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Kopje en Dijken 200
The plan this summer was to ride a 1000 or 1200 km brevet in Europe. After completing the series and then some by mid June, I was not sure whether I was quite ready for the Alienor d’Aquitane in SW France. That one looked like a beauty, including a climb up the (in) famous Aubisque in the Pyrenees. An opportunity to make history. It did not happen. First, a torrential rainstorm caused a landslide on the approach to the summit, forcing the organizers to change the route. Second, I did not go. Instead, I signed up for the 1200 km Brussels-Strasbourg-Brussels (BSB) over 4 days. As the event came closer. A monster of a heatwave settled in with temperatures forecast to go to 38C for three of the four days. And they did. After some soul searching I concluded that participation under those conditions was - let’s say - less than healthy. So, I cancelled. Temperatures did indeed go that high during the event. Of the 33 people who had registered: 8 DNS and 10 DNF; 15 made it. The DNFs included very strong riders. The stories on the Belgian Rando website documented the challenge. A week later there was a 1000 km option, starting in Maastricht going south and around the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, then along the Moselle to Koblenz and back to Maastricht. That event took place under similar hothouse conditions. I chatted with some of the participants a week later and they recounted stories, similar to BSB.
While this summarizes the events I did not cycle, there was one I did: the 200 km Kopje en Dijken brevet (website: https://randonneurs.nl/event/brm-200-overveen-nl-kopje-en-dijken/) organized by the Dutch Randonneurs. It started near Haarlem, then wound its way to Hoorn and Enkhuizen, crossed the IJsselmeer on the Houtribdijk to Lelystad, followed by another section along the dike to Almere and back via picturesque routes to the finish. Close to 50 riders (Dutch, German, Japan, Italian, Canadian) showed up for this flat of flattest brevets with a total elevation gain of 130 meters (Note: you read this correct, there is no zero missing: one-three-zero meters) The elevation is gained from a 30m ascent, known as “het Kopje van Bloemendaal”, a small incline in the coastal dunes, approaches to bridges and dikes, and last but not least the numerous 5 cm high speed bumps in urban areas. The latter were probably the toughest to conquer, that is for the need to slowdown. I must say that I did do some serious, specific and secret hill training for “het Kopje” in the days prior by cycling hilly sections in the dunes north of The Hague. All joking aside, the lack of elevation gain however was compensated for by (a) an ever-present wind up to and beyond 4 on the Beaufort scale, (b) numerous stop signs and traffic lights, and (c) many directional changes on the route sheet in the urban traffic maze.
Among the participants were a few riders whom I’d met on past brevets, Ivo Miessen, Robert Lammers, Jos Verstegen and Ben Schippers. The latter two participated in the 2012 RM 1200. After the brevet I briefly chatted with Leo Forster, randonneur par excellence who has numerous PBPs under his belt and other monster distances in his legs. His passion showed when he recounted the stories. For me these encounters are always the icing on the cake.
Kopje van Bloemendaal -Making a Mountain out of Molehill?
A couple of fast riders quickly disappeared out of sight. We did catch them later as they had to wait - like us - to catch a ferry across the Noordzee Kanaal, which links the North Sea with Amsterdam’s harbours. After the ferry ride (cyclists travel free) we moved through an industrial zone and then found ourselves in the open spaces of the polders, areas that were reclaimed in the 15 and 1600’s. The result is that one cycles below sea level. The reclaimed areas have numerous drainage ditches and canals as well as wind mills and other pumping stations to keep the area dry. The bigger canals are of course contained by dikes. The water levels in these canals are well above the prevailing landscape. This creates some interesting experiences when one cycles behind and on paths lower than dike. One sees ships moving sort-of above the land. The land reclamation in these and other areas of the Netherlands represent a fascinating history, an engineering and planning wonder, resulting in a unique cultural landscape, giving rise to the saying that “God created the Earth, but the Dutch created their own land.” This is obvious when one cycles there.
Most of the riding was on designated bicycle paths, on or beside the many dikes. While this separated us from vehicular traffic on the adjacent highways, paying attention was still important as there was a quite a bit of oncoming traffic, mainly cyclists that is. Our first control was in the City of Hoorn (Km 60), where we stocked up and quickly thereafter continued to City of Enkhuizen. Except for an unscheduled ‘tire-repair-break’ and an ‘exchange’ with pedestrians and dogs on long leashes across a winding bicycle path, this section was uneventful. A bit of a tailwind helped of course. After Enkhuizen, we left the mainland and cycled into the IJsselmeer. While we did not submerge ourselves, we were surrounded by water on both sides as we cycled some 27 km on the Houtribdijk into to stiff wind to Lelystad (Km 105). Here we had our second control and a lunch break: after all, food is important, especially knowing that we’d have more (head) wind ahead of us. The section from Lelystad to Almere was again along a dike with reclaimed land on the one side, water on the other a headwind in the middle. Maintaining a decent speed was a challenge. Luckily, conversations with other cyclists helped us ignore the wind and prevented us from feeling sorry for ourselves. As we noted a lone rider plodding ahead of us, one my companions wondered what this person would be thinking. We surmised, “most likely the same thoughts milling and rotating through his head like the pedals on his bicycle or the turning rotors of the many windmills dotting the landscape”.
Almere posed a few challenges as we cycled through incomplete subdivisions and landscapes that looked quite unnatural. As quickly as we entered, we exited it and were on the mainland again. We cycled through Muiden with its historic castle, the ‘Muiderslot’ a place I had visited more than five decades ago during a school trip, evidence that history does repeat itself. Had to stop for a few minutes to put a few calories in the tank. After that, back in the saddle, moving through small villages along the many rivers Vecht, Gein and Amstel to name a few. In Weesp the situation got a bit dicey as we might had missed a turn, however before long we were able to get back on track on the road through an intriguing landscape. Quintessentially Dutch, with water, water, water everywhere: rivers, lakes, canals and drainage ditches. Dikes, windmills, you name it. The route followed small roads through the many small villages, neatly contained because of thoughtful regional and national planning. The result is a well preserved and vibrant cultural landscape that maintains its attractiveness. Weeping willow along the water’s edge created a dreamy and placid environment. Watercraft of any type were as numerous as bicycles or other modes of transportation. They were ever present.
In Uithoorn (Km 177) we took a break to get the control cards signed, and the body replenished with the essentials. The ‘poffertjes’ went down very well and helped to get the final leg to the finish done. After some 11 hours underway we pulled into the finish. Marvelous ride, good company with some challenges: route finding in urban areas and of course the headwind. Notwithstanding, a more than worthwhile brevet. After arriving at the finish, I enjoyed a great brew, something I had been looking forward to since the last control. It was more than worth it. Cheers. Thanks to Ernst for organizing this brevet.
Go to: Kopje en Dijken 200 event page (Randonneurs NL)
October 9, 2018