Competitors brave Storm Ciara in Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships

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While much of northern Europe hunkered down and hoped Storm Ciara would blow over quickly with its hurricane-force winds, an intrepid band of cyclists made the most of the conditions to take part in the Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships.

The ingredients were simple – a basic bicycle with no gears, no featherweight carbon race frame, no drop handlebars, strong legs, steely resolve and wind – lots of wind.

Yet completing the 5.3-mile course along the coast of Zeeland province in the southern Netherlands and across a storm water barrier as heavy winds blasted riders with sand from nearby beaches was anything but simple, even for experienced riders.

Netherlands Riders In The Storm
A vomit area was set up for the competitors (Peter Dejong/AP)

“I survived but it’s very tough,” said 56-year-old Hans Deting, his right hand dripping with blood after he was blown off his bike.

Ultimately, the gale-force winds became too strong even for this punishing event.

Organisers brought the race to an early end after 250 of the 300 riders had finished.

While the idea of ploughing head-first into a major storm on a bicycle may sound like madness, it is surprisingly popular in the Netherlands, where many people commute to work by bicycle despite wind or rain.

Some 11,000 people expressed interest online in taking part but organisers only had a maximum of 300 places available.

This was, organisers say, as close as you can get in the largely pancake-flat Netherlands to tackling an Alpine stage in a bike race.

Netherlands Riders In The Storm
A competitor battles gale-force winds during the Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships on the storm barrier (Peter Dejong/AP)

“It’s like climbing a 10% slope on the worst bike you can imagine.”

With red-and-white wind socks snapping in the wind, riders hunched over their handlebars in a desperate attempt to remain as aerodynamic as possible.

Many competitors wore tight Lycra cycling clothes.

Netherlands Riders In The Storm
A competitor wearing a onesie with Brussels sprouts on the storm barrier Oosterscheldekering (Peter Dejong/AP)

Crossing the Oosterscheldekering storm barrier, riders weaved across the cycle path as they struggled to maintain their balance.

“There’s nowhere to hide,” Mr Stoekenbroek said.

Many participants, who rode one-by-one against the clock, were not too interested in their times. It was simply about completing the event.

“This is a bucket list thing,” Edwin van Gaalen said, as he leaned, gasping for breath, on his handlebars after finishing.

He paused to further explain.

“When you’ve done it once, you want to do it twice,” he said.

“And more and more and more, because this is an experience you have to experience.

“So I can talk a lot about this, but you have to take part of this to feel the wind, to feel the experience, to get it all.”

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