Six Welwyn Wheelers (Joe Kiely, Oli Stockwell, Millie Gage, Elspeth Grace, Nathan Blackmore and Tom Durkin), plus two from Kinetic Welwyn (Kat Anderson and Anna Carter) plus families travelled to Assen in the north of the Netherlands for the 52nd annual European Youth Cycling tour.
This year there were more than 750 entrants across all age categories.Riders travelled from all over Europe (and even in one case from Australia) to take part.
The Wheelers spent Saturday and Sunday checking some of the routes and practising riding on cobbles.
The Tour got under way on Monday – the first event a 1.35km time trial. Tuesday was a town centre criterium for the various age groups, Wednesday was the ‘Classica’ road race. This included a 1.8 km stretch of cobbles for the older riders.
In the Classica first to finish was Oli. After 36km of racing, he took an excellent second place in the bunch sprint. This moved him to 6th in the overall classification for the first 3 days. Next it was the girls who raced in a combined under 17 and junior field over 61 km. Elspeth finished 23rd but Millie, Kat and Anna were all caught and eliminated by the ‘broomwagon’. Of the 66 under 17 girls racing, 28 were caught by the broom wagon.
Next up were Nathan and Tom. The steady drizzle worsened to heavy rain as they raced about 76 km. Unfortunately they too were caught by the broom wagon along with another 58 out of 140 under 17 boys racing. In the final group race Joe Kiely raced for 25.8 km and finished 5th, leaving him 9th in the overall classification.
Day 4 of racing was a 13km time trial (7.5km for Joe). The start was in a village half an hour north of Assen. The course was flat but it was windy.
Friday saw circuit races based in the village of Kostvlies, east of Assen. For the older riders the circuit was 13km long and included a short stretch of cobbles. First Welwyn riders were Millie and Elspeth, racing 3 loops. The heavens opened during the race and unfortunately Millie did not finish the race. Elspeth recovered from a puncture and finished in the first group,maintaining her position at 21st in the overall classification.
Next came Nathan and Tom’s race. Tom was caught in a crash so did not finish. He was battered but not bloodied. Nathan finished in 73rd place so improved his position in the overall classification from 93rd to 86th, Oli then raced 7 laps of a shorter 4.22 km course. Oli finished 19th, in the first group so retained his position in 7th in the general classification, Next up was Joe, who finished in third place so moving from 9th in the general classification to 5th.
The final day was a criterium race in the woods by the sports park in Assen. Nathan and Tom were first off. Due to the large number of under 17 boys their race was split into 2 heats. Nathan finished in the first group and again improved his general classification position to finish 81st. Tom struggled with a sore back following his crash the day before and finished 121st overall in the general classification.
Millie and Elspeth also raced 6 laps of the circuit. Both girls finished in the first group, with Millie in 24th place and Elspeth in 35th. Elspeth finished the week in 22nd place.
Next up was Joe in the category 6 race. He kept in with the main group until the 6th and final lap when he came round the second to last bend out the front, a position he kept, winning the stage convincingly. This cemented his position as 5th overall in the general classification. Last off was Oli, who made a break with one other rider – it was hoped he would repeat his performance at the National Championships but unfortunately was caught by the main group, finally finishing 30th. This left him 8th in the general classification.
It was a great week of racing and a superb experience for all the riders.