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11-07-2023 | Rick Groeneweg

Flatlands300, the Dutch Unbound

Flatlands300, also known as the Dutch Unbound, is an epic ultra-racing event stretching from Drenthe to the Doornse Gat on the Utrecht Ridge. Spanning 305 kilometers with no traffic lights, it offers a formidable challenge. Registration for the event, limited to 300 participants, reached full capacity within a day, accompanied by a substantial reserve list.

© TrueGrit

Camping in a tent

On Saturday afternoon, most riders arrived by train in Drenthe, where they slept in tents at the starting village nestled in the woods, approximately 10 kilometers from Assen. Our group, consisting of three teammates from UWTC de Volharding, had the luxury of a spacious tipi tent. In the evening, the organization provided a pre-race briefing, gravel drinks, a pasta party, and music around the campfire, ensuring a well-cared-for experience. Each rider received a GPS transponder for live tracking, allowing supporters and loved ones to follow their progress. The next morning, the alarm rang at 4 a.m., followed by a communal breakfast at 4:30 a.m. The mass start commenced at 6 a.m.

© TrueGrit

It's tot a race

Although not officially categorized as a race (despite timing, tracking, and a leaderboard), participants unleashed their full potential from the very beginning. Soon, they encountered a powerful headwind of 5 Beaufort, turning the event into a grueling battle where only the strongest would prevail. The course meandered through the picturesque gravel paths of Drenthe, featuring numerous cobblestone sections, including the longest one in the Netherlands, stretching over 6 kilometers. The challenging loose dirt roads also played a pivotal role in this segment of the race.

© Erik van Holland

Head wind

As riders departed Drenthe, the headwind intensified during the open stretches leading towards Zwolle. Crossing the red railroad bridge at Zwolle provided a sense of relief, signaling the transition into the densely wooded Veluwe region. Here, the pace escalated further, and only four riders emerged from the initial 15-man breakaway.

© Eveline van der Hek

The Veluwe and Utrechtse Heuvelrug regions were familiar terrain for me, which likely contributed to my ability to keep up with the leaders. With approximately 100 kilometers remaining, the leading group consisted of three riders. The pace gradually slowed, allowing for conversations and even on-the-go chain lubrication by one of the riders named Floris. This act of teamwork exemplified our understanding that we were stronger together. Eventually, we made the collective decision to cross the finish line as a unified group, embracing the true spirit of gravel. It was a heartwarming display of solidarity and mutual respect for the challenges we had overcome.

© Eveline van der Hek

Floris von Bonninghausen, Jakob Mignon, and I completed the 305-kilometer distance in 9 hours and 55 minutes, averaging nearly 32 kilometers per hour.

In the finish village, constructed in true gravel style at the Doornse Gat on the Utrecht Ridge, an after-party awaited the riders, with family and friends eagerly anticipating their arrival. Exhausted but fulfilled, the participants enjoyed well-deserved rest, shared stories, and raised a toast to their achievements.

Tight organization

The Flatlands300 boasted impeccable organization, ensuring a seamless experience for all participants. From GPX files and briefings to well-placed care stations and on-route mechanics, every aspect was meticulously arranged. Riders could fully focus on the ride without worrying about logistics or other concerns, as their luggage was transported from start to finish (and any desired stopovers).

All in all, the Flatlands300 delivered an unforgettable experience. It showcased the Netherlands as an exceptional destination for gravel adventures, pushing riders to their limits while fostering camaraderie and embracing the true spirit of gravel. I am immensely proud of my performance, and I extend my compliments to the organization. I look forward to participating again next year!

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