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The Dutch Headwind Cycling Championship Are No Joke

The Dutch Headwind Cycling Championship Are No Joke

By Spooky on August 22nd, 2023 Category: Events

The Dutch Headwind Time Trial Championship is only 8.5 kilometers long, but it is considered one of the hardest cycling challenges in the world.

If you’ve ever ridden a bike against a reasonably strong wind, you know just how difficult dealing with the extra drag can be. Now imagine doing it in winds of well over 100km (60mph), over a distance of nearly kilometers, using a single-gear bicycle. Some people say that the Tour de France is the hardest bicycle race in the world, while others think that the title should go to Race Across America, but in terms of difficulty per kilometer, the Dutch Headwind Championship could definitely throw its hat in for the title as well. It only takes place during storms, when the wind force is expected to be at least 7, on the Oosterscheldekering storm barrier, which faces the North Sea.

Photo: Sander v. Ginkel/Wikimedia Commons

The Dutch Headwind Time Trial Championship have been held on the Oosterscheldekering almost every year since 2013, gathering hundreds of cycling enthusiasts from all over the Netherlands. Participants are limited to 300, all of whom start in the same place, 30 seconds apart from each other. The cyclist who completes the 8.5-kilometer course first is declared the winner.

With weather conditions as bad as they are during this unique race, any kind of technical advantage can make a huge difference, so organizers try to level the playing field by ensuring that all participants use the same equipment – a single-speed aluminum Gazelle city bike with back-pedal brakes. The only things that can provide an advantage are fitness and endurance.

 

The fastest time ever recorded during the Dutch Headwind Championship was in the 2013 race, when Bart Brentjens finished the course in 17 minutes and 51 seconds. Considering wind speeds on the Oosterscheldekering storm barrier can reach up to 120 kilometers per hour, that’s a phenomenal time that has yet to be beaten.

You might be wondering why anyone would want to torture their legs by pedaling against winds that could sweep a person off of their feet, and that’s a valid question, but the point is many Dutch do. Even though the championship is only announced three days before a storm is scheduled to hit Oosterscheldekering, hundreds of people register to participate, either individually or as part of a team.

 

One would think that luck plays a serious part in the Dutch Headwind Cycling Championship, considering the speed of wind gusts can vary significantly over the 8.5-kilometer course. However, in the women’s category, professional athlete Lisa Scheenaard has won the last three editions, which suggests it’s technique and stamina that matter most.

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