British Youth Conquer Assen

British Youth Conquer Assen

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Charlotte Broughton (centre) on the top step of the podium in Assen.

Every year, there is an international stage race in Assen (Holland) which attracts lots of young riders from around Europe and as ever, there was a large group of British riders in attendance for the 2009 edition. The race is over six days (six stages) and two stories reaching me here at British Cycling this week are an example of just how successful the British continue to be in this prestigious race.

From 11 year old Charlotte Broughton took won the overall title for her age category to another talented young lady, twice Under 16 British Women’s Youth champion Hannah Barnes who was second overall in the Women’s category where she was competing against Junior riders. These two were not the only Brits to get themselves on the podium after a stage with others including Kim Baptista, Charlie Tanfield,  Jessica Roberts, Ben Chapman, Lucy and Grace Garner, Owain Doull and Jonathon Dibben.

Quite a roll call that!

Hannah Barnes Double Stage Victory

Hannah Barnes on the left after finishing second in the race at Assen.Photo:

Having won her British title the week before, Hannah travelled to Holland with a Talent Team squad which was packed with talented young ladies. Behind every winner is a great team – just ask Mark Cavendish – and working for Hannah Barnes was a young team of riders racing up a category.

Those riders were Elinor Barker, Harriet Owen, Hannah  Layland, Lucy Garner, Hannah Shenton and Hannah Barnes. Talent Team coach Matt Winston was full of praise for  how well the riders worked for the common good of the team. Hannah Barnes too backed that up by explaining that they all get on really well and once on the road, talk to each other to find out who’s going best and then working for that rider.

When I spoke to Hannah Barnes, she was having a very busy week along with many of her fellow Talent Team riders from the Northern region as they trained at the Manchester track preparing for the British Track Championships for Youth and Junior riders in Newport in a few weeks.

Hannah explained after her first training session of the week that she wasn’t alone in being tired after such a tough stage race but pleased with how the Assen tour went considering there were a number of new challenges for her and the team. The road is Hannah’s favourite discipline and in 2008 in Blackpool, Hannah at 15 was winning an Elite women’s race. In 2009, she was second in the same event which is proof, if needed, of just how good this young lady and many of her close rivals, are.

The Assen stage race started well for her in the prologue where she finished third behind her teammate Lucy Garner who was second and that meant both of them went into the next stage well placed but facing the first of the new challenges. Hannah explained that she had never ridden in a group as big as the one in Assen which shows just how valuable such trips are to prepare these athletes for future races as juniors and Elites.

The second stage with 90 plus riders was however a crash-fest but Hannah Barnes managed to get through it and then on stage three, she faced another new challenge in a place to place race where she showed just how well she was getting to grips with this style of racing when she was second after a lead out from her team.

Hannah Barnes in winning form earlier this year at the Smithfield Nocturne women's race.

Another circuit race the next day and her results got even better despite a bad start where she crashed. After a lap out and Hannah was soon back in the race and won the first of her two stages. It was a decisive win as well which put her within nine seconds of the yellow jersey holder and set up a final day where the Talent Team squad were going to go all out to try and help Hannah Barnes win the race overall.

And they almost pulled it off with Hannah Barnes winning and Lucy Garner an excellent second but the yellow jersey was still six seconds out of Hannah Barnes’ reach and Hannah finished the race in second.

This success Hannah is having is far cry from how she got into cycling when a few years ago she noticed a poster in Phil Corley’s bike shop in Milton Keynes not far from where the family had moved to in Northamptonshire. “The flyer was for the racing at the Milton Keynes Bowl and so we all went along and not only did we like it, but we were told we were pretty good at it so we carried on and went to a few more races.”

Success for Hannah followed but riders do not start winning races without a certain level of dedication and to carry on improving, Hannah spends many an hour training. Being a youth rider, Hannah is restricted to racing on closed circuits and so to get her diet of racing to compliment her training, she continues to race where it all began, the Milton Keynes Bowl on Thursdays as well time trials on Tuesdays.

“I race with the men there which means it’s quite hard but then when I train on my own, I train hard too so it’s just like a race.” Which is just what her training is like this week at the Talent Team camp where she and the rest of the young riders are preparing for their next big challenge, the British Track Championships

After that, Hannah will be hoping to get selected for the Olympic Development programme which has helped produce Olympic stars already and will no doubt produce many more. Hannah admits that road racing is her favourite discipline but she is prepared to race the track as well because she knows it will help benefit her on the road as well give her opportunities for success at many different levels. 

Good luck to Hannah in achieving those goals this year and those that follow.

Lots of Jerseys for Charlotte Broughton

Another young lady who was on the podium at the end of the stage race was Charlotte Broughton of Leicestershire. Charlotte started the race in winning mode when she was fastest in the short prologue by over four seconds and followed that up by coming fourth in the first of the criteriums despite being forced off the course twice by a Dutch rider.

On day 3, Wednesday, Charlotte raced in the place-to-place road race which started near the Assen TT circuit and after a fast stage, two riders were battling it out for the win and one of those was Charlotte. The sprint went all the way to the line with Charlotte just being beaten into second by the closest of margins but she still had enough points to hold on to the gold jersey for the next day.

Thursday saw the riders face a time trial in very windy conditions and as the leader of the race, Charlotte was last off with the wind behind her. Watching Charlotte were her parents and when they saw her come in, something didn’t seem right. That was because Charlotte had caught her minute man and crossed the line at over 31 mph which isn’t shabby on the very restricted gear ratios riders of her age have to ride.

Her time was 41 seconds up on the second placed rider giving her a points advantage of 54 seconds. She was so shattered from the effort that she had to be helped back from the gear checking area back to the stands. Now that is an example of getting an effort all out!    

With a decent lead at the head of the race in her category, the strategy from then on was for Charlotte to ride a safe race and to try and stay in the top six in the group and not let anyone force her off the road. Charlotte won the first sprint in the race and then came fourth in the second but the effort in the time trial had taken its toll and as she crossed the line with a lap to go, she shook her head as if to say she had nothing left for the final sprint and the Gold jersey wearer finished 11th. Charlotte still had enough points to wear the Gold jersey for the final day though.  

Saturday’s criterium was on a short course of 900 metres with several tight corners and Charlotte knew all she had to do was finish in the bunch to win the race. Charlotte though isn’t one to just sit in and she decided to make a race of it and took the first sprint, was fourth in the second and second in the last one before the finish.

As the bell went for the last lap, Charlotte was in 6th position and on the sharp corner at the end of the start/finish straight, she took it tight and was third as she came out of the corner before getting of the saddle as the race went behind some trees. As they came into view though, the Dutch commentator shouted out the name ‘Broughton’ and sure enough, there was the Gold jersey wearer sprinting for all she was worth with the pack just behind.

It was the perfect end to a great race for the young Leicestershire girl and afterwards she was presented with the much coveted Pink jersey for winning the overall Girls championship. Charlotte was also second in the Sprint classification, second in the Special Sprint classification and Overall tour winner for her age group which is not bad for some one who was convinced she couldn’t sprint!

Well done to Charlotte and all the other riders in Assen on a great performance by the British invasion. My thanks to Shane Broughton for his help in telling the story of his daughter's super victory.

Charlotte is one of many young future stars coming from the Leicestershire road club.