An impromptu battle at the hurricane-force Dutch Headwind Championships
Hank and Conor head to the Netherlands for one of the most bizarre bike races anywhere in the world, and it gets even crazier when they get there
Junior Tech Writer
The NK Tegenwindfietsen, known in English as the Dutch Headwind Championships, is a highly unconventional time trial that takes place each autumn in the Netherlands. The organisers wait for a particularly windy forecast, then invite riders to have a go riding along an 8.5km storm surge barrier facing the North Sea, into a block headwind.
There's no time trial tech here, with all riders using traditional Dutch city bikes with one gear.
For non-locals, getting a place on the start is a real challenge, but with some prior warning from an old teammate, Conor Dunne got himself and James 'Hank' Lowsley-Williams signed up, and they made their way over to the Netherlands.
Riding head first in to 140km/h winds certainly isn't everyone's idea of fun
Days before the event, the conditions were looking perfect. Traditionally, storms are bad news for sports events, but in this case, the organisers and participants were thrilled to see Storm Ciarán building up in northern Europe.
On the day, anticipation was high, and the wind was howling. But at the last moment, the organisers decided that there was in fact too much of a good thing. With gusts of over 100kph, the course was deemed unsafe, and the event was cancelled.
But it was going to take more than that to prevent Hank and Conor from riding the course for themselves. As they were getting ready to head off, they bumped into pro cyclist Laurens ten Dam and one of his teammates. Both riders were keen to give the headwind challenge a go, so just like that, a mini-race was back on.
The course for this race was an 8.5-kilometre stretch of road that traverses the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier situated near Zeeland. This exposed section of road is part of the nation's storm flooding defence system that protects the low-laying land from being submerged as 24% of all land in the Netherlands sits below sea level.
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A typically Dutch bike is a requirement for entry in to the event
Give the video a watch to see how they got on in the race. Let's just say the GCN team were put pretty firmly in their place by the pros.
To give some sense of how tough a headwind like that is, it took Hank 28 minutes to cover the 8.5km. This certainly has to be one of the craziest events that we have ever taken part in, and not one either Hank or Conor are in a particular hurry to do again.
Have you ever ridden in the Dutch headwind world champs or do you have a similar experience? We would love to hear about it in the comments below.
Junior Tech Writer
Alex writes for the GCN editorial tech with a passion for all things bike tech.