|Newsletter - 2001 Archive|
During my spring trip to the Netherlands in May I decided to participate in a couple of Brevets in the Netherlands. The first one took place on Saturday May 19 in Ossendrecht in the SW part of the Netherlands. Traveling by train with a bicycle in the Netherlands is easy. For Hfl 12.50 one gets a bike day pass (this does not include ones own ticket). When the train arrives at the station, look for the car with the bike sign, load the bike, take a seat, and enjoy the scenery until destination. After I got off the train in Bergen op Zoom, I cycled to Ossendrecht in classical Dutch dreary weather: cloudy skies and drizzle. Via a roundabout way -- thats another story -- I finally arrived at the hotel, where the bed and breakfast charge was Hfl 55.00 or C$ 35.00. Quite decent I might add.
Registration was Saturday morning at 5 am with a scheduled start at six. The start location was in one of the cafe-restaurants, where many riders were already enjoying their early morning coffee. Robert LeDuc, ride organizer and his cohorts were busy doing the paper work. Some 25 riders on fenderless bikes were ready to undertake this event. At 6 am most riders got off into the cool and cloudy morning, with a few starting later. Almost immediately a stiff pace was set, so as not to waste time. The group became stretched like a piece of spaghetti, soon to be broken up in two sections. Realizing that 300 km is a long distance, and that it made no sense to burn myself up in the first 20 km, I put two and two together and decided to drop back to the second group, which rode at a more leisurely (??) pace. Meanwhile the skies cleared and a westerly breeze provided the necessary resistance. After all we are randonneurs and we enjoy all the resistance we can get. To reduce the latter however someone in our group organized us into an echelon or waaier, so that energy could be saved and the pace maintained. Like a serpentine, we snaked through the province of Zeeland. We were alternating between cycling on the dike, then again behind the dike. This gave us different perspectives on the open polders with blooming orchards and fields with leeks and other crops. The morning smells were certainly inspiring.
After a secret control, we continued along the river Schelde from Zuid-Beveland to Walcheren, carefully avoiding the bigger cities like Vlissingen and Middelburg. The route was clearly marked with yellow arrows and the number 3 (300 km brevet), which closely matched our route description. The route took us through small villages, many whose names ended with kerke (church). At 95 km we had the first official control in West Kapelle, where we stopped at a restaurant behind the dunes of the North Sea for some 30 minutes. After this welcome break with coffee for most of the riders, the route turned north along the coast. We rode across the dike of the Veerse Meer to Noord Beveland, and then crossed the big control structure of the Oosterschelde to the island of Schouwen-Duiveland with a very stiff sea breeze greeting us along the way. The pace I must admit was kept high, although some described it as slow. Then someone flatted. While we waited, he changed the tire, and we into shorts. We crossed the Grevelingen, another large distributary of the delta. The third control was in Ouddorp on the island of Goeree-Overflakkee. The pies were excellent!!
After a half hour rest we turned east and now enjoyed a tailwind, which made the ride through the open landscape very enjoyable. Just after Hellegatsplein we crossed the Haringvlietbrug (bridge) to arrive on yet another island: the Hoekse Waard, which we left via a tunnel under the Dordtse Kill. Shortly after someones tire exploded, tearing the sidewall to shreds. The usefulness of having a spare outer was clearly demonstrated. Near the City of Dordrecht we turned south, went across the Hollands Diep via the famous Moerdijkbrug (the one that we learned about in geography in elementary school in the Netherlands) to next make a pit stop at the control in Zevenbergschenhoek in the Province of Noord Brabant.
At this control many of the Dutch riders filled their bidons with a malting barley product, and sampled it as well. The last 50 km took us back in the forested area, finishing at 6:30 pm, some 12.5 hours after we departed. The brevet consisted of 10 hours cycling and 2.5 hours resting. Interesting the lead group had completed the ride in well under ten hours. A great ride. In conversations with some of the cyclists during and after the ride, it became obvious that many of them are kilometre gluttons in the good sense of the word. Some had already collected more than 11,000 km (!!!) of riding so far this year. Their riding style is indeed evidence of this. Low gearing and high spinning rates make it look so effortless. Most riders are passionate about touring and randonneuring. They participate in one event after the other, cycling weekend after weekend thus adding the kilometres to their total.