefitted from starting in the Green jersey. His front row start eliminated the challenges the elder boys had in trying to get through the field. He was focused on winning,but needed a big win to get on the podium! He sacrificed any chance he had to regain the Green jersey with a measured ride ensuring he was ready to sprint for victory which he did with style, a fantastic result! He didn’t quite gain the time he needed for a GC podium, but a solid 4th place together with 2nd in the Green jersey and 5th in the White jersey was a great return.
It was an intense 5 days, but thoroughly enjoyable! A huge learning curve for boys and parents alike, and very different to what we are used to. It was great to see so many Brits on the top step (and all steps) of the podium including a few faces that we knew from the West Mids races. An event that is well worth the trip and gives the junior riders a chance to say they’ve experienced international competition!
Aidan climbing the last part of Thursday’s time trial – the Muur de Emmen
Aidan in the group of the Points Race
Determination at the start of the TT
Benedict topping the podium for Stage 5 in his Green Jersey
Benedict sprinting to points ahead of the Yellow Jersey