Budding cycling prodigies pedal their way to the top
Dozens of children’s bicycles fly across the asphalt during the national final of the Fat Tyre Race. Taking part is more important than winning, but being the first one to cross the finish line is a real thrill. 'Death or the gladioli', to quote the Dutch saying often used by professional racing cyclists: it’s all or nothing. Past the finish line, the kids’ faces are beaming. 'In the beginning, I was in third place, but then I ended up being overtaken by a few others,' one girl says. She wants to become just as good as Dutch sport cyclist Marianne Vos and plans on taking part in the race again next year.
Fat Tyre Race gets kids interested in sport cycling
In many Dutch towns and villages, the Fat Tyre Race has become a well-established tradition. Since 1997, around 175 races take place all over the country every year. The three hundred winners of the local races then compete with each other in the national final. The participants are kids between the ages of 8 and 12. Children who are members of the Royal Netherlands Cycling Union are barred from taking part in the competition, as they are considered to be ‘too proficient’. Taking part in the Fat Tyre Race is an accessible way for the children to experience on their own bikes just how much fun competitive cycling is. For them, it’s a unique opportunity to feel like a real cycling hero in their own town; for the Royal Netherlands Cycling Union (KNWU), it’s a great way to get the younger generation enthusiastic about cycling.
The participants ride their own bikes: regular bicycles, mountain bikes, or city bikes with tyres that are at least 28 millimetres thick. Gears are permitted, but racing bikes and racing frames are not.
Learning what sportsmanship is all about
Young cyclist Merel van Beuningen, catching her breath after the race, has one piece of advice for the fat tyre racers: 'You just have to ride as fast as you can, with all your power.' 'Fabulous!' says Frans van Rijn, one of the organisers who have made it possible for the event to happen. 'You can see how proud the kids are to be riding alongside the best. They get to learn what sportsmanship is all about and they may end up falling permanently in love with the sport of cycling – at least, that’s what we’re hoping for. I’m a passionate racing cyclist myself, so I know how it feels.' Van Rijn is a member of the racing and touring club Swift, based in Leiden, which, together with Rabobank Leiden-Katwijk, is responsible for organising the final.
'Just ride as fast as you can!'
Investing in the breadth of the sport of cycling
Rabobank has been involved in the event as a sponsor from the beginning, with the goal of getting young people active and introducing them to the sport of cycling. The idea behind the Fat Tyre Race ties into the Rabo Cycling Plan, in the context of which the bank has been investing in both the top and the breadth of the sport for years already. Rabobank also sponsors the professional women’s team which includes Marianne Vos, and is a partner of the Royal Netherlands Cycling Union (KNWU). 'We believe that you can achieve more together than alone,' says Helen Crielaard of Rabobank Communications & Corporate Affairs. 'If, through our involvement, we can have a share in getting children active and give cycling a boost, we'll have achieved our goal.'