What's Cool In Road Cycling

Worlds de PEZ: A Rest Day In Valkenburg

It might have been a day off from racing today at the World Titles but our man Ed Hood on the roadside had no such luxuries. With interviews to conduct and a region to discover, Ed hit the ground running today with camera in hand. It’s time for another installment of Valkenburg – Roadside!

‘Jour de Repos’ they call it in le Tour – ‘rest day,’ we’d say.

Much as it would be cool to hole up in Valkenburg, watch the teams train on the circuit and drink pils in bars where they still discuss the ’79 Worlds; ‘Camenzind? Pah!’

There’s work to be done on – the folks in PEZland need to see a little of what’s going on in Limburg.

First up was to check out what the papers say; ‘The hardest 1000 metres of my life,’ says Tony Martin in Het Nieuwsblad about his ride from the red kite home – that 58 x 11 isn’t for wimps.

We were looking at our pictures from the TT again, this morning.

You can see difference in the roads as the day went on; early starter Jiyong Kang of Korea was on wet, slick pavement at the foot of the Cauberg; for Tanel Kangert of Estonia at the top of the Cauberg, the road was drying and for Albert Contador at the red kite, the road was bone dry.

We had an interview with GB time trial rider, Michael Hutchinson this morning – who rode in the Elite TT on Wednesday for Ireland – as our first assignment.

Hutchinson recently broke the British 25 mile record with a time inside 46 minutes.

Unfortunately, he rode during the worst of the weather on Wednesday with cold stinging rain on the drop to the bottom of the Cauberg and 60% of the parcours wet.

On the way back to the camper we were treated to some of that Limburg humour – a witch having totalled her broomstick into a tree.

Down in Valkenburg centre we were held up as the teams training on the course turned across our path and onto the Cauberg – tailed by local amateurs, cyclo tourists and the Maastricht bus.

A disgruntled Alberto Contador was telling one of the course officials that traffic on the course was; ‘crazy!’

Jakob Fuglsang was altogether calmer and happy to pose for a PEZ pic as we made our way out of town.

Just up from the foot of the Cauberg is the mining museum – coal and marl stone used to be mined under the Limburg hills but it’s a museum now.

Gerrie Knetemann is a famous name in the history of Netherlands cycling.

One of the stars of the country’s ‘golden age’ from the 70’s through to the 80’s; along with the likes of Jan Raas and Joop Zoetemelk, he won the world professional road race in 1978 as well as 10 Tour de France stages.

Unfortunately, he died in 2004 at just 53 years-of-age.

In Valkenburg aan de Guel there’s a bronze statue to commemorate the great man’s wins in the 1974 and 1985 Amstel Gold Race, which finishes atop the nearby Cauberg.

Our travels continued to Margraten and the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial.

On a quiet hillside looking out across the green Limburg countryside 8,301 white crosses mark the graves of American servicemen who from Florida to Hawaii who lost their lives in the Allied campaigns of 1944/5.

As well as the crosses, all of the names are inscribed on the walls which run parallel to reflecting pool. A tranquil and moving place which reminds you how lucky we are to live in the times we do.

With The Netherlands highest point being just a few kilometres along the road we headed for Vaals and the Drielandenpunt which as well as being the highest point is where the borders of Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands converge.

There’s a tower where you can get views over into Germany and what look like low hills on the horizon – are actually slag heaps from the coal mines.

The view back into the heavily wooded hills of the Ardennes in Belgium is much nicer.

The Battle of the Bulge was fought in those forests over Xmas and New Year of 1944 – where the Allies repulsed the last desperate German offensive of WW 11.

Heading back into Valkenburg via the TT parcours we came across a certain Mrs. Connie Phinney – mother of the elite TT silver medallist Taylor – out on her bike.

One wit in the camper suggested she was out looking for the five seconds which Taylor had lost – it wasn’t me, honestly.

We’d hoped to visit the big cycling exposition at the top of the Cauberg, but because there are no races today, it’s closed – ah well, maybe tomorrow?

But it did give us a chance to check out the Amstel Gold Race finish line, just past the top of the Cauberg.The Amstel is the ‘baby’ of the big classics, having first been run as recently as 1966 when Jean Stablinski of France won it.

‘Recordman’ on five wins is home boy, Jan Raas with five wins – they used to call it the ‘Amstel Gold Raas’ back then.

And that was about it, save back to the press room for words and wi-fi – and a three K forced march back to the camper. I walked in the dark last night – scary! ‘Goedenavond,’ as we say here in Limburg.

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