THE HAGUE (AFP) – The hardy athletes of the annual Dutch “headwind cycle championships” race have finally met their match, as organisers said Storm Ciaran’s gale-force winds was too much even for their pedal power.
Every year, competitors battle against head-on gusts over the 8.5-kilometre (km) Oosterscheldekering storm surge barrier in the western Netherlands, riding old-fashioned bikes with no gears and back-pedal brakes.
The championships only take place if the wind registers more than a moderate gale seven on the Beaufort Scale up to 61kph.
But Storm Ciaran’s winds have proved a different prospect altogether as it lashes northern Europe with winds registered near 200kph hour in France.
“Unfortunately the wind has become so strong as the day has gone on that we cannot start. The safety of everyone is the main priority,” organisers said in a statement.
“We made this decision with pain in our hearts.”
Organiser Robrecht Stoekenbroek told local news agency ANP there were “many disappointed faces” among the 300 or so participants when he was forced to call it off, but “also a lot of understanding”.
“Unpredictability is part of headwind racing. Now things have turned out differently to how we planned but we shouldn’t just sit around looking miserable,” he said in characteristically no-nonsense Dutch fashion.
He said the race would take place as soon as the storm has passed, but with winds still strong enough to challenge the riders.
The race, which attracts everyone from casual cyclists to former Olympians, has taken place eight times.
No one has yet bettered the course record set in the first edition in 2013 by Bart Brentjens, who won the cross-country mountain-bike Gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
He covered the 8.5km course in 17 minutes and 51 seconds.