The Rapha Continental — Hidden Europe: Holland

The Rapha Continental project began in 2007 with the clear ambition to explore the road less travelled, discovering the things you only find out when cycling the open road. That sense of camaraderie which comes from sharing the effort and the adventure of meeting new places and people along the way has been the key motivation for a string of beautiful rides through the years. Last year it brought a group of riders to the Dutch shoreside called Hoek van Holland, in weather conditions making it a rather typical ride for our little country. Wind, rain, followed by some sun and always those returning threatening packs of grey clouds. Typical Dutch circumstances, and therefore contrary to many other countries, stopping very few Dutchmen and -woman from actually getting on a bicycle when it is needed. This culture of dealing with nature despite its hardships was also translated to a beautiful iconic poem written in 1936 by Hendrik Marsman named  ‘Remembrance of Holland,’ which inspired the whole feel of the The Rapha Continental — Hidden Europe: Holland, resulting in a beautiful film by  e r t z u i ° film serving the spectator a ride ones loves to hate.

Thinking about Holland, I see broad rivers moving slowly through endless lowlands, rows of unthinkably thin poplars standing as high plumes one above the other; and sunken within wonderful space, farm houses scattered throughout the land, clusters of trees, villages, cropped towers, churches and elms in one great association. The air hangs low and the sun is slowly muffled in a grey mottled fog, and in the many provinces the voice of the water, with its eternal calamities, is feared and heard.

— Hendrik Marsman

The riders on their battle against the Dutch wind:

“That was the story of our ride, in short, although I have to admit that the wind was in our favour for parts of the day. It followed us, whipping the waves as they came in along the coast, reminding us of the force that we had to fight against. We stopped for onion soup more times than I can remember. The pubs and cafés make it in giant vats, and serve it with lumps of Gouda and fresh bread. We’d rush inside, trembling, and ask for onion soup without even looking at the menu.”

“It rained everyday. I don’t mind the rain, I happily ride in it, but this rain was strong, cold, and brought the visibility down to just a couple of metres. It was a storm, a real storm.
The wind picked up grains of sand and blasted them through the air, and when this touched your skin it was painful, really painful. Any exposed bit of skin became raw and sore. We were riding 160km per day, long days made longer by the wind, and you’d finish the day with salt and sand on every inch of you.”

“There’s a beauty in riding in such a windy, flat country. They are invisible mountains, where the gradient is measured by the wrinkles and waves on the water, and the diagonal positioning of the branches on the trees. You come around a corner into a wall of wind, almost coming to a stop – your only choice is to sit in and ‘stoemp’ up these invisible hills.”

Photography by Frank van der Sman.

For more information see here.