Everyone experiences cycling in a different way, and to illustrate this variety we invite columnists to write about their personal experiences on two wheels. Lisanne van Marrewijk, self-confessed racing bike newbie, takes us on her first long ride of the year in the hills of South Limburg.

The first tour of the year

Although I was really keen on the idea, when the alarm went off at seven o’clock I asked myself whether or not this was indeed fun. Sundays are not for alarm clocks. And certainly not for alarms that go off at unearthly hours. But once I had got out of the car in South Limburg, pulled the bike off the rack, got on board in my lycra gear, and began turning the pedals, I experienced that special feeling: the first tour of the year.

Wielrennen in Limburgse landschap

In the hilly landscape of Limburg with my father

Up hill and down dale

My father, my two brothers and I had planned an 80-kilometre route around the town of Valkenburg. Yep, that’s the bit of the Netherlands where all the hills have gathered together. And, nope, it wasn’t my first choice.

Whizzing around, keeping a sharp eye out, and praying no one’s coming in the opposite direction around that blind corner (because down a dale)—but also having to change gear like a lunatic, swearing like a trooper, and hoping that indeed what looks like the top of the ascent really is the top (because up a hill).

Uitzicht in Zuid Limburg

Down the hill backwards

And, yes, I was definitely nervous that my untrained legs would give out halfway up one of those Limburg hills and that I would roll down backwards. But, you know, the sun was shining, and the fact that at the end of one of those hills a cold Radler was waiting for me kept me pedalling onward.

My two brothers, my dad, and me

Up the Cauberg

When, after a mere five kilometres, we arrived at the foot of the Cauberg, my little brother said we should ride up it. At that moment I agreed. But then, after only 100 metres, when my tongue was hanging out somewhere near my shoes, I seriously asked myself how I was going to manage to get my legs to complete the other 75 kilometres. It was clear: I had to earn that Radler…

And once I had got to the top—where my brothers had been waiting impatiently—I realised what it was all about. Once the Cauberg had been conquered, the legs felt good, and when we rode down the other side all I could do was laugh and shout “weeeeeeee!” Oh, and ask myself how many accidents occur at the bottom of that hill, where the mother of all T-junctions awaits…

Wielrennen in Limburg

Same again next week!

And basically the same thing happened on every hill. Climbing up with gritted teeth and tongue hanging out (yep, impossible) and then down the other side at Mach 10. Cycletouring is great fun! And the tanned arms and legs are a welcome bonus. See you next week: same time, same place. That Radler’s waiting for me…