Olympians try unusual downhill in the Netherlands

One Czech and seven Dutch men met for some downhilling action in the otherwise flat Netherlands last...

One Czech and seven Dutch men met for some downhilling action in the otherwise flat Netherlands last weekend. They visited a rather unusual venue for racing, stairs in a ramshackle 11-story building in the heart of Amsterdam.

Led by Dutchman Rob van den Wildenberg, fifth at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the troupe of world-class BMX and mountain bikers stormed the former POST CS mail distribution centre to help with the demolition of the ramshackle building - much to the surprise of some labourers still working on the site.

The 400 metre 'course' comprised 11 floors, 324 stairs and no fewer than 50 vertical metres from top to bottom.

"In the morning, when we took the snap decision to hold a race here, I have to admit I had a funny feeling about it, but what are we supposed to do? We've got nowhere else to train. The steep, narrow stairways and the half-demolished floors were incredibly tough to ride: rather than jumping over tree stumps, branches, roots and other natural obstacles, we had to overcome broken windows, smashed-up filing cabinets and dangling cables," said Ivo van der Putten, laughing.

The 22-year-old fought his way to a narrow victory in the final, beating Bas de Beyer, Michal Prokop and Joost Wichman in the process as four riders descended on the course in the same time.

Czech rider Michal Prokop enjoyed his rollercoaster ride down the unique course. "When the guys asked me if I wanted to race in Amsterdam I thought they were joking. Now, to be honest, I am just happy to have got down the stairs in one piece - mind you, a few cuts and bruises are all part of it."

The bikers left the building as swiftly as they had entered, blending into the crowds along the iconic Grachten (canals) in the heart of the Dutch capital, a city famous for having the most bicycles per capita in the whole of Europe.

The POST CS building was inaugurated in 1968 by Prince Claus and served for 36 years as the Netherlands' principal mail distribution office. The current demolition process will be completed by the end of August, creating space for a modern office complex.

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