The Elfstedentocht is a 200-kilometre skating race held in Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands, in the winter whenever there’s enough ice. The route links 11 Frisian cities—hence the name—and is immensely popular, with thousands of club members vying for a starting bib each year on the off-chance that the race might go ahead.
The last time it did was in 1997. But each winter, whenever the temperature drops, the anticipation begins to rise. Weather reports take up more and more time on the evening news. Ice experts all over the province are consulted. People begin canceling plans and preparing to travel north at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t seem as if there is going to be a race this year, although there’s going to be a cold snap next week—cross your fingers. But last weekend, the boys from Maserati Cycling and I took on the route on our bikes.
It was cold and misty. There were thousands of participants. There was pea soup and sugar bread waiting for us in each of the cities.
Crowds were out by the side of the road to support us.
We collected our stamps.