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Euro Cross Academy: Coffee, chocolate croissants, and bike culture

'Maastricht helped us embrace the culture, and experience Dutch life in a whole new way,' writes David Thompson.

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During the next two weeks, riders from the Euro Cross Academy will be writing exclusive blogs for VeloNews as they race in Europe.

ECA Journal #4
27 October 2022
Rider: David Thompson
Hometown: New Canaan, CT

The crisp fall air hits me as soon as I step off the train and set foot into Maastricht, the capital of south Limburg, here in the Netherlands. We are here for a quick afternoon of urban site-seeing and a short break from bike racing.

I’m immediately stunned by the people commuting on bikes and the vast pool of pedestrians crowding the nearby streets. We pass countless different shops filled with amazing European foods and goods before crossing the bridge over the Meuse and into the heart of the city. At the exact moment that we cross the bridge into the inner workings of the city, it starts rising to let a cargo ship pass underneath.

As we crest the top of the ramp, a perfect view of the breathtaking city comes into view, swamped with bikes and people. Crossing over the bridge for the first time is something I’ll never forget. There are so many people walking on the bridge and huge boats pass underneath, all while bikes are darting up and down the center of the bridge. Once we set foot on the other side, there are no cars in sight and an endless labyrinth of cobblestone streets lies in front of us just waiting to be explored.

The first stop on our short trip is Fixed Gear Coffee. Walking in the door, we are hit with a strong smell of coffee and chocolate croissants. The city seems full of people who enjoy coffee and bikes. In the back of the store there’s a bike rack with beautiful bikes of all disciplines, from gravel to time trial. After that, we begin wandering the streets embracing all the culture in front of us.

Also read: Euro Cross Academy: Keeping the fun in racing

My favorite part of our trip to this historic city is all the fantastic friets shops we pass. Eventually, we stop at one shop along one of the many cobblestone streets and are greeted by a friendly shop owner who speaks English and asks how we are spending our time in the Netherlands. We explain that we are racing the cyclocross World Cup in Maasmechelen this coming weekend and the iconic KoppenburgCross next Tuesday.

On our way back home, we cross the bridge again and return to the train station to join our ECA teammates with our appetites fulfilled and smiles on our faces. When we get off the train in Sittard, I notice what looks like a bike parking garage. This bike rack must hold at least 200 bikes and stands two stories tall with countless bikes.

Overall, our trip to Maastricht helps us embrace the culture and experience Dutch life in a whole new way.

Walking through Maastricht. (Photo: Ben Stokes)