I had a week to recover from the culture shock of the Witte Kruis Classic before I embarked on my second organised ride in the Netherlands. I knew the Joop Zoetemelk Classic would be a better experience in at least one respect. I would have company. A mutual friend had connected me to Eugene N. A fellow Malaysian living in Rotterdam. We signed up for the 150 km event.
Joop Zoetemelk held the record for the most Tour de France finishes until that achievement was bettered by George Hincapie this year. Perhaps more impressively Joop won ‘La Grande Boucle‘ in 1980, came second six times and finished fourth three times. He was also World Champion in 1985.
Joop started his cycling career with the Swift club in Leiden. A look inside the clubhouse reveals a long and illustrious history.
The 2011 event was the fifth time the Swift club had organised a ride in Joop Zoetemelk’s honor. The 150 km route was an anti-clockwise loop from the Swift clubhouse around the Groene Hart (Green Heart) between Leiden and Utrecht.
I may have been ready this time for the minimalist directions and infrequent rest stops, but I wasn’t prepared for the weather at the start.
It was a damp 1° C / 33° F. Eugene and I were bundled up like a pair of Michelin men. The first 30 km or so was just plain miserable. My feet and hands were freezing despite the wool socks and double gloves. My glasses fogged up so badly in the mist that I had to take them off. The sun eventually broke through the mist so by the time we got to the first rest stop it was brighter, though not necessarily any warmer.
We followed local practice by going indoors for coffee and apple pie. We didn’t want to offend anyone.
That was at kilometer 56. We had a very pleasant surprise at kilometer 91. An unexpected rest stop! With sports drinks and krentenbollen (raisin buns). Outdoors this time, but it was a bit warmer by then. Not that you can tell from what Eugene was wearing.
The route was quite well sign-posted with large arrows at junctions. It also helped that Eugene and I managed to stay with other riders for most of the time. Trust us to miss a turn anyway. That was a 5 km diversion that we did not need.
The length of the ride was beginning to tell on both of us by the time we got to the final rest stop at Leimuiden. We had what was looking like a long 30 km to go. So another indoor stop was much appreciated.
The final leg of the ride took us through Rijpwetering, where Joop Zoetemelk was born. This statue commemorates his World Championship win.
9 km later we were a pair of happy campers.
We had helped each other make it through a very cold start and a middle section where cramps threatened to cut short our ride. This was our longest ride in the Netherlands to date so we were both pleased to have finished. I don’t know about Eugene but I still wear the event jersey on occasion. Fortunately it is better suited to more tropical climes than what we found in Leiden that morning.