A record number of Wageningen students started in the Dutch student cycling championship on Sunday. That is thanks to their coach Casper Helling, whose surname appropriately means 'slope' in Dutch.
The former marathon skater Helling, who also happens to be rather a good cyclist, began two years ago as the first cycling coach at Wageningen's university sports centre. He takes students out on their racing bikes twice a week in the summer and once a week in the winter, as well as on their mountain bikes. Straight away in his first year he had a great women's and men's cycling team for the major Dutch student championships (GSNK). 'When they started all they had was a racing bike, and that was it.'
The group that cycles with Helling along the Rhine dykes and the hilly Utrechtse Heuvelrug, Posbank and Veluwe areas and sprints between the signposts has become both larger and better over the past few months. 'They encourage each other. And sometimes we get someone who has racing experience.'
The training programme is still intended for beginners, emphasizes Helling, although he makes sure it remains a challenge for the fastest members by giving extra tasks or loops. He warns that the first training session is the hardest one of all. 'Afterwards it only gets easier. And remember - there always has to be someone who is the slowest.'
The student cyclists are gradually getting to the point where they will want to set up their own club, thinks Helling - one that combines sport and a social function. Which is what the student skaters did who train with him at the Nijmegen skating rink. Incidentally, there seems to be a Helling effect at the Ijzersterk student skating club as well. The advanced group with competition ambitions is now considerably bigger than the beginners' group.
Do you fancy testing your strength on a bike? On Saturday 13 October, student athletics club Tartlétos will be holding the open Tartlétos time trials competition. Info: www.tartletos.wur.nl