'The hell of 1963'

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The most infamous of the fifteen Elfstedentochten or Eleven Cities Tours to date is the tour of 1963. Some 10,000 contestant started the race but only 69 reached the finish within the time set for the skating tour. It was a truly gruesome ride and even today it is known as ‘the hell of 63’.

Severe frost and snow

On that fateful 18 January 1963, the temperature at the start was minus 18 degrees Centigrade. While the temperature rose a little in the afternoon, the stormy Easterly wind made it feel much, much colder than before. Moreover, a lot of snow had fallen in the days before the race. The wind shipped the snow through the air, making the skating route invisible at times.

National hero

Reinier Paping was the eventual winner and became a national hero as a result. An important part of that was the fact that it was the first Eleven Cities Tour to be broadcast extensively on television.