Canadian Cyclist


January 28/05 3:22 am - Report #3 from Europe: Racing in Holland, Visit to Dutch Camp and Empella

Posted by Editoress on 01/28/05

Worlds C-X Trip 2005 - Report #3

Mid Week Adventures


Wendy reporting in the back of the van at 150km/hr (and getting passed like we were standing still!)

My favorite street name in Nanaimo is Bergen-op-Zoom. It’s not the prettiest street in town, I just like the way the name rolls off your tongue. When we were mapping out our trip and realized how close the town of Bergen-op-zoom was we had to go! Besides, Hoogerheide pretty much shut down after the cyclocross race and I really needed to eat….

The town seemed deserted Sunday night. We drove around trying to find a restaurant but only a few fry shops were open. Norm decided to do one more pass when we found ourselves in an older part of town. We decided to park and head towards the church (always a good landmark for the center of town). As soon as the engine was off we heard a band playing and there were people everywhere – it was like a disorganized parade with everyone dressed up but no theme. They had big white “scarves” around their necks and funky hats, necklaces and masks. It was like we were in the middle of some crazy Beetlejuice parade! Norm grabbed the video camera and we followed what we thought was a parade but it turned left and went into the bar. People were everywhere laughing and singing, playing instruments, wearing crazy outfits, throwing confetti and of course drinking beer!! Finally Corey stopped some people and asked them what the deal was.

We were in the middle of “Carnaval” a month long celebration (of what we are still not sure…). Every weekend for a month they party from 2pm until 2am. The last weekend is a 5 day long party. I guess it is big in many parts of Europe but the Bergen-op-zoomers were bragging that they had the best party of all. The curtains around their neck were their trademark (still not sure why…). They paid 20 euros and got a bunch of beer tickets that were good at almost any bar so it was one giant pub crawl. People had different bits of “flare” to their costumes. My personal favorite was a couple with necklaces made of markers but nothing seemed over the top. I had to eat so they took us to a restaurant that started with a shooter and ended with a shooter! Then we squeezed into a pub to get some video footage. It was packed (definitely not up to code!). Kids were playing in the windows, some clown-like guy was miming with cards (I think) and trumpets were playing somewhere…some ladies spied Norm & Corey immediately and started talking to us about Carnaval while she snuck a goose or two. Everyone was hammered! We stayed for a bit and then had to leave before Norm got his face licked by one crazy close-talker lady. On our way out a new group was going in with a full sized Christmas tree as their “flare”. NUTS. We asked a guy with a trombone (padded so as not to hurt anyone in the bar) to play us this years Carnaval song (apparently it changes every year) and almost lost Corey to the bar again. Kids were playing in the street trying to get cars to drive through their ribbons and as we drove through the music faded behind us.

To think that if we hadn’t made one right turn I might have found a new favorite street name in Nanaimo……


on Meeting Pim, The Empella Story and Zeddam (Site of the 2006 C-X Worlds)

We finally found Zeddam on the map. Not Zaddam or Zandam which I think are also places in the Netherlands, it took many questions and many maps. It seems that the World Champs are always in very small towns, not always on the maps. We saw that Zeddam was close to Arnham where our friend from last year, Pim the Dutch team mechanic lives so after a phone call we were off.

Pim’s great, really funny and full of good insider info on the course, tire selection and his picks to win: Richard Groonendal, but he might be bias. He also let us know that the Spookey shop was just down the way as well as the famed Empella shop. We had brought Pim a six foot Canadian flag, they celebrate the Canadians who parachuted in to Arnham during the war and his girlfriend wanted it to hang out the window during the week. Pim also spotted Norms Canadian flag touque and we knew he wanted one and we knew he needed one. Seeing him wearing it while driving the Rabobank van when we drove into St. Wendal was sooo worth it!!

We went to Zeddam first and Wendy was skeptical that we would find the course but it had only been two weeks since the Dutch champs were held there. If you’re ever in Europe and you’re looking for something always, always, always head for the church unless there is a windmill!! This was the best windmill we had seen all trip and it also lead us straight to the course. We felt like anthropologists following grooves in the sand and mud looking for directions of tire tracks and the best lines. We got some good pictures and video of next years course and headed for Erp, land of Empella.

I don’t know what I expected to find, while we’ve been here I’ve been scoping out bikes not really expecting to buy but you never know. I wondered how hard it would be to find the shop but as we pulled into town it was like Mecca at the first round-about but it was closed. Of course it was Tuesday, what isn’t closed on Tuesday? Disappointed I walked up to the window to peer in and oh ya the doors parted. Good omen one. It was dark but we walked in yelling hello, hello. Out from the back walked the owner Ad van Empel. Almost every top rider in the Netherlands and Belgium has ridden his bikes at some point. He was younger than I thought he would be and super friendly. He seemed pumped when we told him we were from Canada and we had searched him out. He offered us a coffee and was going to let us hang out with him on his day off in the shop. I didn’t see any frames just built up bikes so I asked if he had any. The first one he picked up, a 56cm, my size. Good omen two.

I couldn’t help myself, sorry Melissa, I’ll sell some bikes when I get home, please don’t sell any before then!

Then Ad offered to switch all my parts from my old dented Fuji so I could ride it. On his day off!! I couldn’t refuse letting Ad van Empel not only sell me a bike but build it as well, while we hung out, drank coffee and rooted through his warehouse of parts, frames and tires. Oh ya, and cool photo albums. Norm and Wendy brought in their bikes for Ad to check out, He liked Norm’s Brodie quite a bit except for a small tube behind the bottom bracket which he said would collect to much mud. He joked that Wendy’s Surley must have been made ten years ago because it’s steel but after weighing it he was impressed. Norm's got it down to just over 17 lbs. Not bad for a 4+ pound frame. We were late getting back to Dusseldorf and I felt really bad because our hosts Gisela and Wolfgang have been so good to us but what an experience. All and all another great day on the road.

P.S. I now also know where the name Bonfire comes from. Maybe I should wait until next report to tell you. Nah, we already have too many good stories for that. Bonfire was a 4 time Olympic champion horse from his town. I love it here!


We have left Dusseldorf and Gisela and Wolfgang behind. I am sitting, banished in the hallway of our hotel, awake-early-again. Everyone else should be up in an hour or so but I just can’t sleep later than 6am so I wait in the bathroom, hallway or closet until Wendy and Corey get up….too excited.

We drove down to St Wendel yesterday and hooked up with most of the Canadian team. There are three more members to arrive today but so far everyone is getting along well and finding their places. Greg, Peter, Wendy, Joel and Tara did a ride on the course and I think all of them crashed at least once. One of the neat things about cyclocross is that each course is SO different. This course is really-really tough. Tough combined with a few technical sections that are seeing a lot of people crash and a number of girls walking. There are some really slick, short uphills, steep downhills and fast corners.

There is one element that not everyone is prepared for or wants….SNOW. It is about -5 out and every once in a while it just starts to sprinkle. The only dry point is where the course it goes through a huge 150 meter long beer tent. Usually there is no separation between the riders and the drinkers but this time they have a massive see through wall.

We will try to take some pictures of the course and post them on Canadian Cyclist tonight as we are getting good at poaching a local wireless signal near the course.

After cruising to our hotel that is currently occupied by the team, helping with the bikes, having some dinner Corey and I headed out to find our friend Pim and the Netherlands National Team. We got lost in the snow but eventually found their hotel. They have one dinning room set up with tarps over the floor and bikes everywhere. Richard Groonendal was dropping his gear off which included 3 Colnago C4 Cross bikes not even available to the public and 28 wheels. We spied some different things on his bike including a hole drilled through the carbon seat tube and seat post to allow the rear brake cable to pass through the frame….DO NOT TRY THAT!! There were piles and piles of expensive Dougast Tires with all sorts of tread. Pim hooked us up with a few secret little mechanical items and then brought out the swag; a L/S National Team Jersey, hat and skinsuit. We are under strict orders not to show ANYONE until after worlds as the items are only for their National Team and not available to anyone outside of that.

Well people are finally starting to wake up around here so I will get off the computer and get to work.

Thanks to Frontrunners, Brodie Bikes, Helly Hansen, eNVy and of course Pim the Netherlands Mechanic.


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