The Tour De France In Holland.

A few years ago, the Tour de France came to Holland. Now, not to miss the fun, I decided to join in.

The Tour de France in 1856.
The Tour de France in 1856.

There was to be a test stage that ran from Amersfoort to Zwolle and back. I decided it would be fun to join in after all, it was only 150 kilometers there and back.

I made my preparations and arrived at the start feeling a little puffed, for Amersfoort is nearly twenty kilometers from Utrecht. Of course, I took the train to save having to cycle all the way, but it was still a fair distance to the start line. What is more, with all the baggage my bicycle was no longer quite as light as it had been when I decided that entering was a good idea.

The line judge took a look at me and asked if I would stay behind the line with the spectators. I explained to him that I was a competitor and showed him my entry number which had arrived in the post the previous week. He looked at my bicycle in a strange way. I was not impressed, for I have a very nice bicycle. I had oiled the chain, pumped up the tyres, checked the brake and lights especially for the occasion.

I pushed my bicycle through the crowd who seemed also suspiciously curious, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I stepped forth valiantly with my trusty steed.

Penny farthingThe quizzical look from the judge was explained when he said that I was not allowed to take any baggage. I explained that it was no longer possible to send one’s baggage ahead by train, so I would have to take it with me. He then enquired why I might need it, which was as daft a question as I can think! Why take a tent on your bicycle? To camp of course. Then there was my sleeping bag, pyjamas, a change of clothes in case of rain, spare shoes, cooking stuff, a bottle of white wine, and my hamper containing sandwiches along with something tasty for an evening meal and breakfast. That the white wine would be unchilled would have to be overlooked; indeed there was no space for my folding canvas seat for one must cut down on weight if one is racing.

He explained that the other racers would be staying in Amersfoort that evening, so would not need camping gear. I asked him if they were starting then the next day? By this time I could see a degree of annoyance creeping across his face. He stated that it was expected that the cyclists would be back in the evening. I was surprised by this, and said so. I had expected to take two days, and that would be pushing it. He said that the maximum time allowed for the race was six hours.

Six hours? I would be barely past Nijkerk in six hours! How on earth could you expect me with my heavily laden single-speed bicycle to do that sort of trip in only six hours? I thought he was being a little harsh on me, after all, I had made all the preparations, gotten myself there along with my bicycle and baggage. I was not pleased at being disqualified whilst not even getting to cross the starting line.



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