Jackson Laboratory scientist Ron Korstanje will ride his bicycle around the island on Sunday, Sept. 20 to honor his father, Kees Korstanje, who passed away unexpectedly at 73. PHOTO COURTESY OF EDITH KORSTANJE

A ride to remember

The route Korstanje will take on Sunday.

MOUNT DESERT—Jackson Lab scientist Ron Korstanje will be riding his bicycle around the island on Sunday, Sept. 20. A year ago, Korstanje’s father Kees Korstanje passed away quite unexpectedly at 73 years old. The elder Korstanje lived in The Netherlands, where his son grew up, and was a well-known figure in Zeeland (one of the twelve provinces of The Netherlands), especially in the cycling community. It did not come as a surprise that the people in this community stepped up and decided to organize a cycling tour to honor the man who organized and emceed many of the local tours, who knew almost all riders and was liked for his loud laugh and party fun behavior.

The tour for Kees Korstanje, called “Kees Korstanje Toertocht,” will be held in Zeeland and is 110 km (68 miles) long. There is a slightly shorter version (70km) for those who think the whole tour is too much. Korstanje had planned to fly to the Netherlands and participate in this tour but then COVID-19 hit. There is no safe way to fly to the Netherlands and coming back would be difficult as well. So instead, he designed a 68-mile course around the island of MDI, which he will ride on the same day as the event in The Netherlands.

Korstanje used to bike quite frequently in his teenage years but hadn’t ridden for 25 years or so. Korstanje’s neighbor had a used road bike that he gave to him, and he started gathering miles over the last three months. In the beginning, his legs were sore and the hills seemed endless, but he persisted and feels ready for the 68 miles on Sunday. The Dutch newspaper featured an article about this MDI tour, captioning it, “His son rides in the USA.”

Biking in The Netherlands is quite different than biking in Maine. For starters, the country is very flat. The tour for Korstanje’s father has an elevation of nearly zero (the few ‘climbs’ will only be when riders have to go up and over a dike), while the U.S. edition’s elevation will be 3,800 feet. Also, the Netherlands is a country designed for cycling with an incredible infrastructure of bicycle lanes, separate road crossings for cyclists, etc., and the traffic is used to sharing the road with cyclists. Here in Maine, drivers are supposed to give a cyclist at least 3 feet, but that unfortunately doesn’t always happen. Korstanje is ready though. He will honor his father by cycling around the island. And if you are out and about and see him in his shirt with the flag of Zeeland, please give him some space on the road!

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