Condor supported rider, Emily Barnes, and the future British road racing took to foreign soil last month. Their aim, was to show that the Brits can ride bikes with the best of them. Emily recounts her week at the Assen Youth Tour in Holland.
On Saturday the 30th of July at three in the morning, we embarked on our journey to North Holland, firstly on the road and then on the ferry at five to six. A smooth crossing from Dover to Calais, we were soon back on the road and meeting up with a few other English families, creating a convoy of vans and caravans all the way over to Assen. After three hours we arrived at the Wielerbaan in Assen - the hub of the tour. The blazing sunshine was ideal for setting up the caravan's and awnings.
On Sunday morning we were all up and ready pretty early. Breakfast was eaten and the bike prep began, with last minute bar tape being wrapped and fiddling with aero bars, wheels and gears being adjusted it was off for a bike ride to get everyone's legs ready for the week. Starting as one big group we split to ride different courses that we would be racing over the week and came back in smaller groups.
Sign on had been open a while so the main queues had gone down dramatically and our group all wandered down to sign on, with the riders getting their race numbers, transponders and race details; 2011 saw a record breaking 106 British Cyclists taking part in the tour. Another early night at camp for us, as we all had an early start for the prologue with first rider at 8.15am.
The prologue consisted of a 1.2km circuit, including two simple straights, and a hairpin corner. Simple enough it seems, so a strong start, enough strength to power through the whole thing and a good corner half way should produce a good time. All in all the group of riders we were staying with had a good day on the prologue with a few top tens and a few top twenties, we were all in good spirits for the start of the real bunch racing.
Tuesday saw the first criterium of the week; the circuit had a long start finish straight which in every race had the peloton lined out and reaching very high speeds. The riders then funneled into a left hand, ninety-degree corner consisting of cobbles and a large drainage cover - a notoriously tough corner. A lovely day enriched by the warm sun was to be made better as the British riders produced some fantastic results! Dan Tulett, u12 National Champion for 2011 having earned the title only one week before rode a great race to win the final bunch sprint at the end of his race. Joe Fry sprinted right from last corner down the long finish straight and was just pipped on the line to take second; this was great news as it put him in third place on GC. Jake Womersely (Aire Valley Cycles) rode a great race in the Nieuwelingen category, which translates as u16 in Britain, getting in the final attack which was the only one to stay clear, he took second on the line, which put him in yellow jersey for their category. In the Nieuwelingen girls race Emily Kay took the win after a very strong lead out from the British Cycling Talent Team. Lucy Garner took the win in the Junior Dames leading the bunch in, in a high-speed dash for the line. A great set of results for the Brits!
Wednesday was the Classic; this is a race from A to B. Each category had a different starting point, but everyone finished at the Wielerbaan. This didn't seem to be the best day for the British riders with a lot of them coming back with different wheels and sporting cuts and bruises. Joe Fry had been caught up in the crash and then punctured shortly after, leaving a long chase back to the bunch, but Tom Franklin stuck with his fellow Brits and waited for Joe, they rode back together until Joe needed to make another final dash back to try and keep as many seconds as he could. Tom rode back in shortly after with some nasty cuts and road rash on his leg. Alex finished a bit after them... but on a friend's bike who happened to be watching a perfect time, with a quick swap of pedals Alex was back on the road, leaving his written off bike and wheels behind. Cool as a cucumber Alex picked up the bottom part of his fork that had snapped off with his transponder, tucked it up his shorts, so although on a different bike he still got a time.
Despite the earlier pile-ups, it appeared as though good luck had returned to our side with my cousin, Hannah Barnes taking the win in the Junior Dames with Emily Kay (British Cycling Talent Team) taking the win in the Nieuwelingen Dames.
That evening we were all relaxing in various places, seeing friends at campsites near by, when there was a torrential downpour. Campsite flooding and everything soaked through everyone made their way back dripping wet, to take cover in the caravan's... even if some of them did leak!
Thursday morning meant time trial day! A late start today at one o'clock, gave the parents the chance to make their way out on a ride to experience the cobbles that the riders all had to endure the day before - and a sneaky café stop too of course.
The time trial circuit was 8.5km long consisting of some tight corners at the beginning, a short section on to the roads, then finally back onto the Assen TT circuit to complete the time trial. There were a lot of Brits ready and raring after the bad luck they'd had in the classic stage, ready to claw back as much time as they could.
Charlotte Cole Hossain (VC Londres), recently crowned U12 Girls Circuit Race National Champion, rode a hard ride giving her a strong time in her time trial. This set a high standard for the rest of the riders in category IV.
Fred Wright (VC Londres) who we all thought was mainly a Herne Hill track specialist produced a fantastic time, taking the win of the stage, as well as wrenching yellow leader's jersey from fellow Brit, Daniel Tulett (Hargroves Cycles) in category V, with a very respectable time gap that he should be proud of!
David Barnes (Condor Cycles) rode a strong 8.5km, gritting his teeth and cornering efficiently, finishing in 8th place. Moving him up eight places on GC and into the position of first British rider in his category.
After a spell of bad luck in the Classic road stage the previous day, Joe Fry (Welwyn Wheelers) was prepared to give it everything he had. He stormed to the finish line within meters of the few riders in front, finishing in a brilliant 4th place on the stage.
Chris Lawless started the day in a reachable time distance from the leader of the Nieuwelingen boys race. Chris stamped on his pedals hard to come back in 1st place, until the leader of the category finished bumping him back to 2nd on the stage for the day and remaining in 2nd place on GC.
Hannah and Alice Barnes produced excellent rides, not only winning their categories, but leapfrogging into the overall lead with some considerable time cushions. Two Barnes' in yellow, a first for Assen!
Day 5, almost the end of a grueling tour, yet still another demanding stage. 4km laps for the categories one to seven and 9km laps for Nieuwelingens and Dames. With a stretch of cobbles on a long sweeping bend each lap, it was important to be there for this. All British riders showed their immense determination on the day, showing some committed moves to get time back, throughout the day there were small groups forming just in front of the main peloton, but nothing that would stick, other than Category VII where a five man break finished around half a minute ahead.
Fred Wright (VCL) in the yellow jersey showed he was here to race and although leading he wasn't just going to sit in a play it safe, he was often driving the bunch around the back half of the circuit and trying to get away, however some of the riders in the peloton countered Fred's move and unfortunately this took Fred out of the leading group and back into the peloton. Daniel Tulett was still in the lead group all the way to the sprint where he finished in a good 6th place.
David Barnes (Condor Cycles) after a fantastic time trial the day before used this to his advantage and was not going to loose any time without a fight, he came flying into the finish with the top riders in the bunch sprinting to an awesome 6th place, he was extremely happy with this as a sprint is not always his strongest point!
With both Hannah and Alice Barnes starting the day in Yellow with considerable leads, it was down to them to keep themselves safe and stop the main threats going up the road and they should keep their jerseys for the final day.
Day 6, the final day and another criterium around the race HQ and the main campsite, this was to be a day with lots of cheering for the riders! First race off was the Nieuwelingen boys who rode a very quick race, with crashes almost every lap on the same corner. Chris Lawless (Maxgear RT) rode a great race - always up at the front. Fellow British riders, Jake Ragan (Wallis Cycles) and Jacob Scott (Planet X) gave him a perfect lead out for him to take the win.
Jessica Roberts, (Towy Riders) Cat. IV and Joe Fry, (Welwyn Wheelers) Cat. VII both finished in very good 2nd places in each of their respectable categories.
All other British riders finished in the bunch holding their positions on GC.
And on to the prize presentation it was...