Surprises

In Holland, it´s the wind.

In the UK freshly gritted roads can drive me mad, in Germany the horrible cycle paths will mar an otherwise perfect day, but in Holland it´s definitively the wind. I´m not what you would call a strong rider, let alone a fast man, so a hefty headwind is something which can slow me down considerably, and to see the real fast men zoom off into the middle distance regardless adds insult to injury.

But first, June 16 began with one of the many surprises the day would hold for us: We were early. My son and me had gotten up at 4:30 because we had assumed that we would need far longer than we effectively did to reach our first aim, an address in the centre of IJmuiden, where we wanted to buy some stuff we had discovered on the internet. As we set off at about 5:15 my son, who has had his full driving licence for only a few months, was eager to try out driving in a foreign country, and the Amsterdam ring road is a challenge. We soon discovered that roads were surprisingly empty, even on the ring road, and we covered the first 281 km of the day in under three hours. From IJmuiden to Haarlem it was only eleven more kilometres, and so we were at the starting place of the

tdmotorhaubetourdeven before the organizers had arrived. The Excelsior club house looked rather forlorn, but this was soon to change.

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The day´s host for the Tour d´ was HRC Excelsior, a very traditional club founded in 1935. They actually have had Dutch champions in their ranks as we soon found out.

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More club house walls are covered with the jerseys of fame.

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One of the Tour d´ organizers, Nees de Bondt, is an Excelsior member, and he also is into old bikes. He and Michael Esser rode the 2012 edition of Retro Ronde in Oudenaarde/Belgium, and when they had returned they had the brainwave of organizing something similar at home. They had the idea to give it a French name because it sounded better, and they wanted to avoid any undue closeness to the Belgian name.

Today, HRC Excelsior would turn over their facilities to the commemoration of bikes and riders of past times, and Médicins sans frontières would profit from it too as proceeds of the event were to go to that excellent charity doing so much invaluable work in far flung places. It was chosen as one of the organizers of the Tour d´ took part in the “Tour for Life” long distance ride (Northern Italy to the Netherlands, 1,300 km in eight days) which also sponsored Médicins sans frontières.

The organizers who had assembled a team of 18 helpers were able to use contemporary vehicles. This late model Morris Minor Traveller was the nicest to my mind.

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After some time spent talking to the participants who had by now started to arrive in great numbers, the time to start approached.tdcarparkfilling

All available car parking space had been taken up, and loads of old bikes hung from the railings provided for this purpose. It became clear that the Tour would become a success.

Of course a number of wonderful bicycles was there to be discovered, like this Springfield, a local brand.

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There had been internet registrations for 51 participants, also more than thirty had turned up spontaneously so that a surprisingly high total of 85 riders were at the start. I think this is a great result for a first issue. Also a nice friendly atmosphere showed which wasn´t to change the whole day long.

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Most riders were kitted out in contemporary racing gear, but some also brought a little Tweed Run atmosphere into the peloton.

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There also was a seriously nice bike, a Routens, which lives locally. Conditions were cramped, so the snaps are just that (like so often, <sigh>)

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Then we set off for the first leg of the Tour, to visit the historic centre of Haarlem. This is something not to be missed, if one gets the chance, perhaps when changing planes in Schiphol or on some such occasion, and Haarlem was a major reason why my son and I decided not to go to either the old racing bike meets in Hamburg or Rommerskirchen, both of which were planned for the same weekend.

That´s definitively something to be changed next year. The organizers are saying that although this years´s issue meant a lot of work for them they will stage a second Tour d´ in 2014, which is good news. If they manage to find an “empty” weekend, many more riders will attend all of the meets I´m sure.

Haarlem. We cycled straight into the historic city centre from the industrial quarter the Excelsior club house is situated in, and we once again savoured the town´s beauty. Some pics:

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There is a connection there to the French car manufacturer I was told. Old André´s forbears were in the Amsterdam jewel trade.

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A bicycle garage, right in the middle of the town centre.

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We paid a visit to the market place with the adjacent Town Hall and Grote Kerk, which really is called St Bavo, with its magnificent organ.

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After looking round the amazing square some of us stormed the town hall stairs and posed for a photo.

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And off we went again, for the serious cycling to start. At first everything was OK, with a strong following wind. Our bikes (my son´s 1958 Ellis Briggs International equipped with a Campag/Chater mix and my 1941 Evans Super Continental fitted with an Osgear) performed flawlessly, but when the wind turned, or rather we did, the going got rough. Soon we saw our average dropping, and also we were dropped by many riders, and we faced the decision to ride the full 85 km distance and to return home rather late (270 km driving were still ahead), or to ride the shorter 35 km distance and to be home at a manageable time.

Somewhere on the way my bike had to pose for another snap. There are posts on both our bikes in this blog. As it is searchable, one can enter the names in the search box.

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We decided to ride the shorter distance, and I must say I wish I had had more time and/or less wind, as the organizers excelled at route planning, leading us past many beauty spots, and at feeding riders, too. The first, and for us only, resting place was in a town called Spaarndam. There is just one word for it: Cute. The organizers had chosen a band stand in the middle of the place as the feeding station, and everyone was thrilled to bits by the whole affair. Turning off the main road first we passed a marina, then we had to turn another picturesque corner, and there we were.

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The way we came.

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Dutch cakes (Ontbijtkoek and some more) were waiting for us as well as a very nice squash like drink tasting of real fruit, all served with a broad smile by volunteers who obviously enjoyed what they were doing.

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A view from the band stand.

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Directly opposite the band stand.

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After a short time we had to set off again. We quickly returned to the Excelsior club house where we found that a number of riders had taken the same decision of cutting short the ride, and some interesting talks started over some great bikes to be marvelled at.

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One was this super RIH.

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Another one was something I couldn´t really make head or tail of. The Atlas frame was very old, thirties, perhaps, but the whole impression was of a much older bike, with the modern parts (rims) having all been painted black and a newish chainset added, obviously to make the whole thing rideable. There were beautiful wingnuts on it, though.

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The fork crown is also very nice, but the paintwork – Have I ever seen the like? Anyway, the owner finished the course on it, and he had a lot of fun, notwithstanding a near-total absence of braking capability.

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His son rode the mini Legnano, not equipped with the typical seat lug binder bolt. Upon arrival riders were handed the welcome bag filled with all sorts of goodies, including an issue of the expensive Soigneur racing bike mag and a bottle of lube. We were also allowed to keep the numbers.

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And, to top things off,  later my son and myself found out that we had won a book on Tom Boonen in the charity lottery. Another surprise.

Not much was left to be done than to take some more snaps. First there was a nice Willem Eindhoven made in Den Haag. It has been slightly modernized in that some of the Campag Record equipment has been changed out over the years, but to my taste this was the star of the ride with its second generation Nervex Pro lugs and the fantastic double box lining.

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The much later Ko Zieleman was great, too.

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A hub geared bike on the basis of a modernized frame was in the ride. It also merits some mention, notwithstanding the very modern rear hub.

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Lastly a mixed bag of impressions.

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Will we be back in 2014? You bet, if at all possible. The Tour d´ is something not to be missed.

3 Comments

  1. Posted June 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I very much enjoyed reading your ride report of this event. Where I live there are a great many organized charity rides, but very few events where one will see any vintage bikes at all. I am usually the only person to show up riding an “old bike.” Perhaps the next time I’m in Europe I’ll be fortunate enough to have my visit coincide with this event! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Erik Boelen
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Een mooi verslag Toni. Ik heb nu toch het gevoel dat ik er bij was…

    groeten,
    Erik Boelen

  3. Posted June 27, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    I was there as well. Too bad we haven’t met. I did the longer tour, but for sure you saw more of the city of Haarlem than I did.
    Most people had to hurry a bit, because this day was “Vatertag” (fathers day, vaderdag) in The Netherlands.

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