– Reported by Alasdair Maclennan –

I’ve been out here for the weekend, and I thought more people would have made the easy journey from the UK to Holland for a Grand Tour depart but so far the only ones we’ve bumped into are Neil and Maria Martin who are here for obvious reasons.

I had my doubts about the Assen TT before we arrived but it turned out to be a spectacular venue with at least half the course visible from the stands.

 La Vuelta 2009
Holland welcomes La Vuelta. Sounds weird, we had our doubts, but it seems to have worked.

A huge area of the inside of the track was allocated to cycling related entertainment and loads for children and families. Everything except food and drink was free!

The weather could have been better and poor luck for David Millar, Dan Martin and about 20 or so other souls who got caught in not only a torrential downpour but a gale lashed torrential downpour. Dan even tasted the Assen tarmac but remained in good spirits.

Oh, of course – I forgot Cancellara wins a prologue; shock!

The next days start in Assen was again greeted by huge crowds, unfortunately the timing of the rain again could not have been worse with another downpour 10 minutes before the start keeping the riders in their buses until the last few minutes.

The star of the show for me was Samuel Sánchez, who must have signed at least a hundred autographs from underneath an umbrella.

 La Vuelta 2009
Samuel Sánchez takes the time to sign autographs.

The weather improved out on the course and on the four occasions we saw the race in the first 100k before going to the finish the crowds were easily on par with a good day on the TdF. Ciolek and Milram finally win something of note!

The weather improved dramatically for stage three and whilst the race was uninspiring (except for Greg Henderson who is finally getting his due rewards as a class act) the crowds at the finish were phenomenal, the atmosphere in the beautiful finish town of Venlo was as good as any bike race I’ve been to. Kiddies racing round the streets, oompah bands and plenty of beer made for a classic day out at a bike race.

I’m off to Venlo now for start of stage four to Liege and if today matches the last three then I will say that the Vuelta has made a huge impact on the low countries.

Okay, having spoken to many riders, I didn’t have to contend with the weather and the street furniture, and I don’t have to make the transfer back into Spain, but I would conclude that as a spectator event it has given my favourite Flemish week a run for its money.

Just a pity more people didn’t take advantage of a long weekend in Holland.