Hungarian Day in The Netherlans (prologue)

Last year during the BIG meeting in Oberstdorf I met Gábor Kreicsi from Hungary and his friends: Gábor Vince (nicknamed Somi) and István Ispán (nicknamed Strongman). Nice guys who we cycled up the Hochtannbergpaß with in the pouring rain. Hmm, was this an Omen? Read on and you will see what I mean. It was nice to meet these guys and Gábor kept referring to me as Boss. Boss? I am not the Boss of the BIG challenge? I indicated he was the Boss! The Boss of the Hungarian team, as he did all of the talking due to the fact that Somi and Strongman do not speak English. So he changed Boss into "Sir Captain" when he talked to me. A title that is yet again not correct but that I carry with pride as it is given to me by Gábor: the Boss of the Hungarian team. At some stage I received an email from him with the question if I could help out to find accommodation for them in the Netherlands as they were planning to come over to cycle the Dutch BIGs and some Belgium ones too. I checked out if there were any youth hostals that would fit their needs as they "demanded" accommodation that looks nice and is not too expensive (similar to the quote from Monty Python's Holy Grail but then it was a Shrubbery). And law and behold there was a StayOkay Youth Hostell located in Maastricht! So when we were staying with our daughter Marloes, who lives in Maastricht, we dropped by to see where it was located and if it was OK for the Hungarian team. I was even allowed to see a room so I could see where my friends would stay. The room was quite OK and had a private bathroom. And the location of the youth hostell was superb as it was located on the banks of the river Maas (Meuse in English). So in case the weather would be OK they could sit outside on the terrace and enjoy the riverview. Hence I mailed the price and details to Gábor and as they were interested I booked a 4 person room for the 3 of them. They would pay a little extra to have the room for just the 3 of them but Gábor indicated that was OK for them. Deal!

Some time later I again got a mail with a request to find out if there where any trains from Maastricht to Belgium or vice versa and with the mail an ambitious cycling plan came along that explained the reason for this question. It seemed the Hungarian team did not only wanted to cycle all BIGs in Limburg in one day but they wanted to extend the trip so it would include some BIGs in northern Belgium too. Hence they would require a train to get back at the end of their cyling trip to Maastricht. So I used Google and found out that there was indeed a train that they could take from Pepinster to Maastricht. With a few emails back and forth I got the confirmation that the bikes could be taken on the train and I also knew the price so I could inform Gábor about that.

Then again an email from Gábor asking if they could come with 4 persons. No problem, I just sent an email to the youth hostell and asked them to change the reservation and to confirm this. And that was not the end of story as Gábor sent me a new email asking if there would be room for 5 Hungarians even. I checked and asked for the price. This was still possible and so the reservation changed again!

In the mean time I had also checked for Gábor where he could go to church and where he could park the car as the church I located for him was in Nijmegen and not in Groesbeek. Now who is the Boss here? It's definitely Gábor who is managing his Belgium/Dutch trip for his team ;-)

I had asked my BIG cycling friend Roland Schuyer if he was also interested in coming along and I was happy when I heard he would join us this day. My plan was to cycle the same route as we had done with the 6 Italians in April. I liked this route which takes you along the great rivers and through the typical Dutch river landscape.

12th of September.

The Hungarian BIG members must have had a beautiful day on the 11th of September as the sky was blue that day and the sun was shining. That's good for them as that was the day where they had planned the most of the BIGs (Col du Stockeu, Côte de Wanne, Les Hézalles, Col du Rosier, Drielandenpunt, Vijlenerbos, Oude Huls, Eyserbos, Gulpenerberg, Keutenberg and Cauberg. 11 BIGs in one day! But this day was not so good. It was raining when I left Oisterwijk and it was raining when I arrived in Groesbeek. Does this sound familiar? Last time I cycled with the Hungarians it was raining too! There must be a spell that makes it rain when we cycle together. A bad Omen as I want to visit the Hungarians one day in Hungary to cycle a few Hungarian BIGs together. It'll probably rain when I am there. Ah well, where did we go astray? Ah, Groesbeek. Yeah, I did not tell this in the prologue but the plan had changed once more and we would meet at the Liberation Museum in Groesbeek just like we did in April with the Italians. So when I arrived at the Liberation museum I stayed in my car and waited for the others to arrive. In the mean time I checked the GPS route that I had prepared and that was based on the GPS track that I had logged when we were cycling with the 6 Italians in April. To my surprise and dismay I noticed that someting had gone wrong as the GPS route was in the GPS but not the correct map. Blast! I should have checked this as now it is too late! No big problem as I know how to find the foot of the BIGs but it's so much easier with the map as the GPS could have route us to the towns that lie at the foot. To cycle the route was out of the question anyway due to the fact that it was raining you see. So for that I did not needed the GPS. While I was checking the GPS Roland arrived. We waited together in his car for the Hungarian team to arrive. We had agreed upon 09:30 but it was past 10:00 before they arrived. It was nice to meet:

Gábor Kreicsi  (nicknamed Boss or his Bossness),
Gábor Vince    (nicknamed Somi),
István Ispán    (nicknamed Strongman)
Aladár Puskas (nicknamed Ali).

His Bosness had brought me a Hungarian MTB magazine with on the frontcover a picture of the Hungarian team (Gábor Kreicsi, Gábor Vince and István Ispán) with Patrica and me on the top of the Hochtannbergpaß. Funny, first I had the Spanish cycling magazine Pedalier that I was in as part of the article on the BIG meeting in Oberstdorf last year. Then the Dutch cycling magazine Fiets that had a small article on the BIG day that was held last year on the 21st of March last year. And now I also had an Hungarian MTB magazine where Patricia and me are on the cover. Thanks Boss for bringing that along! Gábor had also brought me a cycling bottle of the Rabobank cycling team as one of its former members had almost the same surname like me: Erik Dekker. His surname only misses the last s compared to that of me. So Boss, what's the plan now we have this rainy weather? Well, as they were a bit late anyway and had planned to move on to Germany in the afternoon we decided to go BIG hunting. I.e. drive to the foot of a BIG, then cycle up, descend and move on to the next one. Not as nice as cycling a trip like we did with the Italians but due to the weather and lack of time it was the best option we had. I found out that the Hungarian team was late due to the fact that breakfast was served rather late at the StayOkay Youth Hostell in Maastricht they were staying at. So it was not due to the fact that Gábor first wanted to attend a mass as he had done that the night before in Maastricht. OK, let's go BIG hunting then!

 

I could travel together with the Hungarian team in their bus. I was allowed to sit in the front so I could help to guide Gábor (the driver as he is the Boss) to the foot of the 1st BIG of the day. It's the Oude Holleweg. And my bike was put in the back seat where the other Hungarian team members were sitting as it did not fit into the luggage compartment anymore. Well, I did not have to guide them at all really as Roland drove with his car in front of us to Beek where the foot of the Oude Holleweg is located. In Beek we unloaded the minivan of the Hungarian team and waited for the Hungarians who were putting on rain clothing like they were expecting a deluge (a large downpour of rain that would flood us off our bikes). Rain jacket, rain pants, rain covers for the shoes, the lot so to say. I just had a rain jacket and rain covers for my shoes. Roland even only had the rain covers for his shoes. To the right you can see István and me.

 
 

When the Hungarians were ready with putting on their rain clothing we could go. I am not going to describe the ascent of the Oude Holleweg as you can find that description on the Italian Day page. As the Dutch know the way they went up first. Below you can see Somi on his way up to the summit of the Oude Holleweg.

 
 

I was well in time to be able to take some pictures of the Hungarians arriving at the summit. But due to the rainy weather and the trees it was quite dark there as you can see above and all the pictures I took were blurred to the fact that the exposure time was so long. Pity! We took a picture of the whole group at the summit below the streetsign stating "Oude Holleweg" as Aladár was so smart to take a small tripod along.

 
 

Then we followed the Oude Kleefsebaan towards Nijmegen until we could turn left to descend via the Nieuwe Holleweg and the Van Randwijckweg back to car. Just 3.4km and that's all Folks!

On to the Posbank just some 32km away. His Bossness neatly followed Roland and so we came to the foot of the Emma Pyramide where he parked the Minivan and Roland parked his car. From there we cycled towards the summit of the Posbank via the Beekhuizenseweg. The first 2.4km we cycled the same stretch as we did on the BIG day and also with the Italians. I was cycling up together with Roland when we suddenly heard Aladár behind us asking if we could slow down a bit as we had lost the rest of the team. OK, no problem of course as we are cycling together. We just had not noticed it as we were chatting. Then we turned right unlike the previous times and descended via the Snippendaalseweg to Rheden. When we reached the Arnhemsestraatweg we turned left to get to the Schietbergseweg which we took to get up to to the summit of the Posbank. This is the classic Southern ascent of the Posbank which is just 2.3km long and 2.9% on average. Not very difficult so one can enjoy the view on the heather which was in fact better than when we cycled here during the BIG day and with the Italians as the heather was now really purple.

 
 

Below you can see István in the lead and then the Boss and Sir Captain (it's me) on the last part to the summit of the Posbanbk.

 
 

When we arrived at the summit we took pictures at the bench of Mr. Pos.

 
 

And the Boss took some pictures of the view that one has from there and he stiched it into a beautiful panorama picture (click on the picture to enlarge it to it's true size).

 
 

And we took a picture of course at the statue of our cycling queen (See Italian day for details).

 
 

Then we got going again and cycled up. Up? Yes, I know it sounds strange that we have just had the summit of the Posbank and that we then leave the summit and cycle up to a higher point. This is due to the fact that the summit of this BIG is located at the bench of Mr. Pos and this is not the highest point in that area. The highest point is the summit of the Zijpenberg which we pass on our way back to the car. After the Zijpenberg the road descended all the way back to the car.

 
 

When we were back at the car I suggested to take along the Emma Pyramid also. On the BIG day and with the Italians we had only descended from the Emma Pyramid but now I saw a chance to do the ascent also. Fortunately the Hungarians agreed and so we went up the 600m with on average 6.4% but with small parts of 12 and 14% even. When trying to cycle it up fast it's a handful I can assure you and one is exhausted by the time the summit is reached. At the summit we regrouped and then turned tail to get back to the car so we could drive some 25km to get to the last BIG of this rainy day. This short cycling trip added 15.1km so we have in total cycled now just 18.5km.

We drove to the top of the Italiaanseweg in Doorwerth via the A12 and A50 Motorways. Here you see the Boss of the Hungarian team behind the wheel enroute to the Italiaanse weg.

 
 

It was still wet, wet, wet. His Bossness parked the Minivan in the part of the Italiaanseweg that lies on the other side of the W.A. Scholtenlaan and that is where Roland parked his car too. Then we followed the W.A. Scholtenlaan until we could turn left to descend via the Boersberg (Farmers hill) to the Fonteinallee. The first part of the Fonteinallee is a normal road but where it bends to the right the cycling path continues straight on along the Lower Rhine. Roland pointed out to me where the Castle of Doorwerth was located. It was the 1st time I saw the castle though I have been there 4 times before. But now I have seen it! In fact one just has to follow the turn of the Fonteinallee where we cycled on to the foot of the Italiaanse weg. At the foot we first had to cyle around a big rain pool before we got to the paved ascent. It's the most easy BIG we have in The Netherlands as it is just 1km long and only 4.2% on average. But beautifully situated with the hairpin turns beneath the Beach and Oak trees. Though the rain makes it look less beautiful of course as it is dark and dreary now. When we arrived at the roadsign of the Italiaanseweg we again posed for a group picture and Aladár's camera, the self timer on the camera and the tripod again did the trick as you can see.

 
 

This small loop added again 5.4km to our cycling and so we ended up with a grand total of 23.9km of cycling. So, those were the last 3 Dutch BIGs for my Hungarian friends and the BIG bad Wolf has a full tummy too now. Time to get back to Groesbeek, 35km away, where the Hungarians will drop me off and pick up Gyorgy Domonkos who did not come along this day as he had already cycled these 3 BIGs and had taken the time to visit his son who lives in Utrecht. Back in Groesbeek I met Gyorgy Domonkos who was waiting for the Boss and his Hungarian team mates to arrive. Though the weather was wet and cold Roland and I had a warm feeling as it was really good to catch up again with Gábor, Gábor, István, Aladár and to meet Gyorgyi! So I took a picture of the Hungarian team in their Minivan.

 

From left to right you see: Aladár (a.k.a. Ali), Gábor (a.k.a. the Boss), István (a.k.a. Strongman) and Gábor (a.k.a. Somi).

 

"Thanks for a lot!" as the Boss would say or Kőszőnőm szépen in good Hungarian as I had learned this day. Szívesen! (You're welcome!), it was great to have met again. But now it's really time to say Goodbye. Parting is such sweet sorrow as Shakespear wrote long time ago. Or, until we meet again under Hungarian rain ;-) For now I'll endure the Dutch rain on my own....