>Finding (the) Netherland(s)


Sometimes Pat and I have an adventure just by accident.

In January Corniel Nobel posted some information about a Dutch time trial event on the Time Trialling Forum. I thought it sounded interesting and, finances being better back then, popped an entry in and booked a hotel and ferry. I assumed that I’d be able to get a club team together and, even if not, several Brits would jump at the chance to race in ‘That Yurp’ – home of all things cycling. I was wrong.

As the date for De TijdstrijdersCup approached it became clear that I would be leading the Willesden ‘team’… and the British ‘team’. I was going to be the only UK entry. There were a few Belgian riders and one Italian, but the rest of the field would be home grown.

We sailed from Harwich on Friday, but not before I damaged my right knee training. I managed to put a great deal of hurt into my legs in a 2h 40m session on Thursday evening. Normally my lungs give out long before I risk damaging my legs but I seem to be all out of kilter with my body at the moment.

Friday was an enforced rest day in the luxury of the Hilton Royal Parc Hotel at Soestduinen. This sort of place is normally way out of our budget, but an early booking offer on Expedia delivered the goods. Thank you, Interweb.

On Saturday morning I reccied the course and tested my knee. The course is great – a 40.8 km traffic light (six cars passed me on Saturday, three on Sunday), flat oblong on predominately well-surfaced roads. It was a bit breezy, but lovely and warm. A decision was taken: tomorrow was going to be the first ‘legs’ day of the season.

The knee was less good. It took thirty minutes to get the pain under control, but high revs and lowish gears seemed to make it bearable. After the ride I took a foot wedge out of the right shoe and raised the saddle a centimetre. What harm could that do?

On Saturday afternoon we touristed to Amersfoort. It’s a lovely town, but the walking took its toll on the leg. I was walking like an invalid while Pat strode ahead looking for drop kerbs to allow me to mount the pavement with only minor whingeing. You’ll find this difficult to believe, but I was pathetic.

Sunday: race day dawned and we headed to Almere Hout for the start. It was a little breezier than the day before and a bit cooler too. A lack of common sense persuaded me to keep to the plan of using the skinsuit. I also took the disc wheel and bladed front wheel out of their bag for the first time this year. I should have know something was up with the weather when the disc wheel blew away before I could fit it. Luckily I managed to catch it.

After a good ‘warm’ up I started fast. Then I slowed down for a bit. Then I slowed down some more. The first part of the race was into a headwind. There was little cover. I was travelling at 17mph for extended periods. I never did get warm in this part of the race. The turn into the cross wind was a relief and the tail wind section was a 28mph joy. The last 3 miles took us back into a cross wind, but I tacked to the finish with relief.

The event was won in an excellent 53:42 by Giel de Nijs. I recorded a 1:9:20 for 51st place from 75 finishers. I was down on my seeding (caught by 4 or 5 riders), but happy given the way this season has gone so far. And happy because it was great fun event against serious but friendly opponents. A big thank you to Corniel and his team for organising and promoting the event.

Race stats: Time: 1:09:30 (21.98mph). First 12.5 miles: 38:38, next 12.5 miles: 29:45. Top speed: 29.4mph. Slowest mile (5): 3:32 (16.98mph), fastest miles (18, 19 and 22): 2:08 (28.13mph). Average HR: 146bpm, maximum HR: 154bpm. 51 of 75 finishers. Winner: Giel de Nijs 53:42.

Pat and I drove home via Delft (where the plate was invented and Vermeer immortalised Scarlett Johansson in oils). We arrived about 4.30pm. It’s a beautiful and fascinating place. It closed at 5pm. We pressed on to Hoek van Holland for some beer and a great meal while I described to Pat how much my leg hurt.

Despite having to put up with cycling (not her favourite subject) and knee injuries (likewise) Pat and I had a great weekend. The Netherlands was fascinating (this was only my second visit), we had good meals and we talked a lot (not always about bikes and knees), which is nice.

I’m not the sort of person who acts on impulse normally, but I’m glad I did commit to this event back in January. It’s been a good accidental adventure.

The picture is of me with 500m to go. Those legs shouldn’t have been let out for another month yet.

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