Today was both bizarre and dramatic. It was the day I’d heard talked about most before we came. My kids have never done racing like this before. It almost never happens in the UK – a point to point race with support vehicles and outriders taking place on closed roads. It was incredible. The planning that must have gone into creating this seamless operation is mindboggling. Each category had a separate start point on one long route at different points of the day and raced back to the main stadium base in Assen, with the Juniors racing 97km down to Category 1 racing 7km. The Juniors and Nieuwelingen had a 3.5km cobbled stage and then a 1.7km cobbled stage that Category 7 also rode. The roads were mainly back lanes, very straight and very flat.
Max’s Category 7 race started at 8:15am which meant us leaving the campsite at 6:45 and navigating our way to the start point on a rural road somewhere to the East of Assen. We were told that if we got there early we would wonder if we were in the right place as the organisation team would suddenly turn up with bus, signs, toilets etc, swiftly get the race underway and then just as swiftly move on to the next start point.
We found the start point, parked up, got the rollers out. It was wet. Several other cars arrived at the same time, then a few more. Someone noticed we were all British – no Dutch here yet. No signs but then we were expecting that. Max’s garmin said this was the start point. Then someone rode in on a bike shouting the message down that we were all in the wrong place. We piled back into the cars and commenced a crazy convoy down an unmade road along the side of a field that brought us to a carpark behind a sports centre. This was where they would begin, neutralised until they got to the point we had been before. Quick roller warm up, sign the board, gridding and then off. It was an amazing sight. I then drove back to Assen to wait for the finish.
Tension and anticipation in the stadium was high. There was excitable Dutch commentary coming over the speakers. Lots of parents who had just left their child in the middle of nowhere to cycle at top speed on wet roads for 36km with 65 other teenagers. The marshalls began whistling. The commentary speed increased, got louder. Outriders came through beeping their horns. “A complete peloton is coming” said the commentator before going back to Dutch. They came. Fast. I saw Oliver Stockwell at the front, then I saw Ritchie Selfe right behind, sprinting furiously. I screamed him on. I looked for Max. But no Max came. Or Dexter or Harrison. We waited. And waited. About two minutes later a group with Harrison and Dexter came through. Still no Max. Another two minutes and then he came. I have never been so pleased to see him riding. He had crashed about 5km into the race, along with Harrison, he thinks the road was greasy as several of them crashed but independently. Max landed hard on his hip. Harrison landed on his bike. They were both able to continue but Max said his leg was numb and he wasn’t getting any power through it. The support cars allowed them to ride behind for a while to help them bridge back to others, but Max couldn’t hold the pace to the end because of his leg. I’m very proud of him for getting through. There is a broom wagon which will bring back riders from the youth categories back who get too far behind, as they have to make sure the roads are clear for the rolling road closures and the other races coming through. The Nieuwelingen and Juniors however are just given a map when passed by the broom wagon and left to make their own way back. They are then given the time of the last finishing rider plus 5 minutes.
Now back to the campsite, clean up Max’s injuries, sort out his soaking wet skinsuit and bike. And then go and abandon Eleanor in a field. She was understandably tense after seeing the state of Max and hearing the stories. Plus the rain was worsening as we ate a quick lunch.
Luck was with her though – the rain moved on, the start was found without too much trouble and she determinedly kept with the bunch, using the traffic islands to keep moving up. She came into the stadium in the front bunch, along with Owen and Daniel, sprinting fiercely and finished 15th, 5th girl. We were all really happy and she even got congratulated by Max.
There was drama for every LVYCC rider today, some races went well, others not so well. The stand out story was James Ambrose Parish who finished a fantastic second in the Junior race. This is his eighth Assen and his best ever result. An amazing achievement as the competition is so intense. The full results are here.
The Classic also makes a lot of difference to the GC competition as it’s possible to lose or gain a lot of time here, more so than in the Criterium races. I’m just getting my head around how the GC works and the different dimension that gives to the competition. Still learning.