On the Sunday I took part in the six hours race. As ever, the leaders were much quicker than I am. The winning rider, Ymte Sijbrandij, rode more than 322 km in six hours and averaged over 53 km/h. He's always very quick, but this time he also had a "secret weapon" - a super lightweight version of the Quest velomobile, differing markedly from those you can buy, with a custom carbon frame not adjustable for other riders, and fitted with a racing hood. Indeed, the first six places were taken by machines which were not standard or not road legal (that's perfectly OK - it's a race).
I didn't come close to a podium place, but I'm still very pleased with my result. My first two hours went well, averaging over 42 km/h. I covered 100 miles (i.e. 161 km) in three hours and fifty four minutes, and still had an average above 40 km/h at the five hour mark (200 km covered before five hours). However, I really ran out of steam in the last hour. It became increasingly difficult to eat and drink, leading to low blood sugar and general grumpiness, and my average speed dropped a lot. You can see it in the graph of speed over time. At this time quite a few people I'd overtaken earlier took laps back from me.
I also took part in Cyclevision in 2002 and 2003 when the long race was three hours in length. In 2002 I covered 97 km and in 2003, 95 km. These are average speeds of just 32.3 km/h and 31.6 km/h. This year I was about 30% faster for the first three hours, and 20% faster over the entire six hours than I was when I was eight years younger, in a race which was half as long and on a track which didn't include a bridge.
A good part of the difference can of course be put down to the Mango's aerodynamics. It simply goes much faster for the same amount of effort. However, in this case the difference in speed is greater than you'd expect between the two bikes meaning that I'm somewhat fitter now than I was eight years ago. I put that down in large part to living in the Netherlands. I always thought I cycled a lot when I lived in the UK, but in this country the environment invites you to cycle more than you would otherwise.
Last year in the four hour race at Tilburg I had a puncture which took ages to fix because I had no spare parts with me. As a result, this time I carried a pump, spare tyre and inner tube. I also still had my trailer hook attached to the Mango, the basket I carry things in next to my seat, speakers and in fact almost all the stuff I usually have.
I didn't really do any training. I've heard that some trainers refer to cycle commuting as "junk miles", but I still think the 60 km round trip commute must count as something. Apart from that, just the occasional Sunday huneliggers ride, and the elfstedentocht.
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The less positive stuff What not to do if you want a cycling "revolution" - Long list of interventions and policies which are not helpful. Copy the best examples from the Netherlands - a short list summarising the above. Important to copy the best examples, not just anything "Dutch". Bear in mind that the Netherlands is not perfect. Shared Space - this much hyped idea simply does not work well. It disenfranchises the vulnerable and claims of safety are exaggerated. Don't confuse the concept with far more successful nearly car free streets. Shared Use Paths designed to be used by pedestrians and cyclists together. These rarely work well because the two user groups are too different and it leads to conflicts. They are not built in the Netherlands (but cycle access to pedestrianized zones is good). Strict (or presumed) liability - If you think this is an important part of why people cycle in the Netherlands then it is probably not what you think it is. Helmets - one of several ways of scaremongering about the supposed dangers of what is actually a very safe means of transport
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A cyclist in a cycling family living in the capital of the cycling province of the world's greatest cycling country.
I was born in the UK, lived for over 8 years in New Zealand and have lived in the Netherlands since 2007.
I organise cycling infrastructure study tours, run an online bicycle shop, arrange cycling holidays and write a popular blog about cycling.
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