King of Voerendaal, Emperor of Hell: The Ascension of Sebastiaan Pot

Ciclissimo! is delighted to welcome back guest writer Daan de Groot of the Dutch WPG Amsterdam squad. It has been a week of celebration in the WPG camp with a classy victory in the Hel van Voerendaal. The empty beer bottles are now safely stacked outside the front door and the hangover has cleared to leave crystal clear memories of what once may have been considered no more than a dream…

Crucifix

Having written my first English race account some months ago, I was determined to proceed on this international journey and make the Ciclissimo! inbox overflow due to my reports on the adventures of WPGA. However, determination doesn’t mean so much when one has to finish a Master thesis. Now that I have dealt with that and settled for an `easy working life’, nothing stands in the way of the next report.

Start Scene

No race could be more apt for this than the `Hel van Voerendaal’. Firstly, because it is one of the nicest races of our country (again the parcours included several climbs of the famous Amstel Gold Race) and secondly (and most importantly) because my teammate, Sebastiaan “Bassie” or “Potje” Pot, won this one. For non-Dutch people it might be hard to grasp what this means, but this race is part of the Topcompetitie (the highest national division of the Netherlands) and we are just a small amateur-team competing with six semi-professional Continental teams. Yes, that’s it: Prepare for some David-and-Goliath-business.

Portrait Potje

Bassie is a very strange guy. A sweet type of lunatic, a clown who can concentrate for about thirty seconds when he’s not on a bike. Because of my completed study in Mathematical Physics I often have to withstand the jealous remark “There’s only a thin line between a genius and a lunatic”, of which I don’t know if there’s an analog in English. Sebastiaan can be seen as the perfect example of that remark. For him there’s even a thin line between winning a race and not finishing at all.

Race Dir

About two months ago, my teammate and ‘general’ Jelmer Asjes and I were very disappointed after Sebastiaans DNF in Romsee-Stavelot-Romsee. We sometimes like to play a little game of ‘good cop, bad cop’ during a race evaluation: This time it was just ‘bad cop, worse cop’. The message? “With so much talent, why won’t you do anything with it?…” After that we didn’t see him for weeks, but last Saturday he returned, having a soft layer of ominously gold-coloured hair on his legs.

Field arc of riders

On the morning of the great Hel van Voerendaal, Sebastiaan was already too late at the meeting point. Team leader Pim Bonstra, tired after having gone through this ritual so many times already, simply drove away. It was just another day as usual. Of course, sly and cunning as he is, Bassie had found an ex-teammate who himself also has a habit of being late: it was just another day as usual. He missed the pre-race meeting and mumbled some vague excuse: it was just another day as usual.

Split Field

Bridge

But it was not a usual day. Bassie didn’t need any race-prep nor any team meeting. After 15 kilometers, he himself forced the early breakaway. Anyone who was willing to suffer was invited. On the Eurosport video material one can see Sebastiaan’s exquisite style, apparently not suffering at all. As his teammate, I know this style, he always rides like that. It doesn’t matter whether he is leaving the peloton at the front or at the back, Sebastiaan is leaving in style.

Pot Focus

Break Vista

Because I, neglecting my tasks as a journalist, was not present in the breakaway, I cannot tell you much about the events in that part of the race. However, I can tell you about the moment that I, being pretty pleased with myself, thought to witness the regrouping of the first 25 riders of the peloton with the breakaway. Sebastiaan was nowhere to be seen and turned out to be ahead of our group still. I didn’t give him much of a chance then; he had only taken two guys with him and with forty kilometers to go, this would, at best, end up in a ‘most aggressive rider’.

Pot StalkingPot Move

I couldn’t have been more wrong. On that day, Sebastiaan would probably have done a pretty good job in Rio too.

Tuck

He shamed everyone: Continental team Parkhotel en de Rijke, who couldn’t close the gap, his fellow fugitives that he already dropped, all the riders who weren’t even there… the worst is yet to come: On a short video that we have repeated and analyzed dozens of times, it can be seen how Potje shames his super-talented companion and soon-to-be-professional, Lennard Hofstede.

De Rijke ChaseCramps

 

In the ‘sprint à deux’, he first takes his time to place his hands comfortably atop of the handlebars. Thinking about how to celebrate his victory, he doesn’t lift his ass from the saddle and, seemingly carelessly, passes the second best rider of the day.

Ascension

The finish line picture shows an almost timid smile that made me reconsider all knowledge that I thought to have about the peculiar boy called Sebastiaan Pot. His smile did not show any surprise or ecstatic happiness. It just said “Do you finally see how it should be?” I now think that we have always misunderstood Potje. Since he became National Champion in the U19 category five years ago, he became disaccustomed to the victories. He never won – but that was just because every time something just didn’t go as it should have gone. It turns out that he was right all along. I will soon ask him for some mental coaching advice. That’s a trick I would like to learn.

One

I am not a religious man and I do not crave for big miracles to happen, but in Voerendaal I saw a truly miraculous thing: The Ascension of Sebastiaan. Infinitely inspiring and incredibly beautiful. The only regrettable thing is that my report can never quite capture the beauty of this day.

Podium Tom FooleryCorks

Images by Leon Van Bon courtesy of Flavio Pasquino / Topcompetitie

Advertisements