The Not So Low Countries

There we were, panting away on an ascend that would not feel wrong in a country more renowned for its hills than the Netherlands. OK, some of my panting stemmed from the fact that it was the first serious ride in the season, but the Holterberg hill was there, no question, all 59.5 meters above sea level of it.

It´s the Sallandse Heuvelrug (Salland range of hills) National Park which gives cyclists the pleasure of some moderate climbing in the Low Countries. It´s not big, but very nice, and even has a brand new visitors´ centre, including an observatory. The other attraction of the Park is the last Dutch grouse population. No, grouse do not wear red windbreakers.


The Holterbergtour is organized each year by Wielervereniging Holten, the local cycling club, as part of the Dutch, Belgian and German Interland Trofee (International Randonneuring Trophy) and if the weather is as nice as it was this year, hundreds of cyclists from the Netherlands and neighbouring Germany take part. This year, participants numbered exactly 1,000. Here is a quote from a communication by Jan Scheperman of Holten Cycling Club:
80 km – 463 x
110 km – 431 x
150 km – 106 x
Totaal precies 1000 fietsers.

Never having tried the ride before, I decided to this time, and even better, cycling friends Oscar Casander of Peugeotshow fame and Marten Gerritsen (m-gineering) also liked the idea. So we met at about eight in Holten, ´t Mossink gym, to get our passes and soon set off. At first there was one degree Centigrade below freezing, and not too many people had shown up.


It was, however, not to be misunderstood that this was the Netherlands.


As we set off I felt rather cold in the brass monkey weather, despite Oscar´s brisk pace. He had extracted his 1975 Peugeot PX 60 sportif from his stable, and what with all the improvements made over the years it has nearly reached PY status and is quite a fast bike. This is it, in its all French glory, c/w Berthoud front bag and various Mafac, Simplex and other goodies.








ZholtPeugPedal  ZholtPeugFtlight





Something else I spotted at the start was a wonderful Koga Miyata Jubilee frame. Sadly the bike was parked in a fashion which kept me from taking more than a few detail shots, but it´s not hard to guess what a high quality frame this is. The crispness of the slender fleur de lys lugs is amazing.




And, of course, here are a few photos I took of Marten´s bike, one of the very few frames ridden by its builder, and one of the more beautiful ones, too. Marten says it was a try at an economy version, but it seems a very capable bike nevertheless, and looking at the fork crown detail it is great value.







Luckily there was not much wind. The winding roads, nearly devoid of motorized traffic, led us to the first control at about 50 km, and there were delicious Dutch cookies plus ice cold orange squash. The squash was hardly any warmer than the air surrounding it, and was pumped straight from a huge stainless tank on a massive trailer – there must have been hundreds of liters, but by then there was a sure sign that there were hundreds of riders, too: We never were alone on the road, fast men (and women) were overtaking all the time, and we actually overtook a few riders ourselves. It now says on the WVH website that the total number of riders actually approached the 1,000 figure. After a refreshing break we set off, the sun came through and suddenly the whole ride became even more enjoyable, to develop into one of the nicest I have ridden so far.




After 20 more kilometers there was another rest at a pub; however, there was no free food, but the passes were stamped, something that had to be omitted at the first control for want of the forgotten stamp. The general feeling was that a stamp doesn´t get you up the hills, whereas cookies do, and that Germans are known to carry their own stamps anyway, so everyone was fine. The pub at the second control is a typical Dutch affair, and also there was a rather nice Raleigh parked outside.




Medium quality, admittedly, but quite unmolested and kitted out with the most fascinatingly ugly speedo. Besides I love tall frames, riding something between 65 and 67 cm c/t myself.




The weather became even nicer and warmer as time approached noon, allowing us to shed some of our onion like layers of clothing. The landscape had its attractions, for instance cycling along the river Regge over a number of wooden bridges and passing some picturesque farms on the way. Rather unusual for the beginning of April – no leaves at all on the trees; a consequence of the coldest March since 1881, as I read in our local newspaper, and if anything the winter in the Netherlands was still colder than in our nick of the woods.




There are houses with thatched roofs everywhere in this part of the Netherlands; mostly farmsteads, of course, but you even find some in towns. If it weren´t for the cars, you sometimes could think you had been translated into the 19th century.


The organization was perfect, the route was signposted painstakingly with the help of little red and white signs,  there were friendly faces everywhere, and there were even signs thanking riders for participating as a farewell after a wonderful ride.



So, in all, a thoroughly enjoyable 110 km for our little group.

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