I’m an Aussie, so I want you to win the Giro cycling race, and I’ve been living in Amsterdam for a while, so I know about riding here. I just rode the course you’ll be doing as a time trial in the Prologue on Saturday, and I have a few tips for you.
I also took some photos, because you know how when you’re riding in a real hurry you forget to look around at the sights and there are things you could miss if they’re not pointed out to you.
Some of the route is a bit tricky…
Cadel, the route starts at the Museumplein, where there are always lots of tourists. They sometimes stand around chatting, blocking the cycle path. If this happens, ring your bell loudly and yell out that you’re in a race and they usually get out of the way.You probably have a pretty new bike, Cadel, so make sure you lock it up if you’re leaving it parked in the street before the race. Even old bikes get stolen a lot in Amsterdam. Carry a heavy chain with you, put it through the front wheel, the frame, the back wheel and finally anchor it to the largest public building you can find.
Soon after you start the prologue, you pass the Heineken Brewery. They used to give away free beer on their popular brewery tours, but I think they make visitors pay now. Maybe if you say you’re a world famous cyclist they’d give you a discount – it’s worth a try; if they say no, what have you lost?
From the brewery, the route goes down the Vijzelgracht, where you can see the houses on either side are being propped up to stop them falling into the hole where Amsterdam’s new metro line is supposed to go. You should be safe from falling masonry, Cadel, as long as you’re wearing your helmet. I always ride through this street as fast as I can and hope nothing goes wrong.
Next you’ll be crossing this bridge by the Stopera, the city opera house, over the famous Amstel River. Watch out for trams, and make sure you don’t get your front wheel stuck in the tracks. Lots of visitors who aren’t used to Amsterdam’s roads fall off this way.
Just past the Waterlooplein flea market, the route turns right into the Weesperstraat. It’s a long straight stretch, and most people can ride it really fast. I was going very well today, but then this bridge opened in front of me to let a boat go through. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen to you, Cadel, because in a time trial even losing a few minutes can be the difference between winning and coming umpteenth.
The Apollolaan is one of Amsterdam’s most beautiful streets. The Hilton Hotel became famous when John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent their honeymoon in bed there. If you say you’re a famous cyclist they might let you have a quick look in the room.
The prologue finishes at the Olympic Stadium, where Amsterdam hosted the 1928 Olympic Games. You’ll probably be pretty clapped out by the time you get there, but I live close by, so give me a buzz if you want to come round for a beer when you’ve finished the media interviews.
PS. To give you some idea of the time it should take you…the prologue course is 8.4km long. I did it in less than an hour (52 minutes, 17 seconds). I think you’ll be faster if that bridge doesn’t open in front of you. Also stopping to take photos slows you down, so I’d advise you not to do that.
Sunday and Monday’s stages also start in Amsterdam, then go to Utrecht (Sunday) and Middelburg (Monday) so next I’m going to ride them too. Though they are both 209km long, so you may get there before I do, Cadel. Good luck, anyway.