A Warm Welcome at CoNet Headquarters
Saturday, September 8th, 2018 marked my first CoNet ride—an adventure I had only learned about two weeks prior while discussing the possibility of working for CoNet. Being a lifelong cyclist, I was eager to participate. After receiving the ride details from John Koot, I arranged for a day off from work and set off for Zaandam with my bike securely mounted on the car rack.
The Journey Begins
As I arrived at the CoNet headquarters in Zaandam, an initial wave of panic washed over me when I noticed no other cars with bike racks in the parking lot. Doubts crept in—had I misread the date or time? Was I at the wrong location? Just as concern started to take hold, I turned a corner and caught sight of the SEG team car parked by the scenic Zaan river. Relief washed over me as I realized I had indeed come to the right place. With reassurance, I entered the building and ascended the stairs, greeted by the familiar pre-race sounds that echoed through the air. Many participants had already gathered, and John warmly welcomed me, presenting me with my CoNet kit. While I recognized a few faces, most were new acquaintances. Tea, coffee, and cookies were readily available, creating a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. A table displayed a box filled with SEG water bottles, isotonic powder, and bars from their sponsors. It was a pleasure to see Michel Cornelisse, the SEG Team manager, accompanied by three talented young riders. Having shared a racing history with Michel, I was delighted to reconnect with him.
Scenic Landscapes and Cycling Conversations
After indulging in coffee and cookies, John took the initiative to introduce the SEG riders, Michel, and myself to the entire group. He emphasized the plan for the ride—to stick together until the final stretch, where those feeling up to the challenge could test their mettle alongside the young elite riders. Before setting off, we captured group photos outside, each face brimming with enthusiasm.
Prior to the ride, we had agreed upon maintaining an easy pace, which we mostly adhered to. The picturesque landscapes of Noord-Holland unfurled before us at a satisfying speed. The route provided ample room on the roads and occasional bike paths to accommodate our group of 60 cyclists comfortably. The camaraderie among participants was exceptional, fostering engaging conversations and allowing me to offer cycling tips to fellow riders. I traversed the peloton, moving from the middle to the front and then to the back, taking in the remarkable sight of the CoNet train clad in blue and white snaking through the vibrant green countryside. Although we encountered a flat tire along the way, John and Michel swiftly assisted in resolving the issue, enabling the rider to rejoin us around Stompetoren.
A Refreshing Break in Wadway
At the halfway point, we took a well-deserved break in the quaint village of Wadway, previously unknown to me. The allure of coffee and apple pie awaited, providing a delightful interlude. The SEG team car offered a variety of supplies, including bananas, chocolate or muesli bars, and replenishing our water bottles. Prepared for such a stop, I retrieved my provisions from the car. The combination of wind and pleasant temperatures left us yearning for refreshment and hydration.
The Thrill of the Final Stretch
Leaving Wadway behind, the route guided us back to Zaandam. At one juncture, a moment of confusion caused CoNet founder Marco to take a tumble from his bike. Thankfully, his injuries were minor, and he swiftly remounted, displaying admirable resilience. As we entered the last stretch, the pace quickened, led by the talented young professionals. The group fragmented into smaller clusters, intensifying the thrill of the ride. As agreed upon prior to the start, we regrouped at traffic lights, ensuring everyone stayed together and remained safe. From there, we pedaled our way back to the welcoming embrace of CoNet HQ, where hot showers, a delectable meal, and refreshing drinks awaited us.
Reconnecting and Reflecting at CoNet HQ
Stepping off our bikes, we shed our helmets and sunglasses, revealing a different side of ourselves. Engaging in conversations over a sumptuous meal created a convivial atmosphere. It was an opportunity to get to know more CoNet employees, deepening the connections forged during the ride. The absence of gear and the relaxed setting allowed for a more personal interaction, enhancing the sense of camaraderie and leaving lasting impressions.
Fond Farewells and Future Reunions
As the day drew to a close, bidding farewell to the remarkable individuals I had met, I embarked on the journey home. Exhausted but fulfilled, my mind brimming with cherished memories of the ride. I eagerly looked forward to the possibility of reuniting with this extraordinary group in the following year.
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