All those that go to the European Junior Cycling Tour Assen will tell you it’s the highlight of their season. It is an event like no other and lets you experience racing unlike that in the UK. This year two of our Liv AWOL girls, Connie Hayes and Hannah Graveney, went over to Holland for a week of fast racing with girls from across Europe, and in this post, the two girls recount their experience.
Prologue (1.7 km)
Hannah: The first event of the week was a short prologue around the back of the campsite which amounted to just about 1 mile and it consisted of a variety of terrains. Due to its odd location, Connie and I found ourselves warming up in the woods. We started about 4 minutes apart, with me going off first.
My time = 3:02
Connie’s time = 3:01
It was a good effort by both of us, as only seconds separated everyone, but I think we would both agree that we need something a bit longer so show off our ability and this type of race isn’t really suited to either of us. I have to say the Liv Envies made for a smooth transition and comfortable ride when moving across different surfaces during this race.
Stage 1: Criterium (22 laps @ 1.8 km)
Connie: The first stage was a tight 22 lap town criterium on the outskirts of Assen. It started very fast and both Hannah and I got stuck in trying to cling onto the main bunch that was shrinking quite a lot as the race went on.
About half way through the pace was going up even more and I turned round to see that sadly Hannah was no longer on my wheel. I was sitting in quite comfortably when a crash happened in front of me. I got round the outside and luckily in less than half a lap I was back in the bunch. Everyone not in the second group was lapped which sadly included Hannah due to her being on her own. Despite this she did so well to keep fighting as long as she did after being dropped as a pan flat circuit doesn’t really suit a climber! Sadly I couldn’t move up on the last lap due to the tight course so I had to settle for the back of the bunch sprint.
However I was so pleased as I had never stayed in for two laps of the second day crit in all the years I had been doing Assen so to still be in by the end made me very happy.
Stage 2: Classic (60.3 km)
Hannah: The third stage was a road race consisting of about 38 miles (60.3 km). Last year this appeared to be a very long distance to Connie and myself, however now that we have experienced a lot of road racing in the UK it didn’t seem quite as daunting.
However the early start did. The race set off at 8:20am meaning that it was an early wake up of 5:30am. The junior dames set off with the nieuweling-girls which accumulated to about 150 girls on the start line. The race set off at a very fast pace and due to poor positioning, the corners made it difficult to maintain contact with the peloton. Also the numerous crashes which occurred due to the touching of wheels made it hard to stay in touch. Connie and I found ourselves in the second group on the ride, but we continued to work to get back in contact with the leaders. As we entered the cobbles we were about 10 seconds away from them. At this point Connie used her incredible knowledge and skill on cobbles to bridge this gap. Unfortunately I am not as adjusted to such a rough surface and remained in the same group to the end. The Liv Envies were incredible on the cobbles and limited the movement as much as possible, making for a safer and more controlled ride. From this point the race fragmented into smaller groups on the road. The main thing was that we both finished safely because there were a lot of nasty crashes, even on the last corner. Congratulations to Connie though for proving her true skill on the cobbles.
Stage 3: Time Trial (13.03 km)
Connie: Now as a lot of people are aware I am one of those weird people who loves time trials. I went into the TT knowing that I just had to go flat out.
It was a really horrible wind that I felt prevented me really getting into a controlled rhythm. Due to this I didn’t think I had done enough to get any where near the top 20. When I found out I had finished 18th, I was not only really happy, but completely shocked as I honestly hadn’t expected it. My time was over a minute quicker than last year on the same course so that showed that I must have done something right! Massive well done to Hannah for coming in 29th which is really good for someone who doesn’t time trial regually.
Stage 4: Cobbled Omloop (2 x long 13.38 km + 2 x short 4.22 km)
Connie: The omloop is always the hardest race as its the last chance to really shake up GC. It is also really hard as the Nieuweling-girls start behind the Juniors meaning that if they feel that you are going to be caught by them you are pulled out.
The second we were out of the neutralised section the race split and a small break away group of 20 got away. The pace was so high chasing and loads of riders went out the back and were pulled out very quickly. In the bunch, another British girl and I were leading the chase as 5 more had been dropped from the break and were now inbetween the two groups. We soon caught them and the pace was super high even though the wind was practically a gale. Just before we made the small laps, a gap opened up which I couldn’t close due to being drained, resulting in the two of us that had been driving the chase earlier, being dropped. However, we left two others behind and started our mad chase round the final two shorter laps. We were both in the red, but knew we had to keep the pace high to prevented being ‘broomed’! Luckily we made it home without being pulled and held onto our GC positions.
Stage 5: Criterium Asserbos (6 x 3.9 km, 3 sprints)
Hannah: Much to our disappointment, this was the last stage of the European Junior Cycling Tour 2017, otherwise known as Jeugdtour.
It ended with a crit around the event base and campsite, very similar to the prologue on the first day. Luckily our start time was at a much more sociable hour and we didn’t have to get up too early. Over the course of the 6 laps, Connie and I worked really well together, helping each other at different times to keep in contact the bunch. This worked successfully because we both finished comfortably in the bunch and crossing the line together. It was a good way to end a long hard week of racing.
I’d like to thank my parents for taking me and giving me the opportunity to experience racing abroad.
Hannah G and Connie