All across the Netherlands by bike
Last week Jason Schreurs (24), a master’s student in biomedical sciences, participated in the Race around the Netherlands. In 4 days, 13 hours and 28 minutes, Schreurs saw the entire country on his racing bike. His prize? The honour and an experience richer.
Why spend four days on a bicycle?
‘I’ve always enjoyed long-distance cycling. I’ve biked from Amsterdam to Paris three times, so now I was looking for a new challenge. When I heard about the Race around the Netherlands, I first wondered if I could do it. You have to bike about 1600 km in four days; that’s more kilometres than the cyclists in the Tour de France bike daily. But under the motto of “you never know until you try”, I decided to register.’
You finished in fourth place, quite an achievement! Would you do things differently if you did it again?
‘Absolutely. I made use of Vrienden op de Fiets, an organisation that connects cyclists and walkers with hospitable people who offer a bed for the night. I slept somewhere different every night. You arrive late and leave early, but all my hosts were always curious and eager for a chat. If you’re tired and irritable after a full day of biking, you don’t always feel like being social. And that’s difficult because you don’t want to appear ungrateful. If I did it again, I’d take my own gear and sleep outdoors. You’re freer to come and go as you please. That way I might even improve my time, too.’
Can you combine a race like this with being a student?
‘In my case, I’d have to say: not really. If you’re attending lectures, I think it might be easier, but I’m doing an internship. Travelling from Nijmegen to Amsterdam every day is hard to combine with preparing for a race like this – there just wasn’t much time to train. My girlfriend lives in Utrecht, so sometimes I biked to my internship from Amsterdam to Utrecht and vice versa, but I would rather have trained more. In the weeks prior to the race, my life consisted only of my internship, biking and sleeping, which was really tough.’
Did the race go smoothly?
‘Not completely. At one point, I really panicked. My navigation system stopped working in Zeeland. It was almost midnight, completely dark and I didn’t know where my host’s address was. And then my telephone went dead as well. The surroundings were completely unfamiliar, and suddenly I heard some noise in the shrubbery… I was really scared. But fortunately, it turned out to be another participant; he was sleeping on the beach and he’d heard me. He was able to help me with directions. I finally did arrive at my address for the night but it made for a pretty tense moment.’