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Rotterdam preview: Athletes faced with challenging bike course at ITU World Championships

A preview of the challenging ITU World Championship bike course, with tips from Canadian-based and Rotterdam-born athlete Pieter Wijnhoven.

— By Marcia Jansen

More than 300 Canadian triathletes are in The Netherlands this weekend to compete in the world championships and ITU Grand Final in Rotterdam. Dutch age group athlete Pieter Wijnhoven, who lives and works in Toronto, reports about the challenging bike course in Rotterdam. And gives some tips for post-race beers and food as well.

Pieter Wijnhoven, who lived in Rotterdam for ten years, made a video of the age group bike course for his Canadian triathlon friends. “It’s a challenging bike course, but it’s a lot of fun too”, says 35-year old Wijnhoven who will compete in the sprint distance race. “It has everything: smooth asphalt, cobblestones, bike paths, bridges and a lot of turns. I rode the route again this week and I was impressed by what the organization has done with the course. They removed play grounds and artwork, all to make it as safe and bike friendly possible.”

A lot comes down to bike handling skills in Rotterdam. “It’s by no means a standard triathlon course. Bike handling skills are more important than aerodynamics. It’s definitely an advantage if you know how to ride corners”, continues Wijnhoven who is coached by Kirsten Sweetland. “My Canadian friends were a little bit shocked when they saw my video. I think they worry the most about the narrow passages and the number of turns. Other athletes, like the ones from Belgium, think this course is great. It will be quite the experience racing downtown Rotterdam, that’s for sure.”  

The swim portion of the world championships in Rotterdam takes place in the river Maas. The run course – one or two loops of 5km – leads the athletes along the river and mostly through a city park. Over 3500 athletes are signed up to vie for a chance at winning a world championship in their respective age group category. Just under 2000 people will compete in the standard distance race, with just over 1600 that will choose to compete in the shorter sprint distance course.

There will be 78 nations represented over the course of the week. Leading with the most athletes will be Great Britain who has 770 athletes on their roster. The United States has the second largest number of athletes coming to compete with 594, followed by the home nation of The Netherlands with 405, Mexico with 331 and Canada with 313 competitors.

Wijnhoven used to live in Rotterdam, his girlfriend Esther still lives there, and knows the city quite well. His tips for post-race beers and food: “Close to the race venue you find the Westelijk Handelskwartier (Van Vollenhovenstraat 15). It’s a complex of former warehouses, which has been fully restored and where you can find great bars and restaurants. Another fun place with a lot of restaurants is the Witte de Withstraat, it’s a must go if you’re in Rotterdam.  I can also recommend the Oude Haven (Old Port). The backdrop of impressive historic ships makes the Oude Haven (part of the Maritime District) a popular place for locals to meet, eat, drink and dance.”