A great article on racing in the Netherlands during the summer by master of the understatment (and one of our top athletes) – Hamish Armitt.

This year I entered the Junior tour of Assen 51st edition held in Assen, Netherlands. The race opens for entry in February. The age group which you race in is based on your year of birth, and the girls who are a year older than you. Unless you race in Category 7 and above which is 2001 birthdays and they split junior males and females.  I was racing in Category 6 which was 2002 birthdays and the girls who were born in 2001.
I travelled by ferry from Newcastle, the overseas journey took 24hours and the ferry was excellent it had a cinema, 2 bars, 2 restaurants, shops and lots more. The ferry arrives in Amsterdam which is a 2-3hr drive to Assen.Once we arrived at sign on in Assen I got my numbers gear check and found out my start time for the short 1.2km time trial the next day. At the race site there is a campsite, Hotel with a swimming pool and other facilities. I stayed in a house a 30 minute drive from Assen. The next day was the short time trial which would determine the first yellow jerseys. The course was simple with the first 600m on slight cobbles. My race was off in the morning and it was pouring with rain. At the end of the day I finished in 12th, seconds behind the top 3. There was also an opening ceremony that praised the top riders this would be held daily either at the race course or the race site where the first 3 were award and the pink, yellow, red and white jerseys.  . The next day was a road criterium on a 2km circuit. The grid system is random they just pull numbers out of hat. My race was 25km long and varies with all the different age groups.The start was very fast and I had a lot of ground to make up as I was gridded at the back. Someone put in an early attack and managed to stay away to win with a gap of 30 seconds and I managed to get in the break of 9 which gained 1 min on the next group. The rain was very bad and there was a lot of confusion for we did not know that someone was away. I finished the stage in 10th and moved into 10th overall. Wednesday was a road race that was the highlight for most people in the tour. There are motorbikes team cars and race official cars involved in all the criteriums and road races during the tour. The road race was slow at the start and I put in a few attacks to stretch the bunch out then with 10km to go someone went down in front of me and I crashed. A group of six got away when I was on the ground and stayed away. I managed to get back into the second group and finished in the top 30. The next day was a 8km time trail where I finished 6th and moved into 8th overall. The course was obviously flat and fast but there were strong headwinds and tailwinds involved. The next day was the cobbled stage which was called the omloop. My race distance was 25km and 200m of real cobbles each lap which was 4km long. The course had really long and fast straights and on the cobbles a lot of people attacked. I finished the stage with the main bunch and not losing any time apart from the bonus seconds after I tried a late attack and was only caught on the last corner. The final day was at the race HQ site again where the time trial started and the road race finished. It’s where the final day would be decided.The race was on smooth and fast roads apart from the 600m stretch of slight cobbles. I stayed at the front for the whole race and collected some points in the sprint laps. Then with 1 lap to go I was in the front row controlling the pace and then with 800m to go I tucked in to 5th wheel ready for the sprint when the person 4th touched wheels and came down in front of me. I went over the bars and snapped my frame and there was a big pile up of 30 people. I got the same time as the bunch and finished 8th overall but my arms were in pain and a week later I found out that I had fractured both my elbows and my left wrist. After the race there was a big prize ceremony where the top 16 would be awarded a trophy and the jerseys would be given. I travelled home the next day on the ferry and arrived home with a broken bike and fractured bones but overall I enjoyed racing in Netherlands and I would recommend it for all cyclists.

Huge thanks to Billy Bisland’s Bikes for sorting the bike – time (and youth. Ed) fixed the bones.


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