Assen 2016 – Day 5 – The Omloop
This, for me, has got to be the best venue of the week – it’s a looped course with cobbled sections, one on a corner through a throng of spectators – the course looks awful to ride to my eyes, on a road bike at least, fine on a Dutch bike with wide tires, basket and bouncy seat. It is based around what looks like a farmyard and small hamlet. They are so welcoming they have let the youth tour take over – spectators cover the beautifully maintained grass verges, the toilets are on someone’s driveway, the cars are parked in a field. This is a little worrying as we arrive in a downpour and I’m not sure how we’ll ever get out of the field if it continues and the mud increases.
The downpour is worse for the Nieuwelingen however as they are in the starting pen when the heavens open – riders must be there 15 minutes before the start to allow the races to run immediately after each other with the minimum of delays. They get very wet before they even start. The Junior women also finish soaked and muddy. The cobbles look worse now, shiny wet with pitted mud down the sides.
A broom wagon follows the riders and is merciless on this course, taking out any riders who get dropped from the first few groups. There is drama as we make our way to watch the Nieuwelingen finish their first long lap of 13km – Christian is unloaded from the wagon with a couple of others. Unfortunately he has crashed on one of the cobbled sections and has a deep cut on his arm that needs stitching. Owen has now been ‘broomed’ by the wagon and has to stop. I don’t think he’s too upset by this. Ben and Marco both finish in a chasing group. In all other races our riders finish safely in the bunch. Special mention must go to Ritchie Selfe who finished 13th, beating three British u14 National Champions – Omnium, Cross and Road. The Dutch National Road Race Champion finished third.
Action then moved over to the Wielerbaan HQ for the Aspiranten to finish their final race on the oval race track round the campsite. Leo was given special coaching about the need to take the inside line and gear choice. He also knew which rider he had to beat to move up a place in GC. It worked and he finished a fantastic 4th, a big improvement on previous days. Eve, as the youngest of the 8-10 year olds with racing bikes had a tough task in front of her. She stuck to it and moved up places as others tired. Determination paid off.