SHORT of ice, Dutch canal-skating marathon finds second home in Austria.

TECHNDORF : It is 22 years since canals in the Netherlands froze enough to run the country's most famous speed-skating event. an epic race that snakes through towns near the northern coast.

But enterprising skaters have created a reliable backup - on a lake in the Austrian Alps.

The 11 Cities Tour, the Elfstedentocht, a rough 200 km [125 mile] marathon through the northern province of Friesland, was first held in 1909.

The most recent, in 1997, drew more than 16,000  skaters, the fastest finishing in just under 7 hours.

Milder winters have meant it is now rare for ice on the canals, to form to the required thickness, of 15 cm '6 inches

 The Dutch Meteorological Institute  KNMI  predicted in 2007 that there would only be four races this century, compared with  15  in the previous one.

No such problems affects the Weissensee, a picturesque lake in southern Austria. It freezes over every winter, and an alternative Elfstedentocht  has been held there annually since 1989, drawing thousands to several races spread over two weeks.

''In Holland it's not cold enough, sadly,''  said  31 year-old Karin Southberg, one of this year's roughly  4,000 skaters. ''That's why we do it over here.''

Instead of one big loop through the northern Netherlands, skaters do  16 laps of a  12.5 km circuit winding across the lake.

And the landscape, with its dramatic Alpine backdrop, is different too. ''It's nice to skate with some actual views,'' Southberg said. [Agencies]


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!