Cycle Racing in the Land of Hamlet

Kronborg Slot is a fortresss in Helsingor that guards a narrow maritime passage between Denmark and Sweden. It is also known as Elsinore, and was immortalized by William Shakespeare as the home of the brooding Prince Hamlet in the play of the same name.

The Cykel Klub Kronborg's road race was an experience in everything typical of a northern European cycle race. There was constant wind, perpetual rain, twisting lanes through tiny villages, and so much wet road grit that it took me a day just to dig all of it out of my eyes. It was not overly long, merely 105 km, but the fevered pace and relentless small hills ensured that only the strongest half of the starting field would survive. It was also my first European cycle race and I finished in twenty-first place, over seven minutes behind the winner, by chaining myself to the field like this ring held men fast to the castle.

The Danes (and the Swedes and Germans who come over for more difficult racing) race for the breakaway, a strategy that favors strong riders who can play a long game. The inevitable winners are always horses, who can hurt themselves even once their machines protest. The regular training rides out of Copenhagen unfold with this tactic in mind, and last six weeks of training since moving to Denmark have meant that I either hang on for dear life and try to survive or go with the moves of much stronger riders and be concurrently left behind. But I have learned a little and been tired a lot, and without that training I doubt that I would have been able to maintain contact and even feebly attack what few bedraggled riders remained together after 90 percent of the race had been completed.