Riding is Life


Riders struggle against a headwind on the Eastern Scheldt Storm Barrier during an edition of Tegenwindfietsen.

Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships cancelled due to headwind

This is not a story from The Onion.

Joe Lindsey
by Joe Lindsey 02.11.2023 Photography by
NK Tegenwindfietsen
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It is with great sadness that I report that one of cycling’s finest, weirdest races, NK Tegenwindfietsen, aka the Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships, will not happen today as scheduled.

The cause? Wind.

NK Tegenwindfietsen – first held in 2013 – is like the famed surf competition Mavericks in that it can only be held in a certain set of environmental conditions. The race is held on the Oosterscheldekering (English: Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier), an 8.5 km-long bridge-slash-dam on the North Sea coast that is part of the Delta Works infrastructure that protects against sea surge flooding of low-lying Zeeland in the Netherlands. The Oosterscheldekering is the longest structure in the system.

According to the rules, because all events must have rules, the race can only be held when forecast winds will gust to 50 kph or higher (another rule: all competitors must ride Dutch-style city bikes). For this reason, the race has twice – in 2017 and 2019 – not been held due to (sad face) a lack of stormy conditions.

But this week things looked pretty spicy with the impending arrival of Storm Ciarán, with gusts to a forecast 88 kph. (An aside: we’ve long named tropical storms and hurricanes, but when did we start naming every winter storm as well? Do we expand that to tornados, cloudbursts, derechos, blizzards, outflow boundary squalls, upslopes, supercells, and every episode of Santa Anas? Also, how does Ciarán Hinds feel about this?)

But even for a headwind cycling championships there can apparently be such a thing as too much wind, and Ciarán, perhaps a little big in the ego after getting a name, is now forecast to gust well over 100 kph. That’s saying something in a country that knows from wind and how to make the most of it. Roads have been closed, nearby in France all sports events are cancelled except maybe-perhaps this weekend’s European Cyclocross Championships (stay tuned), and NK Tegenwindfietsen’s organizers have regretfully announced the event will not happen.

“We have been closely monitoring the development of storm Ciarán and unfortunately the wind has become so strong as the day has gone by that we cannot start,” they wrote in an Instagram post. (In this case, the safety concerns are as much about travel to the event as competition itself.)

That is, thankfully, not quite the end of the story. It is, after all, only early November, and if it had been held it would have been the earliest edition in the race’s short history. If you, like me, find it both entertaining and soothing to watch videos of riders swerving and wobbling as they struggle to stay upright and maintain forward motion in a block headwind, take heart. And in the meantime, Google “Tegenwindfietsen videos” and dream of future named storms.

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