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A Racing Holiday in the Netherlands
by Mims Rogers
United States skater Mims Rogers of the Atlanta Peachtree Road Rollers skating
club in Atlanta talks about
night skating in Amsterdam and Haarlem,
skating in Vondel Park, and competing in his first Dutch
inline skating race in Alem.
A USA SKATER'S DUTCH RACING HOLIDAY
by Mims Rogers
The Haarlem Night Skate
Copyright © Mims Rogers
My wife, Jenny and I were planning a vacation, and
we decided to go on a trip to Europe.
Through our local skate club, the
Atlanta Peachtree Road Rollers,
we heard that Holland
(The Netherlands) was a great place to skate and that there
would be many skaters to have fun with. Amsterdam, like
many other major European cities, has a large Friday
Night Skate. We started researching the Holland skating scene
online and found there was a competitive racing series
and the championship race was going on the weekend we
would be there. I thought, "Why not race?"
Making Plans for the Trip
I sent email to the race organizers, asking how to enter the race
and where it was happening.
The people at
SkateBond.nl were very
helpful, informing me that all I had to do was go to the
Village of Alem and pay 15 Euros to enter.
After much research, we determined that if we were going to
make the race, we were going to have to "wing" it. I was
beginning to think that this would be a lesson in not telling
a lot of folks that I was going overseas to a race when
I really had no idea what I was doing!
Packing for the Trip
Jenny and I packed up and were on our way to Europe. I took
both my recreational and racing skates, just in case we found
Alem, while Jenny only took her four-wheelers. We carried our
TransPacks (with the skates exposed) through the airport and
one large-wheeled suitcase. We got a lot of looks from fellow
travelers, but we felt very proud of where we were going and
what we were going to do (or maybe it was just my stinky skates
that were getting their attention)! After a long flight,
we settled in the hotel and looked forward to having a
nice vacation in Amsterdam.
Skating Vondel Park in Amsterdam
The next day, we walked to
Vondel Park, where we were told
all of the skaters in the city hung out. We didn't see much
else other than a lot people walking and a ton of bicycles.
It wasn't long before we saw two speed skaters who appeared
to be skating laps. Luckily, they took a break near us and we
approached them. I asked the girl, "Do you speak English?" She
replied with a confident, "Of course!" I said that we were
skaters and were interested in the Friday night skate and the
race on Saturday. The skaters, Dorien and Andre seemed surprised
that we knew about the race, but said that they were going to
the race as well. We told them about our lack of plans to get
to the race and they seemed a little unsure about how they were
getting there, too. Then they mentioned that later on there was
a night skate going in Haarlem, the next city over and that we
should go. We enthusiastically said we would love to attend and
got directions to Haarlem.
Copyright © Mims Rogers
Skating in the City of Haarlem
Haarlem is the industrial center for the northern part of
yet the city is very old and quaint. We showed up for
Haarlem Night Skate
and saw our new
friends almost immediately. Nearly 300 people attended and we all
skated for over an hour and a half. The route had great roads and
wonderful views of the city at dusk. The skate ended at a skater
pub that was packed, yet welcoming. This is where we met Dorienís
boyfriend, Erik. Erik introduced himself just as we were leaving
and said that he was working on a way for us to get to Alem for the
race. How cool! He also invited us back to Vondel Park the next day
for some training laps. Jenny and I made it back to the hotel tired,
but excited about our trip so far.
Training With Friends in Vondel Park
On Thursday afternoon, we met Erik and Dorien at the park. Both
are sponsored by the Italian skate company, Roces (which we later
learned meant "roaches", as in cockroaches, the fastest land-creeping
insect on earth). They were decked out in Roces casual gear and custom
speed skates, or "skeelers", as they're known by the Dutch. After a
brief chat, we all took off to rip around Amsterdamís
most famous park.
About Dutch Skaters
Allow me to describe Dutch people a little bit. The men are tall.
The women are tall. Those tall men and women are strong. Most of
them have been ice-skating since they were children. In the summer,
they skate on inlines and in the winter they all look forward to
the "Eleven City Tour", which is a long and famous ice skate along
the inland canals. Holland has the most competitive inline race
series in Europe, and it is rare and intimidating for the non-Dutch
to compete in these races. What I'm getting at is the Dutch are
FAST on skates. Anyway, when we got going, it was soon very clear
that we weren't in Atlanta anymore with Atlanta skaters! Erik is
an up-and-comer in the Dutch racing series and was looking to
advance to the A-category, with the pros. Dorien was quite fast,
as well, but was a little more gracious about it! The training
laps ended up being a tongue-dragging drop-fest. As a consolation,
Erik and Dorien helped us order our dinner from an all-Dutch
menu in a restaurant in Vondel Park.
The Amsterdam Friday Night Skate
The next night was the
Amsterdam Friday Night Skate. Erik led!
450-500 skaters attended the two-hour skate through parts of
Amsterdam that a regular tourist would never see. We glided down
bike paths and through neighborhood streets as well as busy,
tram track-loaded city streets. Erik took us on a fantastic
route and gave us a map of the route as a souvenir. The evening
ended at a skater-favorite outdoor restaurant/pub in Vondel Park
where all of the staff wore skate t-shirts. This is where Erik
and Dorien told us that they had found a ride for us to the race
the next day.
Copyright © Mims Rogers
On the day of the race, Erik and Dorien met us at our hotel
and we were off to meet more skaters for the race. We all
gathered at their friend Robertís apartment and hopped into
two small cars and off we went. After and hour and a half,
we arrived in the village of Alem. It was adorned in banners,
scaffolding and plenty of spectators. The media had trucks and
loud speakers all about.
The race route was scheduled for eight laps (40km) around
the village, on the dike that surrounded it. This race was
organized into A, B, C, Dames (women) and Veteran classes.
I paid my 15 Euros and got my number. C-class, which I entered,
was one of the first races, starting one minute after the
veteran men. The loud speakers were telling us in Dutch to
get ready, then a bang from the starting pistol and we were
off! I stuck with the lead pack for about half of a lap,
right behind all 6'5" of Andre, our friend. And then I
was dropped and all alone in the famous and brutal Dutch
headwind that was on the backside of the loop. I had brief
encounters with other skaters that were dropping back,
but I spent most of my time in a womenís pack, that
started one minute behind us. They welcomed me in just
like all of the other nice people in Holland had.
After my race was over, a ceremony was held for the Dutch
national team who had won the silver at the World Championship
race the week before. Then the A and B class racers took
the line. Diego Betancour, a Colombian, was one of the
stars who attended, as well as other big-legged Dutch skaters.
We watched these amazing athletes from different parts of the
loop and filmed a tight corner that was positioned just a few
yards in front of the start/finish line, which made for some
exciting passing footage. Shaun Thompson, an Australian won the
race, edging out Cedric Michaud, a Frenchman. How did they find
this tiny village?
My results? I stunk. I did miserably compared to all of the
skaters crossing the finish line. I am more of a distance skater,
A2A-style, with endurance, not speed, on my side. I was just
getting warmed up when it was over! But it was a race and I
competed. I can proudly say that I have raced in Europe.
We later ended up at Robertís apartment to celebrate Erikís
9th place finish in the B-class race. It was enough to advance
him into the A-class! He was very excited and made sure we
enjoyed a feast, Dutch-style: everyone had their own anchovy
and tuna pizza!
If you are planning a trip to Europe, be sure to take your
skates to Holland. Most of the Dutch speak English and are
very friendly. The night skates are a great way to meet
people and enjoy the sights. Unless you are a world-class
racer, be sure you know how to accept massive defeat if
you plan to race!
Author Mims Rogers
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