Updated: Oct 10, 2019
Check out those wet cobbles!
That's Gilbert in blue
For those of us of a certain age, Maastrict will forever be associated with a boring EU treaty that no one ever understood. Don't worry, there won't be any Brexit related commentary here: you can safely carry on tending to your unicorns in the sunlit uplands [shit, I did it anyway].
But I think Maastrict gets a bad rap. I went there quite a few times while I was working for a company based there, so I was looking forward to reaching it today. Especially as we only had to ride 75km to get here. I decided while planning this trip that I wanted a shorter day before the horror that is cycling in Belgium.
Riding a bike in Holland is on another level. There are a number of reasons for this I think;
- The Police teach all school children how to ride and then they must pass a test in order to be deemed safe to ride alone. This sets the tone early and encourages children to ride to school. We actually saw a police led group ride out today.
- Before you can take your car driving test you must ride a bike in traffic. This gives drivers an appreciation of more vulnerable road users. The vast majority of drivers here treated us with caution and respect. I assume the one that gave us a close pass was a Brexit MEP lost and angry with everyone and everything.[I can't help myself, but did you see that idiot who just got elected and then acted with surprise when he found out his job was in Strasbourg?]
- the Dutch have a legal principle of Strict or Presumed Liability which assumes that in any accident the more vulnerable party is not at fault. If a car driver hits a bike, it is assumed to be the driver's fault. The same is true of cyclists hitting pedestrians. This makes everyone more wary I think.
- Finally, of course, they build infrastructure that prioritises people over cars.
This was all too apparent in our ride today, which frankly felt like riding through endless suburbs linked by peripheral airport roads. The latter turned out to be exactly the case once we reached Maastrict. It turns out that you can have too much of a good thing. It was a little dull. Not German countryside dull, but dull nevertheless. There was one very odd stretch of road with 5 different adult clubs within 1km. There was no obvious reason for this and clearly we didn’t stop to ask why. Perhaps if the posters had featured a Campagnolo groupset I would have been more interested.
For me the ride today felt like a recovery day, but not so for Michael. This was the first day I've seen any cracks and he finished in silence on my back wheel. I had been waiting for it to happen. He's already ridden double the longest distance he's ever covered in a week and a huge chunk of that into a headwind. He's done well to make it this far without feeling the effects.
Back to the much maligned Maastrict. When we arrived we saw people putting up crash barriers around the city centre. We guessed it was for a criterium (city centre bike race) and we were right. So this evening we sauntered into town, sat down for beer and pizza and then watched a very competitive women's race and only part of the men's. It had started raining and the cobbles in the city centre looked lethal. Still, we got to see Philip Gilbert and other pros do a few laps. We need an early night because tomorrow is likely to be very tough.
The highlight of the day: a Dutch UPS driver 'giving it large' to techno dance music sitting in his cab. These people crack me up.
Accommodation Rating: Rising Damp
I'm convinced my Dad is part steam engine. I pester him in the mornings about how he has to wait for 'steam pressure to build up' as he trails behind me slowly, accompanied by creaking noises and me pretending to 'oil his joints' if I'm feeling extra harsh. However, when the steam train gets going it doesn't stop. 20-25kph perpetually. Ascending, in the rain, gravel, or tarmac, he'll be there chugging along at that same 20-25kph (15mph for those who measure in barleycorns or whatever the fuck imperial uses). It's a characteristic that's incredibly frustrating if you want a high average speed on a short ride, but especially useful on days like this.
However, I am tired. Very tired. My shoulders ache, my wrists are sore, and my legs drained. Eventually, my being ever reliant on youthful legs and misguided enthusiasm must give way to the old and well trained. I got to a point today where if I'd leaned too far and fallen, I'd likely have just nodded off in whatever hedge I found myself in, probably not bothering to unclip.
Anyway, my whining aside, what about today's journey? Uneventful. Venlo is lovely, but the continuous urban sprawl between it and Maastricht isn't amazing. Better than bloody German cornfields though.
Oh, and the Dutch are brilliantly, effortlessly cool.
Dogs in baskets on the front of bikes:2!
Number of km cycled not on a bike path: 0
Total distance covered:555km
It was a rain soaked start to the day