The Vuelta 2022 in Utrecht and ʼs-Hertogenbosch

La Vuelta a España, one of the three major international cycling races, has returned to Spain. But the three opening stages of this Spanish race took place in the Netherlands last week. The Dutch turned the ‘Gran Salida’ into one big cycling party. That the race would start in The Netherlands was originally planned for 2020, but due to Covid that opening had to be rescheduled. According to the Spanish press both the people of the Netherlands and the Vuelta organisation agreed that it was worth the wait. General director Javier Guillén said: “The response by the warm and enthusiastic Dutch public has been very exciting. We felt at home. The project of La Vuelta Holanda has come true after two years of waiting and has exceeded our expectations. The Netherlands is a place that breathes cycling and a part of our heart stays here. We came to make history and we leave with one of the most incredible stories that, from La Vuelta’s perspective, we have ever experienced. Teams and riders have been welcomed with an extraordinary affection, a warm closeness and an unconditional love for cycling by Dutch fans.”

The common team presentation: the riders rode onto the stage and were introduced one by one to the audience on the Vredenburg square.
But then the riders were on a boat for a tour on Utrecht’s reconstructed canal. In this case the music was played by a band from ʼs-Hertogenbosch, making this a very nice team-effort by two of the three Dutch organising cities.

Those fans came in high numbers to watch one or more of the three stages in Utrecht, ʼs-Hertogenbosch and Breda and the preceding team presentation in Utrecht. Almost a million people in total, wrote the site Millions more followed the first two stages on television, 2.1 million and 1.5 million for stage 1 and 2 respectively, wrote broadcaster NOS.

The team Trek-Sagafredo were having a lot of fun on the boat. They made sure they captured the ride and the audience!
Here is one of the results of all those phone-camera’s!

There wasn’t only praise. As any of my followers will know, the Dutch have an exceptional way of designing streets and roads. The many roundabouts, protected cycleways and car lanes (which are often separated for each direction), lead to a huge number of kerbs, bollards and traffic islands. The international riders had to really concentrate on the roads to avoid all this unfamiliar street furniture, but also Dutch rider Wilco Kelderman noted that this country is not made for a peloton. He said: “Riding in my own country is always a bit weird. I have to say that I didn’t enjoy it. So many curves and cobble stones, Brabant is not really made for a major cycle race.” The enthusiasm of the Dutch fans made up for a lot of the annoying road furniture.

Utrecht is now the only city in the world to have hosted all three major cycle races. It welcomed the Giro in 2010, the Tour the France in 2015 and now the Vuelta in 2022. ʼs-Hertogenbosch has hosted the Tour de France as well, in 1996, but the city has (not yet) been a host-city for the Giro. To my knowledge, the Vuelta was the first cycle race that Breda welcomed. In the past there had been plans to get the Grand Opening of the Tour de France to Breda in 2023, but that honour goes to Bilbao.

It was the first time that I could see a peloton of professional cycle racers from my own window.

The three Dutch Vuelta cities made sure that many people could experience the race or one on the numerous side events. After two years of COVID restrictions the people here were certainly in for a party with a Spanish flavour. The team presentation on Thursday 18 August in Utrecht was a big happening. After the pretty standard actual presentation, the teams were taken for a boat ride on Utrecht’s recently reconstructed canal. With live music at strategic locations and big screens to follow the team presentation, many people had come to the canal to find a good spot to watch both that presentation and the racers passing by in the boats. Quite a few of the team members placed pictures of the boat tour on the internet and it looks like they enjoyed this extraordinary activity. I am pleased that I could film some of the Utrecht festive atmosphere.

The Spanish national flag on the ʼs-Hertogenbosch cathedral. That is an exceptional sight and an historically interesting one. The catholic city had been conquered by the Dutch, against the wishes of its inhabitants, in 1629, or, as the history books used to teach us, the city was “liberated” from the Spanish by the Dutch.
In the Carnival tradition of ʼs-Hertogenbosch, a Vuelta themed float was made especially for this day, the start of the second stage of the Vuelta a España.

I was also in Utrecht for the first stage, on Friday night the 19th of August. But I didn’t see anything of the race. Instead, I was at the emergency department of an Utrecht hospital with my mother who – just before we would go and see the race together – fell and (as turned out later) broke her wrist. It was an interesting experience to have to drive all the way through Utrecht for this medical emergency with so many main roads closed for the Vuelta. Quite a few other drivers became clearly impatient and showed an intolerable behaviour. I am glad that I only need to drive when there is really no other option.

Party time in ʼs-Hertogenbosch, with bebidas and tapas (drinks and food) on the Festival ‘Por Favor’.

The second stage, however, passed through my own street in my hometown of ʼs-Hertogenbosch on Saturday. I couldn’t have not seen that stage, even if I wanted to. The city was buzzing with festive activities, and I was again able to record some of that party atmosphere. I did not go to Breda on Sunday because I had other obligations that day, but there too, the Vuelta was one big party!

All this means that my video for this week turned out as a Vuelta party video about Utrecht and ʼs-Hertogenbosch. Enjoy!

This week’s video: The Vuelta party in Utrecht and ʼs-Hertogenbosch.

Team Astana Qazaqstan thanked the Dutch fans in their native language.

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