Text © Isla Rush; race photos © Steve Rush
Jeugdtour Assen (“youth tour Assen”) is one of the biggest youth and junior events in Europe, if not the world. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my year as it offers some incredible race experience and the opportunity to race abroad – a completely different environment to what many are used to.
We arrived on the Saturday before the Monday morning start; surprisingly, I didn’t feel nervous or anxious at all. I was just excited to get racing and show people what I was made of, as previous years I was slightly terrified of both the distances and competitors. Sunday was spent looking at the cobbles, signing on and sprinting between the hot tub and ice bath at the hotel pool. I was still feeling pretty chilled at this point, but slightly concerned by the torrential rain forecast for the following day’s prologue.
Monday – Prologue
The first day. I didn’t know quite how to feel about a 1.5km time trial- it’s short but at the same time hurts (a lot). In addition to feeling slightly perplexed about the first stage, I had the Dutch champ starting before me; my initial thought was “I’m going to look so slow behind her.” However, to my disbelief and delight, I didn’t lose too much time that day. Monday was just a case of minimising my losses.
Now, it has to be said crits aren’t my favourite type of race. Despite this, I’ve had so,me decent results this year in crits, so I was feeling pretty optimistic. I’m not scared of racing in the rain at all- In fact, I love it. However, I’m scared of how other people react to rain; more specifically people slamming their brakes on and ramming into one another. Luckily, everyone stayed upright and the bunch pretty much stayed together. I finished in the bunch sprint and lost no more time.
Wednesday – 65km Klassieker.
I was so excited about this race; it had been one of my target races for this season. Unfortunately, I awoke at 6am that morning with horrendous stomach cramps. I ate my breakfast and headed to the start of the race, where I began feeling incredibly sick.
The race went off hard and fast as expected- what I didn’t expect was me missing the split in the bunch. Clearly, I was too preoccupied with keeping my stomach contents where they should’ve been and let myself drop too far back. I sprinted as hard as I could but I just could not get back on the back of the group. I was surrounded by girls in a similar position, and we eventually formed a group of about thirty. The rain came hurtling down and it felt like a constant headwind.
When we reached the first 4km cobbled section in a woods the rain was pretty much torrential. I just remember looking down at my arms which were smothered in mud and grit; it got worse after the next lot of muddy cobbles. I was chuffed to have finished 32nd that day. I was pleased I finished higher than halfway through the field, but also that I finished at all- it was better than last year.
As I’m an U17 girl, I am not allowed to use a time trial bike for this stage. However, I was permitted to use basically everything imaginable to make my road bike like a TT bike. The weather changed for every rider who went off at 30 second intervals; sat on the start ramp ready to go, I knew it’d be windy. Due to the nature of the course, we had absolutely no tailwind. I still didn’t feel 100% so I was pleased with my ride, and didn’t lose too much time. I felt the TT was too short, so I was excited for the next day.
Friday – 35.2km Omloop
By this stage I was feeling tired – really tired. I was a bit gutted about the last few days so I was desperate to have a good race. I felt my heart sink slightly when I saw my number was gridded second to the back of the group; moving up is tough with 100 girls ahead. Fortunately, I moved up well on the first lap and was bang slap in the middle of the group at the start of the second lap.
Next thing I know, I was on my backside with my front wheel in someone’s face; a wheel touch further up the group took me and five other girls down. Within about 10km we managed to chase back on to the group, and I finished at the back of the group. I was pretty chuffed to finish considering I landed quite awkwardly.
Saturday – 22.8km Criterium
The final day. I just wanted to stay upright and finish as high up as possible. Three days in a row I was fairly disappointed, so I went into the the final crit feeling a bit down. Luckily, there were no crashes and I finished in the bunch, losing no more time nor gaining any other injuries. The nature of the circuit made it hard to move up and it was quite cagey due to it being the last day. However, it was a fun race to ride.
Jeugdtour Assen this year was a week of mixed emotions for me. Although it’s only six days long, there are six different stages that can shake up the General Classification entirely. Therefore, whoever wins truly deserves it as they have to be good at all the different types of racing. It was a real pleasure to race on roads shared by the Ronde van Drenthe; I feel this race prepares youth and juniors for racing in years to come as it is a tough week. Thank you so much to the organisers and fellow competitors for such an enjoyable Jeugdtour Assen 2015.
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