"The Elfstedentoch Is Not Yet," proclaims the event's official website (translated from the Dutch), ending hopes of thousands of skaters and fans who hoped the rare national contest might be staged for the first time in 15 years. Organizers waved off the historic 125-mile speed skating race, warning the ice isn't thick enough in rivers, canals and lakes to support an estimated 15,000 amateur skaters over an all-day tour through the northern Netherlands.
The event, also known as the Eleven Cities Tour, mandates that ice must be 6 inches thick on all parts of the course. Wiebe Wieling, the event chairman, released a statement about the poor quality of the ice, saying, "It's frustrating, but unfortunately the reality." The frigid temperatures are expected to remain below zero this weekend in Scandinavia, according to AccuWeather, but rise above freezing by Monday. That dashes hopes for new ice formation.
The Elfstedentoch is rarely held because the lengthy course is dependent on bone-chilling cold and thick ice as skaters travel to 11 cities in Friesland province. The last time the weather produced acceptable race conditions was in 1997.
Cancellation isn't stopping determined athletes, who've already unofficially skated parts of the course today, according to Dutch News. The Elfstedentoch organizers say there are many other official skating routes to follow this weekend, while enthusiasts in Amsterdam apparently got to skate on the city's historic canals for the first time in 15 years. There will be short track speed skating events in the capital tomorrow.
And Radio Netherlands insists all isn't lost: "An old Frisian saying says "Old ice freezes best." So if there is another cold spell after a short thaw, Eleven Cities Tour fever might start all over again."