Last weekend the 29th edition of the heroic Bartlehiemtocht took place, in the north of the Netherlands. The former World champion of the marathon (2013, Oostende) Crispijn Ariëns, took the solo victory, leaving behind the reigning European marathon champion and four-time winner of the race, Gary Hekman. Ariëns was the only rider in the large peloton to use a four by 110mm wheel set-up, with all of his competitors using the new three by 125mm set-up.
The conditions where tough. At the start it was pouring rain, but the road dried quickly. About eight skaters went full throttle from the very start, even though there was still 99k to go! A mixed group of skaters that do well in the rain along with some odd-on favorites such as Ingmar Berga, Hekman and Ariëns, took a large margin on the peloton.
It turned out to be a long and grueling race, with wind and rough roads. With a tail wind, the group reached speeds of 37 mph. “Hekman attacked me on a tail wind section and it took me minutes to take him back. That was a bad moment for me in the race. But after, I felt better and better using the 110’s”, Ariëns explained. “While the others got tired.”
“I was literally the only one who choose four wheels. Because I thought I would have more grip in the rain and because I believed my team mate Berga and I could force the final breakaway early in the race, to isolate our main opponent Hekman. In the first 15k I led the pack until we were only left with five. I wanted to get as far as possible ahead of my others opponents, because I thought they could maybe come back when the roads dried.”
A man-to-man fight between Ariëns and Hekman took over an hour. In the final 20k Ariëns placed an incredible attack and left his two remaining antagonists behind. “It turned out I had the best and most fresh legs.”
Does it mean that 110’s where the better choice?
“Obviously the 110’s are not faster in all circumstances. Races like Berlin, with constant high speeds, suit the 125’s. But it turns out that the difference, the turning point, is closer than we thought. The Bartlehiemtocht is a long, hard race, but nevertheless, with high top speeds. It’s like a big gear. It’s easier at first, but sooner than I thought it reaches the turning point at which you better chose the smaller gear.” The big takeaway? Wheel strategy is not something that’s going away with bigger wheels. If anything, you have more to plan for and consider. Take it under advisement!