Congratulations Bart de Zwart on his 4th win of the 11 City Tour. Bart gives us a full recap on this amazing feat, which some say is the most grueling race of the year to win.
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Board: Sprint 2015 14’ x 23
In one of the most exciting 11-City Tour editions of the past 6 years, this 11-City Tour was a battle between 3 time 11-City winner (2010-2012), Starboard team rider, Bart de Zwart (Hawaii/Netherlands), last years winner Peter Bart ( Austria) and a very strong Martijn van Deth (Starboard/Netherlands). It was all about seconds, sprints, tactics, endurance and a great board this year.
An international field of 100 paddlers from over 15 countries (Brazil, Spain, Chili, France, Germany, USA, Israel to name a few) came to the start on day 1.
I was riding my brand new 2015 Sprint. After testing the board in Thailand I felt, could win back the 11-City again. A little more narrow, fast, with increased balance because of the duck out sides I felt confident going into the race.
Although it is a 5-6 hrs race every day, the start is as explosive as a 500m. sprint.
English man Jay Hasley and Peter started well but Martijn and I soon caught up and left Jay in our wake to form a 3 man lead group.
A little caught by surprise and maybe also still a little jet legged from all the flying in the last weeks, only after 15 minutes into the race Peter made surprise move and paddled away from us. Extending his lead every kilometer until the halfway point. At that point I didn’t want to match his speed because the race was still to long to stay at that speed. Just before halfway I heard we already caught up a little but he still ahda 4 min lead over us. After the halfwy break I felt strong and with Martijn in my wake I kept a high pace. At the much-dreaded lake, Peter’s lead was down to 2 minutes. With relatively strong side wind I gave it everything and caught up with Peter 1 km before the finish. I knew as soon as I would overtake him I would also claim the win for this stage. I won with a 3 second lead. Although it took an incredible effort, it gave me a lot of confidence and satisfaction. Martijn did a great job with only 45 seconds behind us and 15 miuntes ahead of 4th place; Franck Fifils from Guadeloupe. The race was still way open for the remainder of the week.
On day 2, we formed the same lead after the start and stayed together for the whole race. Peter being on the attack several times to get away but never succeeded. It came down to sprint that started about 2 km before the finish. Martijn initiated it but Peter and I took over, neck on neck for the last 500 meter. At the line it was Peter with 0.8 seconds lead over me. In the overall now, I was still in the lead with only 2 seconds over Peter. Martijn in 3 at 59 seconds and Franck Fifils (Guadeloupe) at 24 Minutes.
On day 3 and 4 it was clear the podium was almost sure with. Peter and Martijn and I extended our leads even more over the rest of the field. Between us there was an intense battle for 1st place. All of us tried but none got away clear on any of these days. So it came down to a sprint every day. My board was working great and I managed win both sprints and extending my lead over Peter Bartl by 21 seconds and 1 min. 47 over Martijn van Deth.
It came all down to the final stage. Right from the start Peter gave everything he had with the highest speeds we have seen in this competition so far. In the first 5 minutes Martijn had to drop but I managed to stay at Peter’s side. After about 25 minutes the speed dropped to normal racing and the danger was over. The rest of the race was between us 2. Despite Peter’s incredible fighting spirit, he couldn’t break me this year. After the halfwy break I kept a high pace to make sure Peter wouldn’t try again but he was tired of trying and tired of all the kilometers.
We sprinted in the city Leeuwarden to the finish with everything that was left in us, after more than 22 hrs of paddling in 5 days. I won also the final stage and came in 6 seconds ahead of Peter, claiming the 11-city crown once again (4th time), Peter Bartl second overall and Martijn van Deth 3rd
In the women it was Janneke Smits (Netherlands) in 1st overall, dominating ever stage, Joanne Hamilton-Vale (England) 2nd and Maya Persson (Sweden)