A group from the U3A Ballarat Cycle Touring Group recently completed the Ronde van Nederland, or Tour of The Netherlands.
Little did they know at the time, but when they were awarded the completion certificates it was mentioned that they were indeed the first Australians to have completed the Tour and awarded the certificates.
The Ronde van Nederland is a circuit of The Netherlands, covering just over 1300 kilometres on some of the long-distance cycle routes. To verify their progress along the route the group had to photograph themselves in front of six waypoints scattered around the country. The waypoints included statues, ancient sites, historic buildings, bridges and a lighthouse.
Also visited were sights such as the Hovenring, a suspended circular cycle path that ensured cyclists avoided a busy traffic roundabout, historic cities such as Delft and art galleries containing original works of Dutch Masters.
The U3A group of seven met in Amsterdam to collect their touring bicycles; five of the group hired bikes and two brought their own bikes from Australia.
They cycled to Haarlem on the North Sea Coast, then followed the North Sea Coastal Cycle Route northwards, turned right to follow the Wadden Sea Coast then continued clockwise around the country, finally returning to Amsterdam after twenty-one days of enjoyable cycling.
Group members enjoyed a wide variety of scenery, safe cycling on dedicated cycle routes, meeting friendly locals and sampling an excellent range of food and drink.
Accommodation was in hotels and hostels and included a night in a thirteenth century castle.
The Cycle Touring Group is just one of the many classes and activities for retirees, run under the auspices of U3A Ballarat.
In this case U3A provided the focus for the planning and organisation of the cycle trip.