Here I am at the beginning of the Giro stage you’ll be doing on Monday, 224kms from Amsterdam to Middelburg.
You start off at the World Trade Centre at Amsterdam Zuid (south) station. That sign above me means ‘no cycling’ because of pedestrian safety concerns, but everybody seems to ignore it and ride anyway. I advise you to do the same. If you get stopped by the police, say you’re a tourist and they’ll let you off with a warning.
Notice I’m wearing a beanie instead of a bike helmet. That’s because it’s really cold. I know helmets are compulsory in the Giro now, but maybe you should ask if you can wear a beanie underneath.
From the WTC, you turn left onto the Amstelveenseweg. This window cleaning van was blocking the cycle path when I arrived, but the guy promised me he’d be finished by Monday, so you won’t have any trouble there.
Amstelveen itself is quite a modern town, where lots of business people live. The Cobra Museum has some very interesting modern art, particularly from wild Dutch artists like Karel Appel and Corneille. I don’t know if you’re interested in modern art, Cadel, but if so it’s worth a visit next time you’re in town.
From Amstelveen, follow the signs to Schiphol Airport. The route runs right alongside it, long, boring and straight, but it gets exciting when a plane flies overhead. If any helicopters were planning to cover the Giro, perhaps you should tell them to wait till you get somewhere safer, like Italy.
This sign says the road will be closed to traffic for two hours on Monday. That seems a bit extravagant – it only took me 1 hour 7 minutes to ride that section, though I expect some riders may not be as fast as you or me, Cadel.
But out here I did happen to meet up with some of your competitors who were getting in a bit of last minute practice, so I can tell you how good they were. First a couple of Spanish guys passed me (Caisse d’Epargna) looking very fit and fast. Then four Columbia riders, and finally the whole Liquigas team. I was able to hook on the back and ride with Liquigas for nearly 200metres, so there’s one team you don’t have to worry about. That Ivan Basso is rubbish!
I pressed on to Lisse and the tulip fields. Lisse is famous for the Keukenhof gardens, but I didn’t stop to visit them and I don’t expect you will either. I thought there would be lots of tulip fields so there’d be photo opportunities all over the place, but there were only a couple that looked like this.
It takes a lot of practice to steer with one hand, and when things get tight and cosy in the pack, some riders get very annoyed if your umbrella pokes them in the peloton.
While living in cold, wet Holland, I have picked up a couple of useful tricks for riding in the rain, though. Always carry a plastic shopping bag with you and put it over your saddle when you get off. That way you don’t get a wet backside when you get back on your bike again. In this photo it’s an Esprit bag, but any plastic bag without a hole in it will do.
It was cold, wet and uncomfortable riding today, Cadel, but I knew you needed my expert evaluation of the route, so I rode on to Leiden. It’s a really interesting town, being Rembrandt’s birthplace and having the oldest university in the Netherlands. I took a photo of this icecream and chocolate shop. I thought you’d like it, being Australian.
The rain was getting heavier, and the 179 kilometres from Leiden to Middelburg are fairly routine, so I didn’t see any need to research them for you. Delft, Rotterdam, Zeeland, it’s all plain sailing. I took the train home from Leiden station.
Oh, one more thing, Cadel…I suppose you need to get back to Schiphol airport to fly to Italy at the end of the day. There are regular trains there from Middelburg, and for 6 euros extra they’ll let you take your bike too. Make sure you have correct change for the machine, otherwise it costs 50 cents more to buy a ticket at the counter.
Good luck and I hope you win the Giro!
Your friend, Richard