As spring arrives in the northern hemisphere, excitement among cyclists begins to build with the promise of longer days and warmer temperatures.
In UCI Bike Region Drenthe, the start of the 2019 cycling season was celebrated with a week- long cycling party between 11 and 17 March. The Op Fietse door Drenthe, or ‘On bikes through Drenthe’ week saw activities for families, businesses and schools take place alongside elite events and mass participation races.
A cycling province
Awarded the UCI Bike Region label in 2016, Drenthe is situated in the north-east of the Netherlands. A largely rural province known for its natural beauty, Drenthe’s towns, villages, woodland and heathland are connected by a cycle track network
that allows safe and easy travel by bike. In 2016, 29% of all trips across the province were made by bike, and a target is in place to reach 34.8% by 2020.
With such a strong cycling culture already in place, there was high engagement across the region during the week-long programme of cycling events. The UCI Cycling for All team and UCI Management Committee member, Harald Tiedemann Hansen travelled to Drenthe to join in the final activities of the week. Mr Hansen took part in medal ceremonies for several mass participation and elite cycling events held throughout the weekend.
Cycling’s most rubbish climb?
As the Drentse 8 van Westerveld (women’s 1.2 race) got underway on Friday afternoon, special guests from across the Netherlands gathered at the top of the VAMBerg or Col du VAM to officially open a complex of cycling tracks on an old landfill site. Mr Hansen joined in the ceremony alongside the Dutch Minister for Medical Care (responsible for sport) Bruno Bruins, Attero CEO Paul Ganzeboom, Drenthe’s Deputies Henk Brink and Henk Jumelet, and Anique Snijders, Alderman for Central Drenthe.
Called by some ‘the most rubbish climb in cycling’ the complex saw cooperation between the region and waste management company Attero to develop the paths - including a cobbled section near the summit - and a mountain bike course at the base.
The VAMberg features in several races, such as the Women’s WorldTour Ronde van Drenthe. In a largely flat part of the world, the creation of this man-made hill where the summit reaches 4800cms provides a focal point for cycling in Drenthe and beyond.
After the name plates for different streets and the central square were unveiled, the special guests and members of the public walked down the VAM mountain to take part in a medal ceremony for the winners of the VAM Challenge. On this opening day, a competition was held to crown the King and Queen of the VAMberg, with ascents timed throughout the day.
Big night out at the Bike Region Party
Heavy downpours on Saturday couldn’t deter the enthusiasm for the mass participation ride across Drenthe. Mr Hansen opened the ride, cycling alongside local and visiting cyclists.
In the evening a gala was hosted celebrating 60 years of the Ronde van Drenthe and including official team presentations for the 2019 edition. After the gala, the night moved straight into a special UCI Bike Region Label party. Celebrating two years of this prestigious label, the evening included special cycling stories from across the region and saw the crowning of Drenthe’s cyclists of the year.
Ronde van Drenthe - an iconic edition
On Sunday, the week came to a close with the Women’s WorldTour Ronde van Drenthe - part of the 2019 UCI Women’s World Tour – which saw the Elite Women’s peloton race through Drenthe’s villages and rural roads, across cobbled
sections, and over the VAMBerg. A men’s 1.HC event, Raonde van Drenthe, was also organised.
The remarkable efforts and projects taking place in Drenthe to promote cycling across the region continue under the Op Fietse Drenthe platform. With the opening of the
VAMberg to all cyclists, the prospects for cycling have been further strengthened. Plans are advancing to develop more cycling tracks across neighbouring landfill sites.
Later this year, between 11 and 17 September, the 2019 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships will be hosted in Drenthe’s largest city, Emmen. The cycling season has begun in spectacular style, and we can look forward to a spring and summer of cycling for all activities across this inspiring UCI Bike Region in the lead up to Emmen 2019.