Guest post by ATAC member Peter Hope.
The following is a race report from earlier in May at the Geleen outdoor Velodrome, in Laandgraf, which took place on May 3rd.
A phone call from my mate Tjarco came in in April. “Hey dude. There is a derny race. You are coming. I have told them. It’s all arranged”. Me: “ah, but, well, um, it’s, well, huh?” Tjarco: “Ok good, then you’re in”. Click.
I wasn’t gonna be coerced, though. Oh no. If I was gonna race, then so too was some other newbie sucker. So, another phone call: “Yo, Julio. Guess what, we’ve been invited to race in a super prestigious derny race. Once in a life time. You can’t say no. It’s all sorted”. Notice how I didn’t lie once in any of that?!
Derny racing is to cycling as curling is to winter sports. And to extend the dubious analogy beyond what’s right or reasonable, the derny is the curling broom and the rider is the stone. A stone to be moved, manipulated, goaded, encouraged, but, mostly, smashed at the business end of the race.
And so, as two newbies to this ancient and curious art form of racing, Iglesias, aka Julio, and myself set off for an experience of wonderment on the outdoor concrete velodrome.
We do the first race. An ‘exhibition’, to showcase the sport and to show off the main draw card for the day – Tour de France yellow jersey holder and veteran racer, Gert Jacobs. We line up with our allocated derny rider and the rules of the race are set out. Which were simple. The ‘chief’ derny rider says, “ok. This is fixed. Gert wins. He is second (pointing at me), and he continues on, proceeding to dictate the placings. And off we go. It’s fun. Fast. Terrifying. And the race is run. Sure enough. Gert wins and I get a deserved second place. I was panting and everything.
As we warm down I try to make friends with my derny rider. After all, I might get him again in the serious racing and I want to bond. I make some small talk. I ask him for feedback and pointers. “The good riders rub the fender” he says, referring to the rear fender of the derny covering the tyre and pointing at the spot where the paint has been rubbed down to the polished metal. “You have some work to do”. And with that, the classic Dutch coaching session was over.
And then it was on to the serious stuff. Tjarco wins his heat, by a country mile. An effortless elixir of high cadence pedaling, 2-stroke derny drone and carbon race rims rejoicing at the 55km/hr pace.
I’m in the next heat. Not so great. I get the derny rider who seems totally unhappy to be there. Or is it that she’s just unhappy she got me? Either way, we sit at the back of the pack, lap after lap, like shy kids at the school dance. I get frustrated. I yell out “Hup! Hup!” And motion with my head to go. Giddy up! She opens the gas. And drops me. Instantly. She looks back. A disdainful display of disappointment. I lasted 30 seconds. She eases the throttle back until I’m on to the fender. We eventually whimper home in 5th place. Pathetic. I feel a little bit hard done by. She was hardly a great first date.
Next up was the little train which could. New bike, new wheels, new helmet (5 watts saved right there baby!) — a veritable red but very aero peacock preening his feathers — or should I say skin suit? Julio seemed to take to this most curious and archaic form of racing like a 6 year old to a games console. And he makes it. Into the top 4 to battle it out in one of the finals.
Lap after lap the heats are run and then it’s to the finals. Inexplicably, I somehow get a finals birth. But it was rather forgetful. Another fifth. What a disappointment.
Tjarco goes into the ‘A’ final. The competition is tough, the racing leans are hotly contested. He goes to the front. His strategy is simple. “Let them chase and then they die”. It seems to be working, but in the last two laps a pretender appears. He comes around Tjarco like a slow mo knockout punch and takes it by half a bike length on the line. Tjarco’s pissed. That was not the plan. But second is nothing to scoff at in this bizarre world.
And then it’s to the last final for the day and our very own Julio is lined up. Off they go. He sits at the back for a bit, then moves mid pack. And then when the business gets started there he is, breaking out the front of the pack. He’s in the clear. We count down the laps and there he is, still out front as the bell tolls for the final assault. But wait. Some geezer is coming, and fast. His derny rider is buzzing the 98cc engine for all it’s worth. It’s close! It’s close. But, YES! Julio by a length. He’s a winner! He’s all smiles as I collect the money from the old fellas in the beer tent (only kidding, but he was long odds and would have paid out handsomely).
The champagne and podiums done, it’s a long drive back to ‘Dam with the flowers.
Julio has always professed road racing his wife and cyclocross his mistress… But I suspect there’s a new pretty thang attracting his attention now. The CX bike has been racked for the summer. Maybe forever? There is a another, stranger, more curious and vintage glint in the eye.