יום חמישי, 23 באוגוסט 2012

143. Ride Report Dutch Capitals 2012


Ride report of the Dutch Capitals 1200 2012. (Hebrew)

This is the first time that this ride takes place.
In 2010 there was a 1200km ride in The Netherlands.

A day before the ride we met and we talked about the route a little.
The organizer's helper, who translated the route sheet to English, said that he doesn't believe someone would ride without a GPS, as the route sheet is very complicated.

I met the only English rider from the forum, and we also said we'll stay at the same hotel, where we met 2 German riders.

There were 33 riders, including one female rider.

The ride started from the local bike club. We sat inside the club.
Suddenly, a thin rider walked in, unshaved, with shoes made of wood and leather, riding cap backwards, and in general looked like he's from "The Triplets of Belleville" movie.
the Brit and I looked at each other, and we said he looked like a Pro.

At first, my GPS didn't work, and I was a little anxious. I stopped to turn it off and on a few times, and eventually it worked. I backed up the tracks to the device's internal memory.

By the time my GPS worked, most of the riders have passed me. I stood on the pedals and caught the nearest group. The rode slow, so I jumped to another group, and another one.
I ended in a group of about 10 riders that rode in a good pace (about 30 km/h and more,) maybe even a bit too fast, but I didn't want to lose them.

Navigation was a bit tricky, and every once in a while all riders stopped and compared their GPSs.
One rider said he's from the area, pointed the right direction, and that shortened the stops.

The ride was on Dutch cycling paths, and not on the road with the cars (like I'm used to.)
The paths are relatively narrow, and there isn't much room to ride in 2 columns (2-by-2.)
The paths run parallel to the roads, and are even part of interchanges of the fastest highways.

There was headwind and the path was narrow, and we couldn't form a peloton. I tried to hide behind a tall rider. He looked like a Nordic God.
He was wearing regular clothes, sport shoes, regular shorts, a t-shirt, and pedalled slowly on his highest gear.

On the climb to the bridge in Rotterdam I rode slowly, and everybody opened a gap ahead of me, but I caught most of them on the way down, and in the flats afterwards, again we were about 10 rider, riding in the same speed.

There were changes, but you couldn't hide from the wind for too long. Sometimes the headwind was pretty strong.
I stayed with the group till the first Control at 158 km. We met the first riders (on VeloMobiel.)
The Nordic God stamped and continued immediately, alone. We said "goodbye", and "see you on the road!" Some more riders arrived, and by the time a large enough group continues we were again about 10 riders.
We continues in the fast pace of about 30 km/h, and there was still headwind.
Slowly the group dwindled because riders couldn't keep up and dropped, but I kept with the rest, still feeling it's a bit too fast for me, but manageable.

Until the 2nd Control at 222 km we were about 5 riders.
In the 2nd Control we stopped for about an hour (we met the leaders, and some dropped riders arrived.) I said it's too quick for me, and I plan to slow down, and the 4 other riders said they plan to slow down as well.

We left the Control together, 5 riders, at a pace of about 24-28 km/h, depending who was in front.
The 5 riders were:
A rider from around the start ("Local Guy", who knew the beginning of the route.) He was riding a classic steel bike.
The Pro.
A rider from the Groningen area ("Northern Guy",) on a steel touring bike, with large rear panniers.
A rider from around Arnhem, on a special carbon fiber bike.
And me.

Riding with The Pro was "an experience." When he was in front it was like a servo engine.
He had 3 speeds: 24, 28, 32 km/h. When he was riding at a certain velocity he kept that speed, no matter whether it was against headwind, with tailwind, ascend, descend, or turns.
He took turns like Automan (e.g. 00:18 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAKOB4fBiRk ) I never saw anything like it. After every turn we all had to stand on the pedals to catch him.
When he sat on you - It was tight. So tight that you feared to do any sudden movements. He overlapped wheels, and in several times even hit the Northern Guy's panniers with his handlebars.

Until the 4th Control at 469 km, the 5 of us rode together.
From there started climbs till the highest pint in the route, Control 5 at 499 km.
I was dropped at the start of the climbs, and the other continued.
I knew the route climbs to 320 meters above sea level. For some reason, when I reached 180 meters the road started to drop.
When I reached 498 km (1 km before the Control) it didn't look like there's going to be a Control in about a km. I stopped and looked at the GPS, and it seemed that the Control was 5 km behind me(!!!)
I looked back and saw 3 of my friends riding towards me. I stopped them, and they said that the Controle is indeed behind me. I turned around, and rode back, a longer climb than what I needed in the first place. At some point I saw the 4th rider (Local Guy) riding towards me, and we said we'll meet at Control 6, which was a feeding and sleeping point.
When I reached Control 6 I was told that the other 4 riders are sleeping, and the asked to be awaken in about 3 ours. I asked to eat and wake up in about 2:30 hours. I had a shower after my sleep.
We left the Control together, again 5 riders. This time we headed north, and there was no headwind.

In Arnhem the bridge (not The Bridge...) was closed for road works, and we had to improvise a different route.
The 2nd night started, and we had lots of time. We continued riding till Control 10, at 842 km, for the 2nd sleep control.
We were riding in town at night, on the way to the Control. Suddenly the Pro swerved into the pedestrian path, hit it, and jumped with his bike over the shoulder.
We were all certain he'd fall, but he came out of it!
He said he fell asleep.
btw, when we spoke with him, he said he's no pro. He likes to ride.

In Control 10 we requested to sleep 4 hours. I had a shower before my sleep.
After about 2 hours I saw the "Pro" waking up. I continued sleeping.
When we were up he was gone, and the volunteers said he already left.
From there on we were 4 riders.

Between Control 11 and 12, at about 950 km, it was a hot afternoon, and the Dutch riders asked to stop. We stopped for 30 minutes. We laid down on the grass by the road. I fell slept a little.

Control 12 is in Assen, and we talked about races a little.
I asked about Jos Verstappen, and they said he wasn't a good driver, and that the racing circuit in Assen has lost its status it once had.

The woman at the petrol station was nice, and the Northern agreed with me that there are differences between the northern and southern Dutch.
Going out of the control, Arnhem Guy said he broke his saddle. He called his wife, and the woman from the petrol station gave us a local Yellow Pages, and we called local bike shops.
One of them was still open, and they had several kinds of saddles (it was close to closing time.)
We rode there. After he bought a saddle, he said that the new saddle is better and feels more comfortable than his old one.

In Control 13, at 989 km we stopped to eat in McDonald's in Groningen. I had 2 Big Mac menus. :-)

After Control 14 at 1058 km was the first dijk. It was night, and the sky was full of stars.
The dijk is officially 32 km long, but in reality it's a lot longer, as the road starts on the ground, and continues a little more after it crosses the sea.
We rode in a long straight for many km, in the dark, with no difference, and no evidence of our advancement.
I saw the km signs from the nearby road (which didn't have many cars either,) and the km didn't "move."
I felt like I'm on a turbo trainer in a closed dark room (I've never ridden a turbo trainer. In a closed room, or outside...)

When the dijk ended it seemed like eternity. A real nightmare.
We reached Control 15 at 1168 km, in day time.
It was a cycling club, which had the Dutch champion a few years ago.
I showered before my sleep, and we asked to sleep about 4 hours.
The other riders woke up after about 3 hours, and they woke me after they got dressed, and we all ate together (they knew I don't faff much, and they let me sleep longer.)

We now rode on another dijk, about the same length, only this time it was daylight.
The difference was noticeable!
The view was nice, and the ride was fun.
I said I wanted to stop for a pic, and Local Guy said we have 2 options: "Either here by the water, or soon, when the path will be on top of the dijk."
I said it's a Kitbag-Question (*) and I want to have a pic in both places. :-)
I explained "Kitbag Question" to them, and they laughed and liked the phrase. :-)
We had our picture taken once, on the top of the dijk.
From above we also saw Amsterdam in the distance. Life was beautiful. :-)

(*) Kitbag Question:
From basic training in the army.
"Kitbag" holds all the soldier's "life". Kit, clothes, accessories, kitchen sink, etc.
Suppose the commander asks the trainee to go somewhere, and the trainee asks "Should I bring my kitbag along?"
The commander would reply: "If you ask - then yes!"

After the dijk, in the afternoon we stopped again for 30 mins, because of the heat, and I fell asleep again.

From Utrecht to Amsterdam the route goes along a river. We reached Amsterdam at sunset, with the sun facing us. There was a beautiful red reflection of the sun in the river, and I stopped to take a pic.
Then a small boat passed, with a couple, and I took their pic as well, in the sunset colors.

In Amsterdam, and the gas station's store there was a couple that spoke Hebrew.
The line was about 8 people long, and the woman was standing near the head of the queue, by the counter.
When I reached the head of the queue, I asked her in Hebrew whether she'd like to be served before me, because "I'm not in a hurry...", and she said no.

Exiting Amsterdam we stopped for dinner in a local restaurant. Me and Local Guy had pizza. The Northern Guy has Shawarma, and the fourth had a salad.

It was the evening between Saturday and Sunday, and there were many young people out. Lots of drunks too.
Some of them zigzagged on the bike path.
The route went on the North Sea Strand, which was full of people, and then in the dunes, which had several rolling hills.
I stayed with the other riders (mainly because they were tired...)
In the dunes there are many rabbits that cross the path quickly.
Some of them stop in the middle of the path, which can be dangerous.

In Control 20, about 12 km from the finish, Arnhem Guy asked to rest a little because he didn't feel well. We stopped there for a few minutes until he was better.
From the to the finish line the path is almost straight, and I know it, as I rode there before the ride.

The 4 of us reached together at 04:15, in a time of 90:15 hours.
We hugged and exchanged email addresses.

Local Guy rode home.
Arnhem Guy's wife was there, and they went to sleep at their family that live close by.
Northern Guy and me went to sleep on the floor.

It seems that the "Pro" finished a little after the VeloMobiel riders.

The Nordic God also slept at the finish. He finished about 6 hours before us.
When I woke up he was still there. We talked, and he said his strategy was to ride until he's tired, and the power nap, and continue riding. He never slept for more than 30 minutes.

The Brit arrived about 7 hours after us. He was riding with 2 Germans, and went through the 2 dijks in daylight.

- -

General comments about the route and riding in The Netherlands:

Most petrol stations are closed at night. It would have been better to pick a route that would go through a 24/7 station every dozens of km, and not like in some section which was over 100 km long.

In the pace we rode (and many other riders too,) we reached the sleeping controles in daylight.
I would prefer riding in daylight and sleep when it's dark.
But it's individual, as some riders suffered from the heat wave, and preferred to sleep during the day and ride at night.

Navigation in urban areas wasn't easy. Especially to those without a GPS.
e.g. the route sheet had instructions like "Follow signs to Place X, but not all of them"...

Mopeds are allowed to ride on the bike paths, and you need to watch for them, as they can come in a hurry, and you don't always hear them.
Usually people didn't wear a helmet when riding mopeds (adults and young ones.)

In most intersections the bike path has the right of way over the cars.
unless the road is a main road.
It lets you ride smoothly, without many slow downs or stops, but I had some scary moments in the beginning of the ride when cars seemed to reach the intersection too fast.

In intersections with traffic lights there's a special traffic light for bikes. Most Dutch stop when it's red.
One of the Dutch riders ran a few red lights in the middle of the night, when there was good view in all directions. The other Dutch riders said he was "taking his life in his hands"...
When in railway crossings there's a special bike traffic lights, with bell and barrier.

The bike paths are too narrow to form an effective peloton.
At night the bike paths are pretty deserted (especially outside urban areas,) and there you can "work" effectively.


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