The Elfstedentocht (Dutch pronunciation: [ɛlf'steːdə(n)tɔxt]; West Frisian: Alvestêdetocht [ɔlvəˈstɛːdətɔχt] , English: Eleven cities tour) is a long-distance tour skating event on natural ice, almost 200 kilometres (120 mi) long, which is held both as a speed skating competition (with 300 contestants) and a leisure tour (with 16,000 skaters). It is held in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands, leading past all eleven historical cities of the province. The tour is held at most once a year, only when the natural ice along the entire course is at least 15 centimetres (6 in) thick; sometimes on consecutive years, other times with gaps that may exceed 20 years. When the ice is suitable, the tour is announced and starts within 48 hours.
The tour, almost 200 km in length, follows a closed or circular route along frozen canals, rivers and lakes visiting the eleven historic Frisian cities: Leeuwarden, Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker, Dokkum, then returning to Leeuwarden. The tour is held only if the ice is, and remains, at least 15 centimetres thick along the entire course as about 15,000 amateur skaters will take part, putting high requirements on the quality of the ice. The last tours were held in 1985, 1986 and 1997. All skaters must be members of the Association of the Eleven Frisian Towns. A starting permit and bib is required (€100 in 2017). Skaters must collect a stamp in each city, and at three secret check points, and must finish the course before midnight.
There are often points along the route where the ice is too thin to allow mass skating; they are called "kluning points" (from West Frisian klúnje meaning to run on skates over a carpet), and the skaters walk on their skates to the next stretch of good ice. In 1997 ice-transplantation was re-introduced to strengthen weak places in the ice, for instance under bridges.
The finishing point of the Elfstedentocht is a canal near Leeuwarden, called the "Bonkevaart", close to the landmark windmill, De Bullemolen, Lekkum.
|City||Frisian Name||Distance from Start (km)|
Since the Elfstedentocht is such a rare event, its declaration creates excitement all over the country. In the build-up to a possible race in 2012, Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister remarked "once every fifteen years our country is not governed from The Hague but by twenty-two district heads in Friesland. And our country is in good hands."As soon as a few days pass with sub-zero temperatures, the media start speculating about the chances for an Elfstedentocht. The longer the freezing temperatures stay, the more intense this "Elfstedenkoorts" (eleven cities fever) gets, culminating in a national near-frenzy when it is announced that the tour will actually be held. The day before the tour many Dutch flock to Leeuwarden to enjoy the party atmosphere that surrounds the event; that evening, called the "Nacht van Leeuwarden" (Night of Leeuwarden), becomes a giant street party (Frisians, who have a reputation for surliness, are said to thaw when it freezes).
On the day of the tour many Dutch either stay at home to watch it on television (9.2 million viewers by one estimate), or find a place along the route to cheer the skaters on, either taking the day off or calling in sick for work. In February 2012, Friesland hotels were fully booked and expecting between 1.5 and 2 million visitors in anticipation of a tour before it was announced, as the weather seemed suitable.
There has been mention of skaters visiting all eleven cities of Friesland on one day since 1760. The Elfstedentocht was already part of Frisian tradition when, in 1890, Pim Mulier conceived the idea of an organised tour, which was first held in 1909 when 22 men competed.After this race, the Vereniging De Friesche Elf Steden (nl) (Association of the Eleven Frisian Towns) was established to organise the tours.
In the 1912 edition Jikke Gaastra was the first woman ever who finished the Elfstedentocht, but couldn't complete the full tour because the ice wasn't good enough after Sneek. In the 1917 edition Janna van der Weg was the first woman who finished the tour.
The winters of 1939/40, 1940/41 and 1941/42 were particularly severe,with the race being run in each of them. The 1940 race, run three months prior to the German invasion of the Netherlands, saw over 3,000 competitors start at 05:00 on 30 January, with the first five finishing at 16:34. The event dominated the front pages of Dutch newspapers.
The Elfstedentocht of 1963 became known as "The hell of '63" when only 69 of the 10,000 participants were able to finish the race, due to the extremely low temperatures of -18 °C, powder snow and a harsh eastern wind. Conditions were so horrendous that the 1963 winner, Reinier Paping, became a national hero, and the tour itself legendary. Paping could not make out the finishing line as he was snow blind by the end of the race, and many of the contestants had frostbite, broken limbs, and damaged eyes.
The next Elfstedentocht after 1963 was held in 1985; times had changed. Before, one of the best methods to stay warm during the tour was to wear newspapers underneath the clothes. In the 20 years between the tours of 1963 and 1985, clothing, training methods and skates became much more advanced, changing the nature of skating.
The tour of 1985 was terminated prematurely because of thawing; as early as 22:00 in the evening skaters were taken off the ice. In 1986 the current Dutch King (at the time still Crown Prince) Willem-Alexander completed the Elfstedentocht under the name W.A. van Buren, Van Buren being a traditional pseudonym of the Royal House. In 1997 Piet Kleine, who had previously won a gold medal at the Olympics for speed skating was disqualified because he missed getting a stamp at Hindeloopen despite video evidence that he had been there.
The ten-day cold spell in late January and early February 2012, the 33rd such occurrence since 1901 when temperatures as low as -22.9 °C were recorded in Lelystad, heightened the expectation of a 2012 Elfstedentocht – the expected day of the event, had it taken place, was Saturday 11 February.
On 2 February 2012, it was reported that 95% of various locks that controlled the water flow in the canals had been adjusted to maximise the ice thickness. cm from Tuesday 7 February until Saturday 11 February. On 3 February, the Dutch meteorological institute forecast a probable ice-thickness of 20 cm on Saturday 11 February and on 5 February they forecast an ice thickness approaching 25 cm.On the same day, the Dutch meteorological institute forecast that temperatures would not rise above freezing until Wednesday 8 February at the earliest and that the thickness of the ice would be 15
On 6 February it was announced that the committee had met the previous evening for the first time in fifteen years. Although there were areas where the ice was not thick enough for the race to be held, the forecast for continuing freezing weather meant that they were optimistic that the race would be held. A press conference was held at 09:30 CET and the committee was due to meet again on 8 February. cm thick in places.At the press conference, it was stated that in north Friesland the ice conditions were suitable to hold the race. In south west Friesland, the conditions were not so good, Stavoren being a particular problem where the ice was only 2
On 6 February a prohibition order on navigation on many of the canals in Friesland was extended in order to facilitate the growth of the ice.The following day the Dutch meteorological institute forecast that the cold spell would break on Sunday 12 February or Monday 13 February with the temperature rising above freezing point.
Late afternoon on the 8 February Wiebe Wieling, chairman of the organising committee, said that the race was off – the committee had to be realistic – safety issues had made the race impossible. A ten-day cold spell was insufficient for the event; the 1997 event had taken place at the end of a 12-day cold spell.
The time taken for the winner to complete the course is given in hours and minutes.Although temperatures were sometimes above freezing on the day of the tour, all tours were preceded by many days of sub-zero temperatures.
|2 January 1909||n/a||Minne Hoekstra||13:50||189 km||13.7 km/h||—|
|7 February 1912||+3.8 °C||Coen de Koning||11:40||189 km||16.2 km/h||3|
|27 January 1917||-1.8 °C||Coen de Koning||9:53||189 km||19.1 km/h||5|
|12 February 1929||-10.1 °C||Karst Leemburg||11:09||191 km||17.1 km/h||12|
|16 December 1933||-2.0 °C||Abe de Vries and|
|9:05||195 km||19.7 km/h||5|
|30 January 1940||-6.1 °C||Piet Keijzer,|
Durk van der Duim
and Sjouke Westra
|11:34||198.5 km||17.3 km/h||6|
|7 February 1941||0.0 °C||Auke Adema||9:19||198.5 km||21.3 km/h||1|
|22 January 1942||-11.7 °C||Sietze de Groot||8:44||198 km||22.7 km/h||1|
|8 February 1947||-8.5 °C||Jan van der Hoorn||10:51||191 km||17.6 km/h||5|
|3 February 1954||-5.4 °C||Jeen van den Berg||7:35||198.5 km||26.2 km/h||7|
|14 February 1956||-4.9 °C||no winner declared||—||190.5 km||—||2|
|18 January 1963||-7.7 °C||Reinier Paping||10:59||196.5 km||17.9 km/h||7|
|21 February 1985||+0.3 °C||Evert van Benthem||6:47||196.8 km||29.0 km/h||22|
|26 February 1986||-6.9 °C||Evert van Benthem||6:55||199.3 km||28.8 km/h||1|
|4 January 1997||-3.6 °C||Henk Angenent||6:49||199.6 km||29.3 km/h||11|
Women were first allowed to take part in the tour proper in 1985; before then they had to skate with the amateurs and no award was given. The women to cross the finish line first were:
The course can vary slightly from race to race, depending on the quality of the ice.The cumulative distance at each checkpoint in 1997 was:
An "alternative Elfstedentocht" has been held every year in January since 1989 on the Weissensee in Carinthia, Austria.
The lake is 12 km long and around 3000 speed skaters do either the 50, 100 or 200 km course at what is likely to be the world's largest ice sport event.
The Dutch Speed Skating Championship is part of the event and the fastest competitors do the 200 kilometer course in just over five hours.
The eleven towns cycle race was first held in 1912 and developed in parallel with its skating counterpart, but unlike the skating race, has taken place on almost every year - apart from the 2001 event which was cancelled due to foot and mouth disease, it has taken place on Whit Monday every year since 1947. The event has become immensely popular and as a safety precaution it ceased to be a race but has become a tour with a maximum average speed of 25 km/h between checkpoints.
The tour, which starts and ends in Bolsward rather than Leeuwarden, is currently limited to 15,000 entrants. Between 05:00 and 08:00, entrants leave Bolsward every eight minutes in batches of about 600 and those who complete the 240 km course before midnight receive medals.
In 2013 the organisers banned Velomobiles from the event by limiting the event to two-wheeled vehicles propelled by human power.
On March 27, 2019 Maarten van der Weijden, a Dutch long distance swimmer, announced that on June 21, 2019 he would start a second attempt to swim the whole eleven-city tour. His first attempt in August 2018 was halted due to poor swimming conditions and illness due to E. Coli. His second attempt turned out to be successful. Van der Weijden arrived at the finish in Leeuwarden on June 24, 2019. So far in this attempt he raised a total of € 3,910,763.11 for cancer charities.
Friesland, historically known as Frisia, is a province of the Netherlands located in the northern part of the country. It is situated west of Groningen, northwest of Drenthe and Overijssel, north of Flevoland, northeast of North Holland, and south of the Wadden Sea. As of January 2020, the province had a population of 649,944 and a total area of 5,749 km2 (2,220 sq mi).
Leeuwarden is a city and municipality in Friesland in the Netherlands. It is the provincial capital and seat of the Provincial Council of Friesland. The municipality has a population of 122,293.
Bolsward is a city in Súdwest-Fryslân in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands. Bolsward has a population of just under 10,200. It is located 10 km W.N.W. of Sneek.
Sneek is a city southwest of Leeuwarden and seat of the former municipality of Sneek in the province of Friesland (Netherlands). As for 2011 it is part of the municipality Súdwest-Fryslân. The city had approximately 33,855 inhabitants in January 2017.
Wymbritseradiel is a former municipality in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. Its official name was in West Frisian, but the municipality was also known by its Dutch name Wymbritseradeel. In 2011, the municipality merged with the municipalities of Bolsward, Nijefurd, Sneek and Wûnseradiel to form Súdwest Fryslân.
Stavoren, is a city in Friesland, Netherlands, on the coast of the IJsselmeer about 5 km south of Hindeloopen, in the municipality of Súdwest-Fryslân.
Dokkum is a Dutch fortified town in the municipality of Noardeast-Fryslân in the province of Friesland. It has 12,669 inhabitants. The fortifications of Dokkum are well preserved and are known as the bolwerken (bulwarks). It is the fifth most popular shopping city in Friesland. It also had the smallest hospital in the Netherlands.
Franeker is one of the eleven historical cities of Friesland and capital of the municipality of Waadhoeke. It is located north of the Van Harinxmakanaal and about 20 km west of Leeuwarden. As of 1 January 2014, it had 12,781 inhabitants. The Eise Eisinga Planetarium, established in 1781, is located in the city.
Easterein is a small village in the municipality Súdwest-Fryslân in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands. It is southeast of Wommels and southeast of Itens, in the middle of Bolsward, Sneek, Leeuwarden and Franeker. The center is situated on the Oosterendervaart, which connects the Wijnsevaart and the Hidaardervaart with each other.
The Eleven Cities Cycling Tour was originally a bicycle race in Friesland, Netherlands, but now, due to the number of participants, has become a bicycle tour. It is the cycling counterpart of the Elfstedentocht ice-skating tour which is held irregularly on frozen waterways in the same region.
De Bullemolen English: The Executioner's Mill is a smock mill in Lekkum, Friesland, Netherlands which was built in 1825. The mill has been restored to working order and is listed as a Rijksmonument, number 24505.
Súdwest-Fryslân is a municipality in the Northern Netherlands, located in the province of Friesland. It had a population of 84,092 in August 2017. Sneek is the municipal seat. With a total area of 841.56 km2, Súdwest-Fryslân is the largest municipality by area in the Netherlands.
Evert van Benthem is a Dutch former speed skater who won the rarely raced Elfstedentocht twice in a row, in 1985 and 1986.
De Fryske Marren is a municipality of Friesland in the northern Netherlands. It was established 1 January 2014 and consists of the former municipalities of Gaasterlân-Sleat, Lemsterland, Skarsterlân and parts of Boarnsterhim, all four of which were dissolved on the same day. The municipality is located in the province of Friesland, in the north of the Netherlands, and has a population of 51,430 and a combined area of 559.93 km2 (216.19 sq mi).
Sikke, pron. [ˈsɪkə], is a fairly common West Frisian masculine given name. It developed from a reduced form or a hypocorism of Germanic names starting with Sigi-. Sikke is cognate with the German noun Sieg and the Dutch noun zege. It is also cognate with the Dutch masculine given name Sicco, which originated in the northeastern part of the Netherlands, in areas bordering the province of Friesland.
Waadhoeke is a municipality of Friesland in the northern Netherlands. It was established 1 January 2018 and consists of the former municipalities of Franekeradeel, het Bildt, Menameradiel and parts of Littenseradiel, all four of which were dissolved on the same day.
Noardeast-Fryslân is a municipality of Friesland in the northern Netherlands. It was established 1 January 2019 and consists of the former municipalities of Dongeradeel, Ferwerderadiel and Kollumerland en Nieuwkruisland, all three of which dissolved on the same day.
The Dairy Campus in the Netherlands is a test farm and centre for scientific research and practical training in the field of dairy farming, located, the capital of the province of Friesland. The decision to launch this centre was made in 2011, and it was opened in 2016. The Campus traces its roots to the test farm Bosma Zathe, founded in Ureterp in 1944; its building complex was formerly called Nij Bosma Zathe. Today, the Dairy Campus is part of Wageningen University & Research (WUR). All activities in the centre are focused on the development of sustainable methods for the production and processing of dairy products.
Sjoerdje Venema-Faber, was a Dutch long-distance speed skater. She was the only woman who reached the finish in the 1940 Elfstedentocht, the most prestigious speed skating race and tour on natural ice in the Netherlands over 200 km. Over the years she finished the tour five times.
Tietje Spannenburg-Pagels was a Dutch kortebaan speed skater. Spannenburg-Pagels was born in Hallum. She later lived in Wommels.