Diekirch - Valkenswaard 2010
This year we cycled the race Diekirch-Valkenswaard for the fourth time. The race is about 250 km long and starts in Diekirch, Luxembourg, and finishes in Valkenswaard, the Netherlands. Last year we finished in 17th and 18th place, out of 938 participants. Then we finished at 13:15. This year 950 people participated. The prospects of finishing in a good position were a bit lower, as the weather predictions were bad. For reparation we cycled 3 weeks through the Alps, from which we had returned two weeks ago.
On Friday night we took the bus to Diekirch. I was only wearing shorts and a cycling shirt, but Bart had a few warm clothes. Around 5:30 we arrived, it was still dark and very cold. Now we only needed to freeze for another hour until the race started. In front of use were some 'professional' amateur cyclists. They seemed to be in very good shape and had expensive bikes. Our plan was to try to keep up with them as long as possible.
After a short speech the starting gun was fired. It took about a minute before we obtained the first of the stamps required to officially complete the race. By then the semi-professional cyclists were already out of view. We raced as fast as we could right from the start. One man recognized us from last year. A group of very fast cyclists overtook us and we managed to hang in their rear. Most of them looked like they had been either professional cyclists or very successful amateur racers. Bart and I are good cyclists as well, but instead of through good equipment and training schedules, we had gotten fast from our daily rides to school and accustomed to pain from our cycling 'vacations'. We both knew we would likely be able to get faster if we followed a rigid training schedule, but felt like that would take away part of the fun.
Last year it had taken about 120 km before we felt warmed up, now we were dead after 70 kilometers. At the Tommerberg we needed to climb uphill with at a 20% incline for over a kilometer. Everyone was struggling. It made a big difference that this was our fourth time doing this race, as we knew where to turn and where the dangerous intersections where.
In contrast to the previous years they now offered sports drink at the checkpoints. We needed it. Most people stopped for a few minutes to catch their breath, but we rode on straight away. That way we could cycle at a relatively relaxed pace for 15 minutes until the rest caught up with us, which was nicer than standing still for only two minutes. After Visé we crossed the Maas river and it started to rain like crazy. We needed to climb the Hallembaye in the downpour. Last year we shook off a lot of other cyclists there, now everyone was so fast that we had a hard time keeping up.
At the 3rd checkpoint in Herderen we met someone Bart knew. I was very hungry and Bart was craving sugar. I managed to quickly get two granola bars instead of one. Happy that I would have something to eat I cycled on. The person before me suddenly braked out of nowhere, which forced me to drop a granola bar so I brakes as well. The route was getting flatter. We felt better there compared to directly after the start, although I was low on energy. Upto the last checkpoint we managed to stay in a fast group.
After the last checkpoint we followed a canal. We needed to cycle up a hill and then across a wet, wooden bridge. My front wheel slipped away on the wet surface. I just barely managed to correct for this, but as a result slipped the other way and fell hitting my head on the wood. Of course I was wearing a helmet, but I still got dizzy and had double vision. A few other cyclist kept going, but most of them stopped which was very kind. I probably should have stopped all together, but still decided to hop on my bike and kept going. I told Bart that I wasn't confident I wouldn't accidentally cycle into the canal.
The entire day we had seen dark clouds on the horizon, but most of the time we were only following the rain. The roads were still wet and as a result everyone was covered in mud. Apart from the rain it was also very windy, and of course the wind came straight from up front. The last 10 kilometers I couldn't keep up anymore and Bart agreed to stay with me, even though he still had a little bit of energy left. We end up finishing together, which was more fun than in a large group.
After the notorious road from Leende to Valkenswaard, which was again very though because of the strong headwind, we arrived in Valkenswaard. The last two intersections were closed off for traffic and a motorcyclist accompanied us to the finish line. We were very happy to be near the finish and my head was hurting a lot. At the stage, the host asked Bart how we had prepared, to which he explained we had cycled 3400 km through the Alps.
We walked into the bar at the finish to receive our medals. We spent some time drinking a beer and watching everyone finish. Our parents were also there.
The 2010 medal
We arrived around 15:30, fifteen minutes sooner than last year. 27 people had finished before us, but not all of them had a full stamp card, which meant they likely cheated. We officially finished in 14th and 15th position. Today had been much tougher than last year and my helmet had a large crack.
After a while a man walked up to us to ask if we raced often. Bart told him we didn't ride our speedbikes that often, our training mostly consisted of our cycling vacation and commute to school. The man was a scout for a cycling club in a nearby village and asked if we wanted to join. Normally I would have considered it, but at that moment I was way too tired. Maybe we will join in the future. When he walked away he noticed my bike and we could tell by the look on his face that he thought: 'wow, I wouldn't expect someone with that bike to finish fast'.
We again had a nice race this year, although it was tougher than the previous editions. We had been in a nice group in which everyone was willing to ride in pole position. My head felt fine the next day.
Time against the number of people finished
Blue 2007, Red 2008, Green 2009, Purple 2010
This graph shows that this year was tougher than previous editions. Only after 17:00 did most contenstans finish, it also seems like many people arrived after the official 20:00 cut-off time.
Time against the number of participants in 2010, our finish time is indicated with orange lines.
We had finished in 23th and 24th position. If I hadn't fallen we would like have finished in the middle, rather than the end of our group. The first of our group finished in 12th position, so likely we would then have finished around ~18th position. This year we finished 32 minutes after the winner, while last year it had been 40 minutes.
Time of arrival (y-axis) against number of registration (x-axis)
While cycling we wondered if there would be a correlation between when people registered for the race and their finish time. The above graph shows that this is not the case. We are indicated by the orange dot. It is nice to see that groups of people that registered together also finished together.