On 22 April, Ollands Ruigste was on the agenda. Knowing that in this 'tour' (with time measurement) there will be racing, I position myself in the first hundred metres after the start at the very front. The pace is high, not unlike what I am used to during marathon races. Around me are men like Mark Baudoin, Corne van Oorschot, Leon van der Heijden and Raoul Liebregts. Men who are not averse to a few hours of racing.

Just before the first, and at the same time last hill of the day, a rubbish dump, I ride myself into the lead. I give it a good jolt and pull the whole thing onto a long line. When I arrive at the top, I realise that I have to take it easy, despite the fact that I feel very strong. It's another 65 kilometres to the finish, with mainly wide dirt roads, ditch sides and some single tracks through the woods. No terrain for a mountain goat.

I resolve to go back a bit further on the long straights so that I am out of the wind, and to be in the lead on the single tracks in the woods. However, this is easier said than done. Several times I am too late in the lead and often enter the woods as the last or second last rider, which means I am hanging from a rubber band after every bend. A waste of energy trying to rejoin the sprints. Fortunately, my legs are strong and I manage to stay with them. A little later I am in the breakaway of 8 riders.
From a reliable source (an unnamed cycleXperience mechanic), I know that the fast boys will be serviced during this 'tour'! So I arranged that myself as well! At kilometres 45 and 52 I am handed a water bottle with some WCUP energy gels stuck to it. Just like in a real race.

After 65 km, one of the 'van Oorschot men', on a wide sandy path with tractor tracks and a headwind, increases the pace considerably. He creates a gap of about 50 metres. A second man joins him. I try to follow him, but unfortunately I am unable to catch up. My legs are still full of lactic acid from the nasty sand track we just rode over. A little later, having recovered a little, I try again but again without success. When we enter the woods, where we are a bit disturbed by the short distance riders, there are some gaps and finally I stay with two men from the earlier leading group.

In the last part of the race I am on my own for a while, but it doesn't take long before we are reunited. On the wide sandy path to the finish I ride in front and start the sprint. I manage to keep the other two behind me and finish in 6th place, 4 minutes behind the winner Leon van der Heijden. This race training on the flat was very good to work on my speed. Very different from a marathon with many altimeters. I even went a bit deeper today and suffered more than during the Hel van Groesbeek. That says it all! Fortunately, I can go back to the hills next week during the Roc d'Ardenne.

Additional info:
Ollands Ruigste is a well-organised MTB tour by former professional cyclist Gerrie van Gerwen. This year the start was in Sint-Oedenrode, close to Olland. There are 3 distances, 40, 60 and 100 kilometres consisting of single tracks, wider dirt roads and the occasional hill. On the 100 kilometres there is a time measurement.

The full results are here to be found.

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