16 August 2005

Hills, hils and more hills..

After hearing the legend of the hills of Holland I finally found them. Made a short journey south from where we are living, only 129 km away, which is a small distance to travel here. I saw them from a distance, sticking up out of the landscape, so proud to be so high in a country predominantly flatter than a pancake. What a beautiful sight to see.

I would never have thought that I missed riding up hills that much. Living in Auckland and finding a flat ride is always hard for me, so many hills to choose from, so little time. Doing a lap through the Waitaks before work always got me off to a good start for the day, flying up the hills, reaching the top is always fun. As much as I like climbing hills, I like descending them a lot more, the speed through the turns, water running out of my eyes, the thought of sliding down the road on your ass at 80k always gets the adrenalin going. I always try to scare myself on the descents, sometimes it works well, almost too well with the back wheel just starting to give away. At least if I come off the road my mountainbike skills will see me through. At least it always puts a smile to my face before work.

Holland is a flat country, in fact most of it is under sea level. The first time I was here, I thought my altimeter wasn’t working, as it was reading negative15m most of the time. To find some hills here is very exciting, I was starting to get worried that they might not exist here at all. The area is Maastrict, in the south, bordering Belgium and Germany. It is full of wicked old castles, coal and gold mines. Rich in history, full of small villages full of life, old churches and some of the oldest looking houses I’ve seen here so far. The best looking cheese shops I have ever seen (that’s another story in itself, more later) and some of the sweetest riding that I have seen here so far.

Driving into the area brought goose bumps to my spine. The smile on my face seemed to get bigger the closer that we got, so did the hills. Leaving the car we started ascending through the most amazing small village, restaurants lining the small winding streets. Lots of tourists kicking around this place, seems to be quite a destination for them. There is a Casino on the hill over looking the town, maybe this is why so many punters are kicking around. The tourists stand out easily in their matching parkers, wearing a look of bewilderment, trying to look at their maps and look inconspicuous at the same time.

I can choose my designation depending on what day it is, today I am a local, and they are the tourists. The team has given me a complete set of clothing to go riding with the girls, they say I ride like one, so I may as well look like one. They are quite into the team spirit side of things, keeping the sponsors happy by always looking professional. The last thing they need is someone publishing a photo of them riding with some other form of advertising on their ass. Kiwi riders can learn a lot from this, any time they are near their bikes or any race, all the clothing and all things branded for the team are actively worn and promoted. Hey it’s a professional team after all, I keep reminding myself, they have to look good, shame they always have me in tow…ha ha.

The team love me, I can do everything and more than they ever dreamed of, good old Kiwi’s aaa! They think that it is really funny that I ride every day and still keen to come out for an ass whipping on a regular basis. Most of the men here still don’t think that Woman’s cycling is that serious, they certainly don’t want to be seen riding with them and defiantly not in the team kit. I must be crazy going out with them on training rides, a bunch of girls? How wrong they are, I can’t think of anything more I would rather be doing. It’s nice to have the male/female ratio reversed for a change when out bunch riding.

Four hours later we had to head home, thank god we had my gps with me as we were miles away from where we were supposed to be. The miles fly by when your having fun, and what fun it was, the climbs were great, the scenery was fantastic, the company divine, the descents fantastic. The coolest thing around here is that it’s like a world tour almost every ride. First we started out in The Netherlands, then a couple of hours later we were in Belgium, and to finish off we headed to Germany just to get the trifecta for the day. To top it off, some of the climbs felt like we were in Italy, some of the descents felt like France, in fact part of Belgium had French road signs and shop signage. Some of the towns looked Swiss, the churches looked English and the cheese shops looked delicious (but that’s another story). I get a bit confused where we are sometimes, should have taken that Geography class instead of chemistry after all. German, Dutch and French lessons as well, while we are at it, who would have thought schoolwork would have come in handy!

Just for the record, not a single car beeped its horn, even though we were taking up most of the road, most of the day. I stopped counting roadies at about 100, and stopped the recreational cyclist count at 450. You gotta love this part of the world. They certainly have my interest at the moment, where did we go wrong in NZ…

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