#MySoloRide - Carlijn Kerdijk. The Amstel Gold
Don’t get me wrong, I love riding with others, but solo rides are the rides where I am truly excited about everything that life throws at me.
Riding on your own means you don’t have to worry about being too slow, that you can take in your surroundings without worrying you roll into a mate who just slowed down in front of you and most of all make the ride your personal achievement. I have done a fair bit of crazy solo rides, challenging myself to make a new route that discovered new areas and just go out there even though it is probably going to be a complete stitch-up.
My most memorable solo ride must be riding the 160km granfondo at theAmstel Gold race back in 2018.The Amstel Gold race, you probably know this race as one of the Dutch classics ridden each year in April by the pro’s.
What you might not know is that the event organisers organise a ride for mere mortals like us on the race course the day prior. I tried to sign up for the 160km ride during this gran fondo halfway through 2017 when I had locked-in a trip to my home country. It was a bit of a struggle to get an entry as they sold out within hours, but an email with something along the lines of ‘I’m an event organiser and love to see how you do this event, worked with the Dutch event manager’. I got an entry in the end. I didn’t really think about this event after this as I had a bigger event to train towards - Taupo Half Ironman in the first weekend of March 2018. Unfortunately, I got pretty damn sick and starting a half Ironman in March never happened. My trip to Holland was timed perfectly and against all advice from family, friends and maybe also a doctor - my bike came with me to the other side of the world. So at the end of March I travelled to my hometown of Delft in the Netherlands. I had only been back on a bike for three weeks, ridden one long ride of over 100km and my fitness was still near zero. This meant that when the weekend of the Amstel Gold race came around, I had no other option than to go into this with no expectation. The build up to the Saturday morning race was amazing. My parents, siblings, aunt, uncle, three cousins and some boyfriends/girlfriends all travelled 2 hours to the South of Holland on Friday to stay in an AirBnB for the weekend. No one else was going to ride their bike, but they were all excited to see me finish the race.
On Friday I picked up my bib (representing Parklife CC!) and went for a solo spin around the start of the course and was amazed by the hillyness of the cobbled streets already. I remember thinking to myself ‘Holland is pancake flat, but now I wonder if maybe that 2000m elevation for the 160km course is actually true’.The morning of the race, I felt excited. It was cold, but that I had expected from the weather inHolland. After putting on many layers of clothing (but not my "beenstukkies" _...ed that's dutch for leg warmers), eating a smallDutch breakfast (toast with peanut butter and hagelslag) and put plenty of snacks in my back pockets (wrapped up ontbijtkoek), I closed the door of the AirBnb without waking up any of the family members.
A few of the family had promised me that they would come see me about 70km into the race and see me cross the finish line. I was very excited about that as it was the first time my family were going to be there to see me finish a big ride.Arriving at the start of the event I was a bit baffled, there was no MC yelling in a mic, no massive crowds waiting to start their ride and no spectators. Riders just rode under the start gantry and started their ride. This was nothing like I’d experienced in Australia. Thankfully I remembered to press start on my bike computer when passing the start line and thought ‘Well, 160km to go now and I am not nearly fit enough for it, but let’s try to have some fun’.The first 50km kind of went by so fast, with only two small ‘hills’ to get over and kilometers of Dutch forest to whizz through. I remember having one short conversation with a group of Italians, who told me they had done the 240km for the last four years. When I pointed out that they just missed the turn off for that course, they shook their shoulders and said it was okay as they were just out here for fun. As I would realise by the end of the ride, this was kind of the general vibe of the day amongst the riders I exchanged words with. It made me smile and appreciate that others also just ride their bikes in these kind of events for fun, to enjoy the company of others or just to prove something to themselves. It was such a difference from other events I had participated in, like a B2B where Mr Coleman is screaming that ‘we have to work together or a Bowral Classic where you lose sight of the bunch as soon as the road goes up half a percent. In those first 50km, I had a smile on my face that even the cold couldn’t get rid of.
My head was empty, I wasn’t in a hurry to finish or swearing to myself that I wished I trained harder. Those first 50km I enjoyed just feeling alive, being grateful to have recovered from a crazy illness and realising I was riding my bike in Holland. It set the tone for the day to follow.At the first rest stop, I read a message in my family WhatApp group that my brother had booked us a brewery tour at 2pm. So I cheerfully messaged back: “I’ll try to ride a bit faster so I’mfinished in time.’ A quick Dutch snack from the full buffet style tables set-up at the rest stop and Igot back on the bike, only to stop about 20 km later when I spotted my entire family along the route. They all had gotten out to see me and it meant so much to me! I gave my sister a hug,took another bite of a snack and passed them some clothing I know I wouldn't need anymore as there were many, many hills to come. They surely would warm me up and leaving any weight behind at the bottom of these would be much appreciated.
That middle bit of the ride was just a blur. So many sharp punchy hills and so many kilometers of battling the Dutch wind as there were no groups to sit on. I don’t think I talked to anyone between the first aid station and the last 10km, but I enjoyed every moment of it. Despite all the hills that I hate, this part of the ride surely made me fall back in love with riding after the triathlon training and the illness. About 130km into the ride I got to the bottom of the Keutenberg (look that one up) and saw that Red Devil man you see jumping up and down on tv. I remember thinking ‘Yeah, this means we're at the bottom of a crazy hill and it is not going to be pretty’ The sticker on my top tube confirmed me that there was a max of 16% gradient in this climb. Halfway up I remember this lady saying ‘Girlpower’, right at the moment I was thinking ‘Maybethis is the day I have to get off my bike and walk’ You can guess what happened, there was no way I was getting off that bike. The things your body can do when you switch your mind to positive thinking are crazy.
The last bit of the ride was through the small towns and up to the top of the Cauberg for the finish. I was looking around for my family, but did not spot them anywhere near the finish line.So after crossing the line I figured I must have missed them yelling out to me. But when I pulled out my phone I realised I had finished a fair bit earlier than I had anticipated. Opening our familyWhatsApp group I messaged: “I just finished” and they were not happy with me. They missed it!When they made it to me 10min later, their hugs were sweet and their stories of why they werelate were the funniest. This end to the ride and the brewery tour we did later that day, makes this solo ride still my most memorable, and special one to date.
- Distance: 164.23km
- Ride Time: 6:25:21
- Elevation: 1,951m
- Average Power: 109W (Max 574W)
- Average Speed: 25.6km/h (Max 55.4km/h)
- Average Heart Rate: 149bpm (Max 179bpm)
- Calories: 2,820Average
- Temperature: 11 °C
- Bike: Cervelo S3 with Black Inc Fifty Wheels
- More Details: https://www.strava.com/activities/1507744465
Message from me to Nash on Training Peaks:“Oh wow, I loved this race. It was hilly and very, very steep at times (F the Keutenberg). Only had a group to sit on for the first 40km, then I was mainly riding alone and found a wheel every now and then for a couple minutes. My mindset made the big difference, I didn’t feel any pressure to go fast or keep up with people.Surprised myself (and the whole family) and was faster than I expected. ��If this was my 5 week of training fitness, then I am very excited to get back into proper training and surprise myself even more.”