Race Report from William Heath in Europe.44e Wielerronde Van 't Zand
The first race in Holland took place on a cold and overcast day in t' Zand.
With a strong field of 80 riders (including numerous current and ex-pros and top amateurs), a 1.7km course (half pavé and half asphalt), 80km in total, and the scene was set for our first taste of racing on the continent.
(Neil was unfortunately sick, and whilst wisdom prevailed and he decided to sit the first round of Euro racing out, he wanted nothing more than to be out there too)
And what an introduction to racing it was, from the get go the pace was incredibly high across the whole circuit. With six very tight and technical corners, and such a large field on a small circuit the bunch was strung out immediately. I started out in a poor position and was battling to move up due to the intensity, and the sheer speed with which some very sizeable Dutchmen (for perhaps the first time in a race I felt average size) were able to go through the corners!
Over the next 70kms I was just doing the best I could to hang in there!
Meanwhile at the business end of the race multiple breaks formed and crumbled, people crashed and narrowly avoided crashing, lap sprints came and went...
Until finally a successful main break of 15 riders got away, (although this was to fragment over the later stages of the race, the winner riding away solo) the race was nearing it's conclusion, and the main bunch (where I was) had been severely culled of riders, down to only about 35 guys.
At 6 laps to go the main bunch was given the order by the commissaire to sprint for the finish next lap to avoid entanglement with those in the break away. Given my Dutch is essentially non-existent I had no idea what was going on, and so I didn't sprint, leaving me to finish in 42nd. A tough first race that introduced me to a very different style of racing (having never done a crit with so many riders or over such a long distance) and it left me looking to do much better next time.