That’s how my father tried to explain this week’s holiday in Belgium to his non-cycling friends. It was then followed by a more detailed explanation of how the so called “Grand Tours” of cycle racing often take excursions outside their home countries to promote the race and build profile.
This year the Giro d’Italia started in the Netherlands, hosted by the Province of Gelderland, also the hosts of ECF’s Velo-city conference in 2017 in the twin cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen. So the perfect excuse for me to organise an excursion because neither Dad nor I had ever been to the Giro, a serious omission in our cycling fandom.
When the Province kindly came up with an invitation for us to join the finish line hospitality the plan became perfection.
As so did the day, not least because the weather was baking hot, apparently warmer than Italy itself.
So here are three little tasters of our Italian day out, with a distinctly Dutch twist.
Arrive like the Dutch
First objective was to arrive in the city like a local, and for that we had to ride in to town on the cycling highway, the outstanding RijnWaalpad that links Arnhem and Nijmegen. We only rode a few kilometres but it was enough to give Dad a taste of cycling as a first class means of transport.
It was also a great route in and out of the city that we shared with a wide range of visitors, taking in the Rhine crossing and riding right up to the finish line of the race.
In touch with their inner pink
I discovered last year that Arnhem is a city that likes a party. Then there is the fact that the Dutch are possibly the nation with the boldest colour sense in the world, striding the planet in bright orange. Given those factors there was no doubt whatsoever that Arnhem was going to whole-heartedly adopt the pink of the Giro – from the schools to the pensioners and the coffee shops.
Is there a race on?
In between enjoyment of the wonderful cycling infrastructure and the party mood in Arnhem there was the distinct possibility of a bike race breaking out.
This stage of the Giro was tailor-made for a sprint finish but the route brought the riders through the finish line three times so the crowd saw much more than a brief flash of colours.
We had the most amazing spot on the balcony of the Arnhem concert hall, the Musis Sacrum, The balcony was bit set back from the finish line but it was a perfect spot to hang out in the sunshine, chat to lots of cycling friends and then turn to take in the race as it flew beneath us.
Marcel Kittel the sprint winner, by several bike lengths.
Three hours later we were back home having thoroughly enjoyed our taste of Italy in the Netherlands. The race of course needed a whole day to return home to Italy, so we were so pleased they brought it near to us and I was delighted to be invited to share it with my colleagues in Arnhem. Thanks very much to them for the invitation.
Bring on Velo-city 2017!