Unlike last year this was the first proper stage of the race. It is a 9km course shaped in a figure of eight centred around a 300 metre section of cobbles. Each lap this is where the race splits up. Our field of around 90 riders set off quite early in the morning. I was quite close to the front as we rolled out of the pen but that soon changed. Riding on the continent is quite different to racing in England. The bunch is a lot closer and physical. Having had ove a year to forget this I was losing places fast. Luckily I regained my focus just after the race was de-neutralised and maintained a middle position.

Eveyone at Assen is there to win so attacks went out almost constanly. A couple of laps into the race a large break formed and the chase was one. The Danish Python Pro team kept smashing it and I was dropping further and further back through bad luck or poor cornering. As the final push was made to catch the break I found myself at the back. I am eternally grateful to George who, on the verge of cramp, managed to make one last ditch effort to pull me back to the bunch. George made his effort and peeled off and I then made my all out lung busting effort. Thankfully it was just enough. Unfortunately George had spent himself. He finished in a group behind with Sean. The pace set by the Danish team had thinned the field considerably.

Suddenly on the last lap I heard a stream of expletives as Alex lost his high overall placing with a badly timed puncture. I had to let him go and as we all piled into the last bend someone forgot how to ride on pave (brick roads) and caused a crash. I was momentarily held up with Sam and we chased on to those who had had a clear run.

I came in 36th on this stage with Alex rolling in just after the bunch.

Daniel’s race went off later in the day. His bigger bunch lent itself to a larger number of crashes and this did not help him out. With a Team there coached by Erik Zabel the pace and the crashes soon saw Daniel in a chasing group. It was the last group to be picked up by the broomwagon which meant that he had a 5 minute time penalty added on. A baptism of fire for someone who has never raced abroad before.