Saturday 16th April
Well actually it’s not just about the Ronde, because this week sees not one but three races in the Dutch province of Drenthe. Where’s Drenthe? Well if you were following last week’s Energiewacht Tour, then that was in the next door province of Groningen. Maybe it’s a weather thing or something; the halcyon days are over, the wind has returned and all over the Netherlands, Dutch women are thinking "let’s go racing." After all it surely can’t be a coincidence that last week’s programme of four days of flat racing around the northern Netherlands should be followed this week by four more days days of flat racing around the northern Netherlands. Well the short answer is that Drenthe isn’t much much more than just a flat place in the north; it’s the cycling capital of the Netherlands, and this summer will be home to Drenthe's Mooiste. Yah boo to you, Flanders. And actually too it’s not all flat, and actually even more the fourth day of racing isn’t part of Drenthe, but let’s not quibble over small details. Where’s the beef. And where’s the gherkin?
Race one on Thursday is the Dwingeloo 8. so called because it follows a figure of eight pattern. Here’s the map taken straight from the race website, which is repeated three times for a total race distance of 142km. Past reports also talk of cobbles at various points but I can’t find any indication of where or for how long. Another name for this race might also be the Ina-Yoko Teutenberg invitational, as she won the last three, but her name isn’t on the current start list. We’ll see. Team-mate Emilia Fahlin tweeted a couiple of days ago Now hanging out at a hotel on a field in Holland for a few days waiting for the next races to start, so boredom if nothing else might draw her to the startline. Profile? This one’s a bit like the Sword of Charlemagne, as in long, flat and deadly.
Race 2 on Friday, the Novilon Eurocup, runs for 134km from Coevorden to Hoogeveen, and includes three laps over the most prominent feature on the landscape for miles around, the VAMberg. And no, that strange capitalisation is not a mistake, the VAM bit in the name stands for "Vuil Afvoer Maatschappij", which if you don’t speak Dutch looks quite romantic. Translation spoils that effect when you learn that "Vuil Afvoer Maatschappij" actually means "Waste Disposal Company" and that actually the VAMberg is the old council rubbish tip covered over with dirt and grass. Believe it or not, climbbybike have a profile too: the gradient averages 9.7% and reaches 16% in places (OK, place). Right up to its summit at 56m above sea level. The narrowness of the path is probably more selective, but if not this is a race for the sprinters. Last year Annemiek van Vleuten escaped for a solo victory, but the other two podium places went to Teutenberg and Kirsten Wild, but then there was a day without racing before the World Cup. This year races are on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, consequently the UCI ranking has been lost, many of the top names have decided to take a day out and the start list is a lot weaker. All the more to be at there to cheer on Laura Trott, sister of recent Cafe interviewee Emma.
Then on Saturday comes the big race of the week, round three of the World Cup, the Ronde van Drenthe. Is it really a year since the Netherlands were last liberated? The Ronde starts and finishes in Hoogeveen, taking in a large loop out to Borger-Odoorn, complete with sections ominously labelled sprint pave Borger-Odoorn and three ascents of the VAMberg, for a total race distance of 132km. And apart from Emma Johansson’s victory in 2009, for the past decade it’s been very much a race for home riders. Here's the start list, and as you would expect all the big names are there
Last year local TV station RTV Drenthe streamed this live, and you can watch the highlights below.
This year they sent a camera crew to the Energiewacht Tour to do a profile of local star Andrea Bosman of SRAM, and if you skim past the video to the bottom of the page you can see a magic couple of sentences:
Zaterdag kunt u zowel de onknoping van de dames als de heren-wedstrijd live volgen op TV Drenthe. De extra uitzending begint om 14.30 uur.
The key words are Zaterdag … live op TV Drenthe … begint om 14:30, and as RTV Drenthe also stream all their programmes over the web that should mean live coverage for everyone. Either go here or paste this address into your favourite media player.
And see you here on Saturday for the live thread.
Race maps via www.rondevandrenthe.nl