Afsluitdijk, Pet

Some time ago, I used the offices of this blog (very good phrase that, don’t you think? I should make it clear that this blog does not have it’s own office. That disappeared some time ago when we decided that liberating jr emus #3 and #4 from each other would stop them from squabbling. It didn’t, and as a result we now have children who squabble in two rooms, rather than one. It also explains why I’m writing this blog not in an office, but in the back of a Volvo 740, speeding home from Harwich. But there’s a danger I may be digressing.) Anyway, I used this blog to rattle on about just how civilised cycling in Holland was.

I could quite happily go on at great length again about how wonderful it is to bike round Holland for a few days, although I’d respectfully suggest that if Holland is experiencing severe south westerly winds, it’s rather asking for trouble to travel north east for two days and expect to get back in one and a half. Seeing as you ask though, here are several reasons why you should be oiling up your chain and booking your ferry now:

– proper cycle paths

– when you do have to mix with them, courteous drivers

– people who go out of their way to help you with directions…

– …in perfect English

– apple cake

– dog owners whose charges are perfectly behaved around runners and cyclists

But rather than write all that again, I’ll tell you about an interesting experience crossing the Afsluitdijk bridge. You may well know this from your school geography classes; it’s the bridge that separates the sea from a whole load of reclaimed land that makes up much of northern Holland. It’s 32km long, which makes it a pretty impressive bridge in itself, and has the north sea on one side and what used to be the north sea on the other,so it’s a pretty weird place to be. And with the wind blowing the way it does in Holland, it’s either a very pleasant ride SW to NE, or a complete nightmare. Fortunately for us, we were travelling north, so discussed the right sort of speed to go for.

“About 20mph” said Chuckle brother #1

“And the rest” said CB#2, who, as I may have mentioned before, really does redefine the term ‘alpha male’, and who could probably pick a fight in a phone box.

So we set off, with the wind behind us nicely, and soon got up to a comfortable 20mph. Far too comfortable for CB#2, who was at the front of the four of us.

“He’s cranking it up”, CB#1 said.

And he was. We crept up from 20 to 22 to 25 to 28 and after a couple of miles we were on 30mph. At which point CB#2 thought it would be a great idea to capture the moment on his iPhone video app. Fortunately, not looking at the road ahead proved to be no disadvantage, and we cracked out another 12 miles across the bridge at that pace, our fastest mile being 1:49.

It’s pretty unlikely that any of us will ever go as fast for that sort of distance again, and it’s worth reporting that it was just fantastic, albeit in a ‘this is going to bloody well hurt should I come off’ fashion. And also worth thinking about next time you watch the Tour de France.We’re reasonably fit blokes who had the wind behind us, and managed to maintain that pace for half an hour at close to maximum effort. The tour maintains that pace for 5-6 hours at a time, then sprints for the finish. Mark Cavendish will sprint off the pack at 30mph and get up to 40-45mph in a matter of seconds. Which is just awesome. As Bean remarked to me after day #4 in the saddle, “No wonder they’re all on drugs”.

As it goes, I’m not sure I’m all that bothered. If I was putting that 30 minute effort in for 6 hours a day for three weeks, I might be grateful of a bit of a boost now and again; and some of the substances that result in bans are things that non-sports people tend to have whizzing around in their blood as a matter of course (Vick’s inhaler, anyone?). And some of the testing practices are, well, bizarre. But that’s a whole other debate for another day.

Until next time, from the Emu (in his office), Ta ta.


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