Every year sees The Classics return to Southern Holland and Northen Belgium. Three classic cycle races that have been held for the last century. They have passed into cycling folklore as millions of spectators line the routes to catch a glimpse of National heroes. The races are all around 275 kilometres long over some of the hilliest terrane northwestern Europe can offer.
The first race was on Sunday 15th April but on the Saturday the route is opened to thousands of amateur cyclists from around the world to test their riding skills and tenacity. On a freezing Saturday morning Jeff lined up with 6000 other riders to take on the 150 kilometre sporting challenge. Jeff’s choice of bike for the day was his trusty white Condor Legero. Full carbon spec with Shimano electric gears and carbon fibre wheels. It needed to be light as there was a lot of uphill. The route was through narrow country roads and villages leading away from Maastricht. Overnight rain had made the course slippery and dangerous with mud and gravel being washed onto the road.
It’s not a race but everyone absolutely hammers it to see how they look against the professionals.”I started at 8.OOam and the temperature was 5 degrees the difficulty is not knowing what kit to wear as it may warm up into the ride and you need to carry everything with you. No team Jaguars hovering around to look after your every needs for the amateur”. Jeff immediately tagged onto three Dutch riders who do it every year. It always helps to ride with someone and take turns at the front. As the ride wore on it started to drizzle with rain and and then suddenly get bright. No rise in temperature though and it hovered around a maximum of 8 degrees for the whole day.
Jeff got dropped by the flying Dutchmen after about 50 kilometres on a particularly long and steep hill. “I haven’t got the legs for this steep stuff these days” Jeff freely admitted. The next 50 kilometres were spent drifting along with riders from France, Spain and Belgium with the usual scenario of fine on the flat and being shot out the back when the road tilts up at a particularily steep angle. The final Kilometres were spent with a guy called Neil who had travelled all the way from New Zealand to take on the ride. “It beat me as to why as all Neil kept saying was how much Southern Holland was like New Zealand”. Jeff reflected at the end of the ride.
The finish is at the top of The Cauberg a particularily nasty little climb at the very end at 1.4 kilometres long and an average gradient of 10%. The grand stand for the following day was packed with spectators who were either there to cheer on friends or a sadistic pleasure in watching weary riders climb to the top in almost slow motion. Funny old sense of humour these people from Vaalkenburg. Still it beats watching Saturday afternoon Dutch Television!