Stage 1a (Team Time Trial)
The race began in Assen with a 21,8 kilometer team time trial through the surrounding area including a portion of the famed Assen TT circuit, nicknamed "The Cathedral" by motorbike fans. Fifteen teams of seven riders launched early on Tuesday morning and it came down to just a few turns of the crank.
The more experienced Jo Piels team took the victory over the much younger BMC Development squad by only 1 second while the older Join's-De Rijke team was 3rd place at 7 seconds. Jo Piels team for the Olympia's Tour has no U23 riders while BMC Development's team is made up of all but one U23 rider.
The rider from Jo Piels that took the yellow jersey was returning doper Jeff Vermeulen. Vermeulen won two stages in the 2013 edition but tested positive on both stages that he won for the fairly common substance Methylhexanamine, which Rui & Mario Costa, Clement Lhotellerie, Eduard Vorganov and others have tested positive for. It is a substance that is a component of geranium oil and is found in a number of different diet supplements, weight loss products & amphetamines and is listed as a stimulant under the WADA code. Vermeulen tried to explain it away as a tainted supplement and that he didn't knowingly ingest it. This didn't fly well and he was stripped of both wins and was suspended until the beginning of this season. Vermeulen then went on later to say that he thinks it is unfair for athletes are responsible for everything they ingest as their are so many variables like an unknown energy bar or bottle they could get in a race. There is more here but it seems like a line of bull shit.
Stage 1b (Assen to Ureterp)
The race's afternoon stage was a fairly flat affair from Assen to the Frisian town of Ureterp with three final laps of 14.2 kilometers each. A small breakaway of 4 including Robert De Greef, Martijn Budding, Maarten Craeghs and Joris Bloker were out front for nearly 80 kilometers but never got much more than a gap of 1 minute and were swept up with one lap to go.
As happens many times in the Olympia's Tour, the race was decided in a bunch sprint and it was local boy Wim Stroetinga (Parkhotel Valkenburg), born just 10 kilometers away in Drachten, who sprinted to the win ahead of Coen Vermeltfoort (Join's-De Rijke) and Nicolai Brøchner (Riwal).
Stroetinga is one of the biggest sandbaggers on the continental circuit as he obviously has the speed to compete with some better sprinting competition but seemingly can't get over climbs bigger than molehills and prefers the smaller races as he is a track racer at heart. This win was Stroetinga's 11th win in the Olympia's Tour and if you count the two stages where Jeff Vermeulen was DQed, this was Stroetinga's 13th stage win.
On another note, BMC Development put 3 in the top 9 and 5 in the top 15 just to let everyone know that they mean business.
Stage 2 (Ulft to Gendringen)
The GC race for the Olympia's Tour was framed on Wednesday when a large breakaway of 15 riders got away fairly early in the stage and a lethargic peloton basically let them ride away and it was no contest after that.
Out of the 15, a group of four broke off late including Bob Schoonbroodt (Parkhotel Valkenburg), Piotr Havik (Rabobank), Arno Van der Zwet (Metec) and Jetse Bol (Join's-De Rijke). The group of four worked well and in the final sprint, it was Bol taking the win ahead of Van der Zwet and Schoonbroodt to take his first win since the final stage (and overall) of the 2011 Olympia's Tour.
Bol had a rough three years with Rabobank/Belkin and took a step back to get his career back in order. Bol won the Olympia's Tour overall twice in 2009 and 2011 and was one of the best Dutch talents in the U23 system before transferring to the pro ranks. The old Rabobank system was sink or swim and Bol wasn't the first talented rider to flounder with the team. He will be looking to hold this jersey until the end but with more hills and a TT coming up, it will not be a cake walk.
The GC contenders include
- Van der Zwet +17"
- Schoonbroodt +18" (Point Jersey)
- Havik +28" (Best Young Rider)
- Gert-Jan Bosman +33"
- Nathan Van Hooydonck +34"
- Martijn Tusveld +39"
- Ronan Van Zandbeek +43"
- Dennis Bakker +48"
- Jeroen Meijers +50"
- Geert Van Der Weijst +52"
- Jasper Hamelink +56"
- Frederik Frison +1'23"
The action continues on Thursday with a classic circuit around Reuver that usually ends up in a sprint.