Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Intermezzo #13: Wind and snot. A ride on my bike.

Let me take you on last Saturday bike ride. For those who don't know, my bike is a very nice Cube LTD Team 2006. My Cube dealer has serviced my bike into tip-top condition. It rides like a bird.
My broken radius kept me off my bike for more than a half year, but this summer vacation I carefully started riding again. What is left over of my radius is poking into my under arm muscles. I guess I got to get used to it. I think the pain will get lesser and eventually disappear when I ride a lot. The Coastal Marathon is in a few weeks. I support the last runner and I want to know if I still can ride the bike for a longer period.
It was quite a busy week at my work. I had to start up a lot of experiments, because the summer school vacation just finished. My legs felt still pretty tired and stiff when Bram jumped on my bed around 8:00. Maybe I should ride only a short round.

Normally there is a south-west wind here, but I read in the morning paper that there is today a weak north east wind. That's interesting. Normally I have the wind in my back when I ride northwards. Riding against the wind has it advantages. When you get tired, simply turn around and get the wind in the back.

I had no idea which route I would ride, but I started riding in the direction of Veere. Aargh. My legs are stiff, I feel my knees. THis is probably going to be a short round. Middelburg - Veere - Vrouwenpolder - Middelburg.


Indeed, there is a slight north wind, but nothing special. My legs are still pretty stiff, but I have no pain in my arm anymore. Lets go to Vrouwenpolder.

Dike to Vrouwenpolder:

My legs feel actually better. A group of elderly people were riding with electric bikes through the small forest to the dike.

Challenge 1: try to pass them safely before the next bend of the small cycling path. Accelerating... Feels good. With 25 km/h I ride the slope of the dike. It feels good if I am on top.

Challenge 2: Off road. With 25km/h I navigate my bike over the top of the dike (the cycling path lies slightly lower, about 5 meters on the left). No pain in my arm, while there is no track on the dike, it's a pretty rough ride with holes. Interesting.

Further on the dike I hear some noise behind me. A swarm of road bikers is gaining on me at high speed. I look at my GPS. I am riding 28 km/h. No way I can out-ride them. I have a steady heartbeat of 165 bpm. A half minute later I'm in delusion that I'm in the Vuelta. Road riders before me, road riders next to me and road riders behind me. And all very close. If I stretch out my hands I can easily touch them. Panting, commands...four letter words, not worth to repeat. Two slower bikes are almost rolled flat by the black and white tornado. What's the fun of riding at these speeds so close in a group? As fast as they appeared, they disappear in the distance. I can look over 1 kilometer before me. Several other cyclists have the same strange experience as I had and see them desolating being flushed out of the peloton. I feel good. I see the peleton ride through the tunnel at Vrouwenpolder and they race northwards to the Veersegat dam (marked Oost Westweg on the map) . That's interesting. I can do that too.

North Sea dike Noord Beveland, viewing the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier:

I am a bit surprised. At sea this is not a weak to moderate wind. It's hard to keep my pace up to 20 km/h. The air is remarkably clear. I am thirsty. I have ridden 50 minutes. About 17.5 kilometers from home. I could go back. In the distance I see the island Schouwen-Duiveland. Far in the distance I see the firehouse of Westerschouwen. This firehouse is bright red and white, which is clearly visible above the dunes. For about 5 minutes I keep looking at the firehouse, while I rehydrate myself.
"I can do it, I can do it". I hear the little voice in my head. I get on my bike and ride to the barrier. As I got on the first section, the wind is merciless. My speed dropped under the 20 kilometers per hour. My Heart Rate Monitor shows this is not easy. From time to time the alarm sounds. Moderate wind. Well, it more feels like a small storm. I try to get everything out of the closet. Nothing helps. The speed now even drops more. I have to be happy with an average speed of 16.5 km/h. Why did I do this? After about a kilometer I can only see the lonely road before me and behind me. I am the only cyclist riding north. Only a few times cyclists pass me southwards. They look like high speed trains, no matter what bikes they ride on.

Neeltje Jans:

Finally I arrive at Neeltje Jans. The road to this artificial island rises. That's not fair. Isn't the wind enough. Finally I can descent and see I have to follow a detour, because the lock is open. One tiny yacht wants to enter the Eastern Scheldt. Murphy's law. After riding around the lock there is a long straight road, where only walkers and bikes are allowed.

There are a lot of windmills here. I have to ride almost under this one. It's unbelievably high. No idea how big it is. 30m? 60m? 100m? The sound of the wings is terrifying. I try to accelerate. Somehow I am imagining what would happen if a wing would break off. It happened several months ago somewhere else. Somehow I never feel fine when riding so close to these mills.
Of course, the wind did not stop, but I see another challenge. The highway is situated on a dike, that is about 8 meters higher. There is a steep slope to the top of the dike. The view above is great, but I am a play-ball of the wind again. Neeltje-Jans is an artificial island. It is known for it's unique nature. But probably not on the side I am riding. All I see is asphalt, a bit of concrete and uh... asphalt.
I might be complaining about the wind, the sky is almost clear and my GW-5525A gets a lot of sunlight to recharge it's batteries.
On the north of Neeltje Jans the Barrier continues in two parts. In the last part the wind exactly against me. 14.5 kilometers per hour. I can't make it more. Three young women had visited Neeltje Jans. Carefully I pass them. Though it looks like I'm crawling over the road, it also looks like the women are standing still on their bikes, while I am sure they must be moving forward. A few hundred meters further the scene repeats when I pass a boy and a girl. It seems that my speed is not as slow as it looks. Finally, finally... I reach land on Schouwen-Duiveland.


A couple jumps aside as I ride off road into the dunes. I did not mean to fright them. There was more than 3 meters between us. A road is embedded in the dunes and leads behind the dunes to Westerschouwen. With great speed I descent from the dunes. A kilometer later someone funny has put a 8 meter high pimple in the road. Every normal person would have put the road around it. Pretty tired from riding the long barrier against the wind, I noticed my legs enjoy climbing the pimple. And what goes up...

Since my arrival there is no notice of the light house. I continue my trip into the forests in the dunes. This is fun. At least in the beginning. The trees catch all the wind, and I gain pretty much speed riding up and down the hills. Until I notice I am not alone. No problem you should think. Everyone goes up and down. Most of them are elderly people (70+) with a poor feeling of direction and position of the road. They discovered en masse the joy of electric bicycles. As Evil Knevils they ride uphill, to continue with a snail speed when riding down, left, right and middle of the path. At random choice. Stop without warning and block the road with their bike, to wait for those who came behind. Keep on the right at a bend with no sight in a forest? Never heard of it. This is not why I fight myself uphill. I like to enjoy descending at high speed.

After riding an half hour in the forest (my brakes seem to work terrific) I sit down on bench and write Eva an SMS:

"They should forbid electrical bicycles in the dunes, specially for elderly people." Eva shows the message to my mother in law that was visiting our house. I'm out of the testament....
I must have biked quite some time, until I found a parking place I recognize. I decide to ride the other direction, back into the forest. At the end the road rises pretty steep. I end up in a flock of kickbikes. The kickbikes followed the wrong road. They cannot ride over the sand trails. They turn around.
Actually there are interesting things to see as the kickbikes are left. While I observe a panorama tower, suddenly a few people crawl out of a small concrete box at the side of the road. It appeared to be an old army shelter. It is "Open Monument Day" and it was possible to visit the shelter. I choose to climb the panorama tower.
It was a long climb, but it provides a great view over the island. The sun is shining, so though there is a hard wind (haven't we met before) it is quite pleasant on top.

Finally, when I look north, I can see the firehouse. It was not possible to ride straight to it, so I decided this was close enough. The view is very beautiful, but I can't stay forever.
With a speed running up to 38 km/h I cross the barrier and dams back to Middelelburg. Unfortunately I ran out of water. It felt like riding in the desert. I'm thirsty. I see my heart rate run up and a headache is coming up. Early signs of shortage of body fluids. I had to call home for ravitaillement.

Sint Laurens:

Finally, 8 km from home I get a fresh bidon with water. The bidon is empty before I get home. At home I drunk at least 1.5 liter water in the next hour. Trip distance: 68 km, time on bike 3h15m.

Well, I think I'm in shape for the coastal marathon in a few weeks. A bit stiff here and there. A colleague of my made a frame for my sign board. It says something like "broom bike", which is the Dutch expression for last "support of last runner". In the last years I got often the question where my broom was. Well, I fixed that.
All photo's, except the photo's of my bike, were made with the crappy camera of my iPhone. Sorry for the poor quality.


Riley said...

Hi Sjors,

I'm glad to see your arm healed up and you back on the bike. It must have sucked to not be able to ride for so long. Good luck with the big ride.

Unknown said...

Hi Riley,

There were two mountain bikers at our camping on my holidays. They were nice guys. There was also a small BMX course. I really needed a bike there...



Riley said...

I'm sure you'll have the chance to make up for the missed time. :-)

You've done a great job covering your holiday on the Japanese blog too. Lots of great photos. I've always wanted to visit that area of France.