24 January 2017

Going Dutch--Into The Wind

I haven't spent a lot of time in the Netherlands, and it's been a while since I've been there.  So I won't claim to be any kind of an expert on the country or its people, both of which I loved.  I will, however, offer an impression, which relates to a comment on yesterday's post.

Like just about every place I've ever visited, the Netherlands and the Dutch people have their paradoxes. They can be most readily seen in, I believe, their art.  This is a nation, remember, that has given the world Vermeer, Rembrandt and Mondrian as well as Collin van der Sluijs and, of course, Van Gogh.  The contradictions can also be seen in the country's history and social policy:  More than a few historians and econominsts have argued that capitalism as we know it began in the Netherlands in the 16th Century, but in more recent years it has become famous for having a social "safety net" that is tightly woven even by the standards of its western European neighbors.  Also, the country that embraced the social order of Calvinism more than any other would become among the first to legalize same-sex marriage, heroin and other drugs and the right to die.  And, finally, what other nation could have produced a politician like Pim Fortuyn, who famously declared, "I'm not a racist.  I like Arab boys!" ?

I mention all of those things because, if you know about them, what the commenter brought to my attention makes perfect sense.  Perhaps an orderly society creates the need for people to do crazy things:  Sports like bungee-jumping aren't invented in places like Syria and western Sudan.  Mountain biking was born in America, not Afghanistan.  

So a competition that forces cyclists to pedal into 100 kph headwinds would originate--where else?--in the land of tulips and stroopwafels.  Oh, it gets even better:  The riders aren't astride the latest aerodynamic carbon-fiber bikes.  Since they are riding in the Netherlands, they are required to ride--what else?--Dutch-style city bikes.  You know, the kind in which the rider sits up like a dog begging for the treat in his owner's hand.  The kind with fully-enclosed chainguards and wheel covering so extensive that you can pedal to your wedding in your gown or tux.

Naturally, the Headwinds Championship is run along the Oosterscheldekering storm barrier that protects the land from the sea, but not the riders (or anybody or anything else) from wind.  I have alongside seawalls and other coastal barriers, so I know that if the wind is blowing the right (wrong?) way, they can act as funnels or tunnels, especially if the barrier is on an isthmus or some other narrow strip of land.

The competition is organized on short notice, so as to all but ensure the worst possible conditions.  I wonder whether the race is organized by the same folks who put together the Paris-Roubaix race.  I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are Dutch!


  1. I rode the Oosterscheldekering barrier in 2015 in a mild (but unseasonal) headwind on a loaded touring bike and found that hard going. THIS looks like utter glorious madness.

  2. Rebecca--Congratulations! I think for riding it on a loaded touring bike, you deserve at least as much recognition as those who rode the competition.