During the 2000 Sydney Olympics an ad ran on Australian television, showing a groups of likely lads re-painting the blue line designating the marathon route, so that it diverted the runners down their driveway. Then the boys sat in the back garden while the Olympic marathon came past, rounded their clothes line, and continued on its way.
We had a day like that in Uitgeest today.
Uitgeest is an unpretentious Dutch town, some 35km north-west of Amsterdam. Today they held the 29th Uitgeest Wielerronde (‘Wheeler Tour’), a series of criterion bike races around the town.
This is one of the great things about cycling in the Netherlands. Villages hold bike races, open to amateurs in various divisions, starting with children’s races in the morning, and building up to the elite riders doing a tough 90km race in the afternoon.
Outside their houses Uitgeest residents had set up the BBQs, the picnic tables and the umbrellas right by the route and invited their friends to join them to watch the fun.
The mood in town may have been festive, but the riding was seriously competitive. I was lucky enough last year to see a couple of legs of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France; the packs in those races flashed by in a matter of seconds.
The Wielerronde Uitgeest criterion course was only 2 kilometres long, a rectangle around the city centre, so the riders were flashing past every couple of minutes.
I can’t tell you who won. It would have been an amateur rider I’d never heard of. That didn’t matter. I just enjoyed the atmosphere and the spectacle.