After months of research and training, the time has finally come for my first bike trip in the Netherlands: I will ride the Elfstedentocht!
The Elfstedentocht is the longest ice skating competition in the world. The route is about 200 km and touches 11 cities (hence the name).
For this time I will not be skating on ice (who knows, maybe in the future …), but with my beloved racebike. I decided to divide the route into 2 stages, covering 100 km per day.
I can’t say exactly when I got infected. It was a sweet, slow poisoning. Cycling has become a cornerstone of my new life.
I’m talking about new life, because alas that’s how I feel. On May 5 this year my mother, Giovanna Di Giuseppe, surrendered to pleural mesothelioma. She left me, my father, my sister, and all our loved ones just 5 months after the diagnosis.
Cancer disrupts the life of the patient, but also that of family members. The pain I felt in those moments pushed me to write. I wrote everything I felt, everything that happened. I wrote in the hope of being able to help those like us who have found themselves or will find themselves living this nightmare. If you can speak or read Italian, you can find the stories of those days here.
Why I have chosen to travel the Elfstedentocht by bicycle
Writing and sharing have certainly helped me to process what happened. The pain, however, remains and hits hard. Sometimes so strong that it makes me fear that I will no longer be able to stand up.
We stayed 4 days and 3 nights next to mum, accompanying her in her passage. Verbal communication was no longer possible, yet we talked a lot. I told her a lot and made some promises.
For example, I promised her that I will do many things. I promised her that I would honor the time I have left by researching and nourishing myself with Beauty.
I remember distinctly perceiving, sitting next to my dying mother, a very strong push to Life. I felt as if my mother herself, not needing it anymore, was giving it to me and our loved ones. I remember almost feeling guilty then.
Then after a while, I understood. As if someone had finally opened my eyes. I will die. The time I have available is limited and I don’t know how much is left.
From that moment everything changed. I finally understood, I finally felt that everything is a Gift. Everything. I understood that the only reason for living can and must be Love. Love as compassion, and understanding.
From that moment all fears melted like snow in the sun. I am hungry for life, for experiences, faces, smells, and sensations. I want to create memories with and for the people I love, and give love to the people I will meet.
Mom taught me this when she left. This will be the motivation that will support me when I need it.
What is the Elfstedentocht
As already mentioned, the Elfstedentocht is the longest ice skating competition in the world. The route runs clockwise along 11 cities. These are: Leeuwarden, Sneek, Ijlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Hindeloopen, Franeker and Dokkum.
Ice skating is a very popular sport for the Dutch. Many cyclists do it during the winter months when cycling would be too risky.
In 19th and 20th century Friesland, reaching different cities by skating on frozen canals was a very effective and widespread practice. Poems and writings tell of groups of people who spontaneously organized and completed the tour of the eleven cities.
On January 2, 1909, the Frisian Ice Skating Association organized the first regulated competition. Twenty-two skaters took part. On January 15 of the same year, the Association of Eleven Cities of Friesland was founded (https://www.elfstedentocht.frl/), which has been organizing this event ever since.
This race cannot be regular, given the dependence on uncontrollable natural factors. To avoid endangering the participants’ lives, the ice must be 15 centimeters thick all along the course. This situation is reached with at least one consecutive week of sub-zero temperatures (around -10ºC). Snowfall and wind also play an important role.
The last race held dates back to 1997. Below you will find the report of what a national event is in all respects.
My plan for the Elfstedentocht
I decided to divide my first bike trip into two stages of more or less 100km each. On Monday 1st August I will reach Leeuwarden by train from Deventer. From there I will start the tour clockwise, as tradition dictates. On the first day I will then visit Leeuwarden, Sneek, Ijlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Workum and Bolsward. Here I will spend the night and then leave again the next day.
The second stage will see me pass through Harlingen, Hindeloopen, Franeker, Dokkun, and finally Leeuwarden, where I will finish the tour.
How I organized my first bike trip
I have been using the Komoot app (www.komoot.com) with pleasure for months. Here I can plan each route based on the sport I intend to do. I can choose between mountain bikes, racing bikes, gravel, enduro, mountaineering, cycling and walking. Depending on the specialty selected, the algorithm proposes the most suitable route for the circumstances. In addition, there are suggestions from cyclists who have already traveled certain routes. In this way it is possible to plan the exit in detail, including for example monuments or restaurants, and perhaps avoiding areas where the terrain is not ideal.
Follow my adventure!
This will be the first of many adventures. I’m going to document it with articles in this blog, videos on YouTube and live on Instagram and Facebook.
Keep an eye on social media and don’t forget to send me an encouraging message during this challenge.
I will need it!
Would you like to know more about me? Visit the English home page here.