Town Crit Weekend ~ Ossie Assem

Back in July, my Finchley Racing team mate Nick Faint suggested racing in Jersey over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Spurred on by the idea of racing overseas and combining this with a holiday, I jumped at the idea.

Soon the weekend came around with Nick and I, and better halves Karen and Tam, taking to the high seas heading for St Helier.

Nick & Karen ~ Ossie & Tam

I’d been communicating with Tony Williams of flamme rouge fame/notoriety (or both!) by email for several years.  I'd even written a Riders Ride report of our 2009 Etape adventure

So it was that my first trip to Jersey was also my first meeting with Tony, he’s every bit as engaging in person as he is on his site.

Jersey Town Criterium
After two days of touring around the island’s diverse and appealing terrain, on the Sunday we took part in the Town Crit. This could not have contrasted more sharply with those races of the same title held regularly in England at off-the-beaten track circuits.

Jersey Town centre was our battleground, with narrow pedestrian crossings, sharp T junctions and cobbled sections being our technical challenges!  Roads were closed to traffic, barriers joined to form the perimeter of the circuit, and with an inflatable archway at the start /finish under which the MC stood, we were treated to a volley of race commentary and pumping music as we completed each lap.

Several hundred spectators lined the course, and with all day racing provided for kids, right up to Elite level seniors, the Town Crit is testament to its organisers Tony Moffa and Toby Aubert and to how the island of Jersey has embraced such a positive and healthy culture.

Nick Faint ~ holiday instigator and line-out specialist

We raced in the early afternoon.  Within minutes of the gun I realised why the local lads had been pushing themselves forward for a front line start position.

Every sharp turn was preceded by an almost complete halt.  By the time I’d emerged from the corner, the lead that had been so tantalisingly close just a second before had stretched out way ahead.  By the time I’d sprinted back up to within touching distance of the front, the next sharp turn was upon us, and the inevitable grinding halt.

This set the tone for the day.  As we charged around the circuit, I found my heart joining in the party, providing an accompanying beat to the frantic dance music!  So much for leisurely Sunday shopping.  I’ve never window shopped at a rate of 100 store fronts per minute at an avg 167bpms!

Ossie Assem ~ centre of pic
deciding which way to go around imminent traffic island!

We watched the Elites top the bill in the early evening, with Nigel Mansell’s equally speedy son Greg winning the main event.  It was then off to carbo load at a good Italian eaterie before retiring to our B&B.  However, a quiet night it wasn’t.

The retirees at the B&B were at the mercy of a quizmaster whose microphone setting meant I could’ve joined the hotly competed contest from the "comfort" of our second floor room.

Watersplash Road Race
After a less than peaceful night’s sleep, we were up at 5am for breakfast in the dark, minus milk (light fittings and milk settings overlooked by our host who hadn’t failed to set out her award for Customer Service for 1989 on the mantelpiece).

We rode to St Peter for the second part of the Jersey race weekend, the Road Race.

The race was 80kms, 7 laps of the Watersplash Circuit on the west coast of the island, with a strong headwind coming into the start/finish just before a left turn into a tough 1.2km climb over Jubilee Hill.  It was obvious the climb was going to be the key factor, if I could stay up near the front and in touch, I would have a chance.

On the early laps, there were some hard sudden digs on the early slopes of the climb.  I made sure I went with these and stayed near the front, so that even if a sudden attack came again at the top, I could get onto a wheel. 

Nick second left and Ossie far right approaching the climb
photo ~ Sarndra Laugeard

As the race wore on, I began to feel better.  The race split up on the third last climb from a very hard attack, - I made this split – and all of a sudden there were seven of us away. 

We worked hard from the climb and over the top of the island, but the chasing pack brought us all back together with just two laps to go.

On the last time up the climb, another guy suddenly attacked very hard from the base of the climb, the race split again with eleven making the break.  I was paying attention, made this selection as well and we all worked away, thinking this one hads to be it.

This time, there was a massive gap to the guys behind, and even with the roulette game into the finish slowing us down ahead of the sprint, there was no sight of the pack. 

There was a very strong headwind coming at us off the coast, so no one wanted to commit first.  I thought about an earlier break for it, but the headwind was so strong, I knew this would be absolutely eaten up. 

We then lined up for the prize-winning sprint.  Initially I found myself sheltered, but boxed in on the inside.  I managed to manoeuvere myself to the windswept outside, got on a wheel, pushed hard for home and came around a couple of guys to finish ninth.

A great race and a very pleasing finish, I was back in my more familiar territory of a road race, and with my preference for a climb, it was a circuit I thoroughly enjoyed racing over.

We rode back to base with Tony and the flamme rouge gang, and after a quick change and lunch, we were at sea heading for home.

It was a fantastic weekend in Jersey, truly enjoyable to race in, to tour the island, and to experience the enthusiasm and buzz of the islanders.  Hats off for the creation of the Jersey Youth Academy that appears to be growing side by side with the island’s Criterium and Road Race weekend.

We look forward to returning to Jersey and seeing such a healthy outlook continue to thrive!

Ossie Assem