How do you get out of the crowd fastest?
Listen Eeuwe de Vries, 18, farm-hand: “First of all, my nicest experience. At the start those masses of people and the crush and the clamour and then that beautiful illumination, a sight never to be forgotten. Then that first stretch to Sneek in the dusk across the very worst ice of the tour, falling and getting up. Fell down twice myself on this first stretch, not anymore after that. Was like a drunken crowd, could laugh a bit about it, no matter how bad it was.” Beforehand George Schweigmann had already mapped out a clear strategy: “A small group of us ran very fast across the field instead of the road. We heard from all around us: “Look at that! What speed freaks they are!” But in the first couple of hundred metres I already overtook at least a few hundred people. I was familiar with that first bit. Everybody you could overtake walking, you no longer needed to overtake skating, and that would become very difficult in the dark on that narrow track and that bad ice. That’s why we wanted to get on to the ice as soon as possible. It went the way we had thought and hoped it would: we were among the first tour skaters who got on the ice.” Henk Gemser: “I saw the most ghastly falls. People who early in the morning had bumped into a bridge because their eyes were already frozen. People with broken arms, legs, pelvises. Lots and lots of wounded. In that sense it was a battlefield. Right away, from the very first minute. I wasn’t familiar with things like that, but my body knew how to cope with it. By overtaking as fast as I could, I gained the time that I later really needed to be able to reach Leeuwarden. Otherwise I would never have managed.” Photo: Reinier Paping at the start