Don't let anyone tell you
Holland is flat! The Amstel Gold event has absolutely no flat stretches
on it whatsoever; well that's what it seemed like. With 31 hills squeezed
in to 150 kilometres you're either going up a hill or on a descent that
takes you to the foot of the next one.
Some of the ups were hideous
while some of the downs can only de describes as technical “and
challenging”. The race takes place in the bottom left hand corner of
Holland and runs right to the borders of Germany and Belgium. Most of the
hills become hard to recall as you lose all sense of perspective when you
climb so many in such a short space of time. But one thing they all are,
My biggest problem in this
event was due to a crash I had in a crit in Jersey four days before I
travelled. It took most of the skin off my left side from my ankle to my
shoulder. Causing me most concern was the road rash that left a graze the
size of a dinner plate on my hip. It became infected, very, very warm and
refused to stop weeping horrible, yellow and quite disgusting smelling
The day before the race I
decided to do a ten mile ride to stretch the legs and the "skin". Five
miles out I get a puncture in my new Corsa CX's. My one and only of the
year. The omens weren't good. However on the way back to the hotel I saw
the Keutenberg and thought I'd go and have a look. Talk about kicking
someone when they're down! More later.
The organisation was okay and
starts with a trip into a not too well sign-posted sports-complex. Just
as well there are thousands of cyclists around. You just follow the line
of people with Amstel Gold bags, hats, socks, gloves and badges in their
hands back to the origin of their wares. With courses of 50, 100, 150
and 250 kilometres there is a route for everyone. And it seems everyone
With an "a la francaise"
start, one clever thing they have is that all of the rides go up the first
climb, with an unpronounceable name, after just three kilometres. It's
just long enough, and at 120 metres steep enough, to string people out.
They then take your photo, while you're looking fresh, and have it ready
for collection when you get to the finish. How good is that? All you
have to remember is the time you passed the big clock.
You can see from the profile
below that there are very few flat bits and some very, very steep bits.
The worst of which is the Keutenberg; higher than the Cauberg and a
quarter of the length it appears just as your legs are crying enough.
Just 10k from the finish, or a mile as the crow flies, this hill comes
from nowhere. and goes up like an ice station weather balloon.
The sign at the side of the
road says 25%, but it feels worse. As you reach the top with your legs
burning like you've never experienced and your heart pounding through your
chest you begin to hallucinate. The field on the left has a Shetland
pony, a big hairy dog, a statue of some sort and a herd of dwarf
reindeer! You pass three houses all decked in bunting and people shouting
at you in foreign tongues. All very surreal and not what you expect in
rural Holland. However, it's time to crack on as you don't want to be
riding alone to the finish.
Quickly, a group forms and the
through and off starts as everyone tries to get to the foot of the Cauberg
as quickly and as fresh as possible. Before you get to the Cauberg there
is a fantastic descent into Valkenberg. This three mile Ghost Hill like
descent flies through villages, across mini-roundabouts, other traffic
calming obstacles and blind bends with those "foreign ditches" on the
outside, waiting to catch the unwary. Of which there were none.
You approach the Cauberg
through Valkenberg town centre with it's packed bars and restaurants.
Twice as long as Jubilee Hill, the Cauberg requires a certain mindset to
get up it after 150k's. At least you know when you get there the pain
will stop and another challenge comes to an end. You also know it's a
timed ascent and when you pass over the timing mat at the bottom you
automatically click up a gear. Then automatically wish you hadn't!
Just as they do before you
die, your senses become heightened and the smell of garlic sausages and
frites hits you. You promise yourself some as a special reward when you
make it to the top. Then just as quick as this dubious thought enters
your head nausea hits you and you can't think of anything more revolting.
Before you realise it you're
under the road bridge and you start to sprint. Not as quick as Boogerd
and Rebellin passed us the next day (just managed to fire off this photo), but you give it all you've got which,
at the end of 150 kilometres and thirty-one climbs, isn't a lot. As you
cross the line you're shepherded to the Casino where someone takes your
timing chip and gives you a drink and a medal; a fair swap I'd say. Every
one looks pleased with themselves, food is stuffed in to your hand and you
make your way to the photo tent to get a souvenir of your ride.
All in all, not a bad days