Menno Koolhaas ready for Challenge Almere-Amsterdam: ‘I hope to break the Dutch record’

“I think the Dutch record may be up for grabs.” Menno Koolhaas says it quietly, without any kind of arrogance or self-bravado. He says it primarily as a lover of the sport and knowing that next week, on Sept. 9, he may be the biggest favorite for the overall victory at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam. “I want to belong to the world’s best athletes and a finish time of 7:45 at least is needed for that. If you don’t make times like that, you’ll soon know where you stand.”

With a time of 7:45, Koolhaas would in any case pulverize the Dutch record: in 2021, Evert Scheltinga already sharpened that time in Almere to a fantastic 7:49:33, and so Koolhaas hopes to take quite a bit off that. “I have the ambition, but in Almere it’s always a question of how the weather conditions are. On a favorable day, with fast bike times, then I hope to get off the bike after about five hours. I have done a Long Distance twice and was able to run very fast twice. I dare say I might run a little harder this year, so a finish time of 7:45 is possible. Anyway, I can talk about it now, but in the end it still needs to be done.”

‘I just feel the pressure I put on myself’

It’s quite something; Koolhaas is racing his third Long Distance and his first one in the Netherlands. Immediately he is seen as a favorite for the race. “But I don’t feel any pressure. The only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself. The pressure of wanting to go for the win. At the same time, I also realize that I have yet to see what the combination of focusing on Middle Distance and Long Distance is going to be like,” he looks back on a year in which he indeed competed in both long and middle distance races. Just last weekend he raced in Lahti, where he achieved an impressive tenth place, despite a disappointing performance on the bike. “But now the biggest question is how the combination between racing MD and LD will work out.”

No matter what, Koolhaas is going to enjoy to race in Almere. “When you’re racing in The Netherlands, you see a lot more acquaintances along the course. More friends and family coming to watch: of course that gives a boost. I’m really looking forward to race here and Challenge Almere-Amsterdam is going to be a wonderful party. I’ve put my focus a bit more on Challenge races anyway and Almere shouldn’t be missing then.”

‘It’s either going fantastic, or totally wrong’

Koolhaas will go all-in for victory, but is obviously taking the competition into account. He expects a lot from former Challenge Almere-Amsterdam winner Matt Trautman and also from defending champion Kieran Lindars, but actually even more from rookie Tom Bishop. The Brit is on the eve of his first Long Distance. “He is really very strong, but of course it can go two ways. Either it goes great and everything works out, from a certain open-mindedness of a first race, or it goes grandly wrong because he still has important things to learn. In any case, I expect him to compete at the front for a long time.”

Koolhaas is expected to come out of the water as the first or second athlete, together with the always strong swimming Lukas Wojt. Then the tricky part begins for the Dutchman. “On the bike, I must not destroy myself and I hope I don’t lose too much time. I have two very strong parts – the swim and the run – and if I also manage to improve the cycling, so that I can stay with it at decisive moments, then I would really be a complete athlete.”