Organisation - May 17, 2010

Elske gives her all on the Alpe d'Huez

Elske de Haas had plans to cycle to Paris this summer to visit a girlfriend. However, this Wageningen poultry researcher recharted her course after reading a newspaper article about climbing the French Alpe d'Huez in the fight against cancer. She will try to cycle up the mountain three times on 3 June.

'I've come to see the Grebbeberg as a friend'
The Alpe d'Huez in the French Alps conjures up something magical in the Netherlands. This mountain and its twenty-one hairpin bends have once won eight Dutch cyclists a daily placing in the Tour de France. For Elske de Haas, PhD student in the Adaptation Physiology Group, this bit of history is not that important. She wants to climb it to raise funds for research into revalidation of cancer patients. She feels that such crucial research deserves to be funded. She knows how difficult it sometimes can be to get funds. She has also witnessed how important it is to give cancer patients the right guidance when they are ill. Cancer claimed the life of her father two years ago; she lost an aunt and an uncle in the same way. 'Cancer is a disease which is tough on the mental state of the patient and everyone around.' Cancer is a process which usually goes on for a few years, she explains.

Alpe d'Huzes
She gives examples of why money is needed: for patients to contact other patients, to learn to deal with fatigue mentally, for physical activities to keep fit. To support research which will improve life in the face of cancer, cyclists canvass for sponsors for their efforts to reach the top of the mountain as many times as possible - six times is the target. The money collected will go to a research fund at the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF). At the fourth Alpe d'Huzes event in 2009, 1300 participants raised almost six million Euros, or almost five thousand Euros per person.
To take on the mountain, De Haas has been training since autumn last year, by spinning in the Bongerd three times a week and cycling longer distances in the weekend. 'I've come to see the Grebbeberg as a friend.' After work, she often cycles home via a detour. Every morning and evening, she also exercises half an hour to strengthen her stomach and thigh muscles in general.

Old racing bicycle
De Haas thinks that she is physically fit and describes herself as a go getter. 'But it's going to be very tough. It will boil down to mental power eventually.' While a pro runner can reach the top in about forty minutes, De Haas could easily take three times as long. Moreover, she will be cycling on her father's old racing bike, 'which I've biked on perhaps more often than he did'.
Many participants will go for six climbs, but de Haas feels that three attempts to the top will be more attainable. Even so, she doesn't know if she will succeed. 'I am going to give it my all; you can't do more than that.'

Those who want to support Elske de Haas can do so via www.opgevenisgeenoptie.nl

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