Europese Kampioenschappen 2005

Derk Thijs wins 7th EC Rowingbike

Helaas, alleen in het Engels

KAMPERLAND (Netherlands) – Rowingbike designer, sports pioneer, athlete and organiser Derk Thijs won Sunday the 7th European Championships Rowingbike. The title went for the third time to the builder and inventor of the two-wheeler which is propelled by a rowing movement. The former seven-time world champion windsurfing did win this year’s EC by winning both the criterium and the long distance race.Thijs won the tournament too in 1999 and 2002.

No famous rowers this year at the European battle for the title, In 2004 two time world champion Nico Rienks gave Ymte Sijbrandij (picture) a hard time in the sprint. In that year Derk Thijs proved to be in good shape too, he took the first place in the long distance race. But when starting the criterium Thys los valuable minutes because his shoes didn’t click properly in the pedals and because his cable derailed because of clumsy shifting.

Ymte Sijbrandij

Ymte Sijbrandij

No problem for Thijs this year. “He just wants to win his own party”, one of his rivals said after the first racing day. But apart from the long distance race Thijs only managed to win the criterium along 14 km. During the sprint he wasn’t the fastest and during the one hour race he was boldly defeated by Sijbrandij. “He took off like a mad man. I couldn’t even see him anymore at a certain point”, Thijs said with some astonishment.

During the second day the road race along 80 km was spectaculair. Immediately after the start of the race a first group was formed by the fastest guys. Thijs was present too. Upcoming athlete Martijn Mateman was able to keep up with the experienced rowingbikers, just like rugbyinternational Arno Seijbel. Together with Theo Homan (EC 2001) and Sijbrandij (EC 2003 and 2004) they raced away from the group, which fell apart shortly after. The lead on the stormvloedkering through the Oosterschelde was never given back during previous EC’s. The light tailwind added to even higher speeds, escaping was impossible.

Derk Thijs

Derk Thijs

Along the Brouwersdam it went. Burgh-Haamstede and Ellemeet passed by. Along Schouwen-Duiveland to Goeree Overflakkee up to the turning point in the village Ouddorp. The first group made a stop of one minute, this year it wasn’t obligatory for the first time to stop halfway the race.

Other than rowers on water, riding rowers can see where they’re going. The races of the EC Rowingbike have more of the nature of a racing bike race than a regatta. In a rowboat an explosion of force follow directly after placing the paddles in the water. The row movement on the bike looks more graceful and placid. The rowingbiker seems to go effortless. Directly prior to each stroke the rider needs to bend from the seat with the back. Arms and legs are connected through a cable. The steel wire, on the newest version a strong synthetic cable, transfers the force via the bow sprit and frictionless hub to the rear wheel. The conical shape of the snek makes sure that as arm and legs can produce more and more power -towards the end of each stroke- automatically the cable rolls off a larger diameter of the snek. Where the boat feels the resistance of the water, the rowingbike zooms along the road between two strokes.

Much rowingbikers have a slight sportive oddness. A participant from Groningen, 350 km to the north, always comes by rowingbike to the event. Another one rode all the way to Tibet. Thijs did the Tour de France, three weeks before the start of the official event. With an average of 7, 8 km/h Thijs crawled up the French Alpes in 2001. During the most steep metres the speed after each stroke decreased sometimes to 2 km/h. The rowingbike may be slow on extreme ascents, but it’s very fast in the flat polder landscapes of the Netherlands. Lying on the rowingbike, using legs, arms and back the two-wheeler is a fast means of transportation. In 1998 Thijs did Paris-Amsterdam within 14 hours. Double Olympic rowchampion Ronald Florijn, nowadays quite a fanatic rowingbiker, was after his first ride amazed about the distance one stoke brought him.

Trying to escape during the way back of the long distance race was near suicide, considering the headwind. The speed of the first group became variable. One moment it went with 50 km/h, another less than 30. After 60 km an overtaking attempt could have been successful, but the group didn’t undertake anything against the leaders. “Ymte did try to escape a couple of times. And when he goes, he’s going fast”, Thijs said.

The last kilometres Homan tried to escape several times, but was overtaken every time. One kilometre before the finish Homan escaped again, looking over his shoulder shouting to Thijs and Sijbrandij: “Are you guys coming or what?” They didn’t come, the group stayed together. Sijbrandij was first in the group, Thijs and Homan following directly behind him. Short before the finish Thijs and Homan passed Sijbrandij and Thijs passed the finish first. Homan second, the well know recumbent rider and former European Champion Rowingbike Sijbrandij passed fifth. It took the first group just a bit more than one second to finish. “He did smart this year. The rode less in front than normal. Sprinting is just not his strongest quality. As long as you can stay in somebody’s wheel, you will not loose him”, according to winner Thijs. “I would have loved to win this race”, Homan confessed, making it to the fourth place in the final placing. “But alone you will not make it. You need two man, otherwise you’ll be overtaken again during an escape from the group. ” In 2007 the rower wants to participate again in the 1200 km non-stop race. Thijs would have preferred another winner than himself, since the differences were so small. Thijs: “Guys, thanks for the opposition.”

Report and photos by Sybrand Treffers