Saturday, September 14, the kick-off of the European Championships Rowingbike. The artificial island Neeltje Jans, in the Oosterschelde estuary, was the setting for the 15th edition. 63 participants from 6 countries (Belgium, Slovakia, Germany, Luxembourg, France and The
Netherlands) in these championships.
The championships consist of a criterion of 14 kilometres, a sprint over 200 metres, a time trial of one hour and a rally along 80 km. The competition is divided over two days. Apart from the racing class, there was also a touring class, in which a nice trip was made along the shores of the Oosterschelde. The tour class consisted of some twenty participants.
The first day of racing started windy and wet. As always, high speeds were achieved during the criterion. The fastest riders reach 60 km/h. The group soon breaks up due to the three front men: Menno van Blitterswijk, Vincent Bouquet (Belgium) en Ymte Sijbrandij. These three eventually ruled the battle which was settled by van Blitterswijk. Entrant Simon van Dorp, only 16 years old, performed a strong race from the rearguard along the pursuing group, reaching a well achieved fourth place. During the awards ceremony he received an extra prize for upcoming talent; well deserved.
After the criterion the 8 starting positions for the Sunday sprint finals were fought severely. The struggle went on up to the last moment to obtain a qualification.
The sprint qualification was followed by the time trial. At this part the goal is to cover as many kilometres as possible in the time span of one hour, racing across Neeltje Jans. Due to the increasing wind, this promised to be a tough race. The participants need to cover this part individually. The time trial was won by Ymte Sijbrandij. Van Blitterswijk was faced with a severe case of hunger bonk and didn’t get further than a seventh place. Because of this result the game was undecided. This promised an exciting competition for Sunday.
The next day started with an 80 km rally through the landscape of Zeeland. The race started from Roompot villa park de Banjaard and went along de Oosterscheldekering, Schouwen-Duiveland up to the lighthouse of Ouddorp where the turning point is situated. The racers and touring
participants, both following the same route, started together from behind the turning point of the rally.
Both racers and tourers, taking the same route, started together from behind a motorcycle. Always a nice sight.
After the start the participants left with at high pace, resulting in groups of riders who fought each other and the elements.
The two favourites Van Blitterswijk and Bouquet kept a close eye on each other. Eventually the rally was won by the powerful Sijbrandij. Van Blitterswijk was second and Bouquet became third.
The inventor/builder of the rowingbike and organizer of the event Derk Thijs, rode strong in the front group and got a nice fifth place.
After the rally the sprint finals took place. By then the battle was still open. Places 1, 2 and 3 were still feasible for four men and in any possible order. The air vibrated with tension.
During the several trials which were given to the finalists, the rowingbikers were jostling each other from an arduously conquered position. In the end, van Blitterswijk triumphed in a direct duel with Martin Rempt. A just and clear winner who at 48.9 km/h against the wind was leaving the rest in his wake. As a result van Blitterswijk took the first place in the overall ranking. Bouquet came second, Sijbrandij third. At the ladies Beb Thijs became first, Czech Sarka Malakova second and Lise Floris third.
Riding the rowingbike proves to be a sport for anyone: the oldest participant Theo Homan Sr., 79 years of age, youngest Jannes Matthee, 11 years, some participants with a disability with one of their legs. All participated in the battle, for all there was a place.
They who wanted to fight themselves and the elements made two beautiful tours under the Dutch skies. The heavens filled with nice fluffy clouds. Now and them whipping rain on your body, changing winds round your head, clear vistas and a tasty “Zeeuwse Bolus” during the coffee stop. It were two great days. This was the 15th European Championships in a row. The organisation has decided that this was also the last Championship with this organization team. Pity…