12/11/19

Orteliusstraat Bike Crit 2019

Words: Good Sport

Images: Ben Clement

‘The Orteliusstraat Bike Criterium 2019’ reads the flyer that was jammed into the letter box. It’s easy to spot between the pile of bills and other junk. Turns out the this sleepy and not yet gentrified street in Amsterdam has a past of producing champion cyclists as well as this famous criterium that has been around since the fifties. 

This particular race is now part of the NL Crit Series which was started back in 2015 by a few keen cyclists at Django’s Bikeshop in the neighbouring area of Haarlem. The race grew each year and now attracts riders from surrounding cycling enthusiast countries like Belgium, Denmark and Italy. 

Lining the course, people from the neighbourhood set up hot-dog stands and sell other home-baked goods for a couple-of-euro each. The odd resident showing some grump that there’s more noise than normal on a Saturday or that they couldn’t cross the barrier during a race heat. But for the most part it’s focussed and nervous riders, families looking for their lost excited children, friends drinking beer and other residents of  the neighbourhood looking slightly confused.

The course rips a 1km loop around the streets of De Baarjes and down into the famous Rembrandt Park where people are walking dogs and painting landscapes with easel and canvas. The corners are tight and most of the surface is what the rest of the city is covered in, compacted brick cobbles, which adds slight caution to each rider. 

As the Womens and Mens heats build throughout the day, the crowd swells near the finish line and first corner, hoping to catch a crash, pass or a winners sprint for the finish. Other parts of the course remain mostly empty with only a few people racing back and forth between streets to see as much of the action as possible. Down at this end of the course all you can hear are bike cranks turning and the echo of the PA system counting down the laps. 

Between the energy bars, bike rollers, residents peering from third floor apartments and some pretty quick split racing – naturally we arrive with a Women’s and Men’s winner. Both following a similar post race lap, with their hands in the air followed by a few high-fives and a smile that shows exhaustion and elation combined. Other top ten riders gather around with tired bodies but spend a few minutes congratulating each other and chatting about how the race went for them with a few, if only I had done x or x earlier. 

The Orteliusstraat Bike Crit is just like the hot-dog stand on the side of the course. Made by the locals and shared with everyone, so you know it’s good.