‘I played soccer until I was fourteen years old. When I studied in Utrecht, I picked up jogging and continued running until an injury got in the way. I returned to the soccer field, this time as a goalie. I certainly wasn’t the best goalkeeper ever, but I enjoyed it and it was a good way to let off some steam. When my old injury flared up again and forced me to let go of that hobby too, I tried the gym for a bit, but I soon realized that wasn’t for me. My dad has always cycled, and a few friends had recently become quite fanatical about it too. So, one day, I decided I’d just buy a bicycle and join them.’
‘My first tour was a 40 km ride along the Vecht river. After that, I started cycling three times a week. When I read about a 185 km hilly cycle tour through the Veluwe and the Utrechtse Heuvelrug taking place two months later, I immediately signed up. I like setting goals for myself, even if they seem somewhat unattainable at first. Fortunately, one of my friends agreed to join me and we started training. I remember reaching the 100 km milestone for the first time on one of those preparation days: it felt like a true achievement.’
I like setting goals for myself, even if they seem somewhat unattainable at first
Completely Soaked and Chilled to the Bone
‘Then came race day. The weather forecast was discouraging, to say the least: Code Red. But we decided to go for it anyway. After all, how bad could it be? Pretty bad, it turned out. The first 90 km went by without a hitch. And then the rain started, and it all went downhill from there. We were completely soaked and chilled to the bone, so we were forced to make a few unplanned stops along the way. One of these was at a restaurant, where a waiter gave us tablecloths to wrap ourselves in - that’s how cold we were! It would be fair to ask why we didn’t just give up? Well, partly because my car was parked at the finish line and cycling back to the start would take us longer than powering through, and partly because I have always had an extremely strong urge to finish what I’ve started.’
‘That was the first of many races. Every time, I would push myself a little further. A highlight was cycling the Stelvio Pass in Italy, the second highest Alpine pass in Europe, with friends in the summer of 2016. To put things in perspective: the climb up Stelvio Pass is about twice as long as the Alpe d’Huez, and on that trip, we tackled three routes up the mountain. It was an amazing experience.’
‘Around the same time, my dad mentioned an idea that had been thrown around in his cycling club for many years, but never actually actioned. The idea? To cycle from Basel to Gennep, where his club is based. Finally, somebody had decided to put their money where their mouth is and made it happen in early June 2017.’
Planning a Route without the Help of Google Street View: a Disaster Waiting to Happen
‘While I never really doubted whether I was up for the challenge physically, I was aware I needed to do some mental “training”. Cycling 700 km requires a completely different approach to riding 150 km. Basically, I needed to learn to cycle slower. In the lead-up to race day, we cycled miles on end, and I took it on myself to plan the route for the team. We left Basel on Saturday morning at around 8 a.m. and planned to arrive in Gennep early Sunday evening.’
‘I wish I could say it was smooth sailing all 700 km, but that wouldn’t be true. While the first 250 km of the route through France was sunny and easy, the same can’t be said for our experience in Germany. As we had to plan this part of the route without Google Street View, which is not available for German roads, we ended up battling a number of sand and dirt roads. Over the course of just a few hours, we had to repair no less than eight flat tires. And to make matters worse, it rained throughout the night. I remember stopping at a gas station in Mainz at 4 a.m., hoping we could warm up for a bit inside, but the lady who worked there wouldn’t let us in. I was as close to rock bottom as you can get. I remember thinking, “Why the hell are we doing this again?”’
‘To this day, I still don’t know the answer to that question. But what I can say is, the sense of achievement when we finally made it to Gennep at 2 a.m. on the Monday after was overwhelming. My dad couldn’t even remember how to cycle home - we were that exhausted - but the fact that we had done it, together, was fantastic.’
I love how long-distance cycling shows you exactly how much you can achieve if you just have enough willpower
‘More than anything, I love how long-distance cycling shows you exactly how much you can achieve if you just have enough willpower. I also like taking on a challenge that appears to be huge, only to discover that it is doable, after all. Being forced to deal with setbacks and come up with a plan on the spot also appeals to me. A recent example is when I had just started a 325 km tour I crashed and my saddle broke only 6 km in. I quickly made the decision to cycle to the nearest bicycle shop, get myself a new saddle and continue! As for my next goal? I have my sights set on doing the Paris-Brest-Paris cycle race next year - it’s a 1,200 km ride that takes place once every four years.’
The Joy of Seeing Things Change Right In Front of You
‘Aside from the challenge of long-distance cycling, I also enjoy that it gets me outside in nature. There’s little I love more than cycling through small towns, over bridges, with beautiful sights all around me. My interest in geography was sparked during high school - it was by far my favorite subject. It’s what drove me to study Urban and Regional Planning. Redevelopment became my main focus: looking at an old factory and thinking of new ways to use the space. “Could it be used to host a festival or would it be better suited to apartments?” I love being able to have an impact and getting the chance to see things change right in front of me.’
‘I suppose you’re wondering how someone who holds a Master in Urban Planning degree ends up at an IT consultancy firm? Good question. When I graduated in 2012, the financial crisis hit the construction industry hard. It forced me to think up a plan B, to ask myself what other avenues, aside from redevelopment and planning, provided satisfaction. I remembered how, as a young boy, I enjoyed tinkering with computer hardware, and so I started looking at options in IT. As it turned out, there were several opportunities for someone with my profile. Shortly after that, I was hired to do a traineeship and started working in software testing.’
A Different Type of Impact
‘I joined Accenture in early 2016. I believed the organization would give me more room to grow and let me take on a more pioneering role in the technology sector. I was right: these past two years have been a steep learning curve. I love how this company gives you the confidence to take on your own projects. Of course, you can ask for guidance and help when you need it, but essentially you are given free rein to come up with a plan of action that works for the client. In providing our clients with the best solution, I find I can still have an impact, albeit a different type of impact to what I had envisioned during my studies.’
I love how this company gives you the confidence to take on your own projects
‘Before I moved to Utrecht to study, I traveled for a year. It was a plan I’d had all throughout high school. As soon as I graduated and turned 18, I boarded a plane to New Zealand. My parents let me go, but only on condition that I would return and study. That trip was a life-changing experience. Before that, I had never lived on my own; now I found myself on the other side of the world, with no one but me to rely on. I worked on a farm on the outskirts of the South Island for four months, and then traveled the rest of the country, and even parts of Southeast Asia, for another six months. Despite the moments, I found myself wondering why on earth this was what I had wanted, it was, without a doubt, the best year of my life.’
Wout Jacobs (1989)
Studied: MSc Urban and Regional Planning, Utrecht University (2012).
Started working at Accenture: February 2016.
Relationship status: Single.
Gets annoyed by: People who whine all the time, but never really take action.
Favorite food: Dutch pea soup.
On my nightstand: Je Hebt Wel Iets te Verbergen, by Maurits Martijn and Dimitri Tokmetzis.
Listens to: Britpop, Drum ‘n Bass and Techno.
Last purchase: Skiing pass (during my recent holiday in Italy).
Would like to sit next to on the plane: Fabian Cancellara.
Life-changing event: My trip to New Zealand, and the birth of my two nephews - my sister’s sons. The younger is ten-months-old and the older is nearly three, and they have made me become much more of a “family man”.
The best lesson life has taught me: That the moments you most remember happen at the most unexpected times.
What I learned last week: What real Gambian food tastes like.
Most beautiful place on earth: Akaroa, New Zealand.
Hobbies/passions: Skiing, motorcycling, cycling.
What nobody knows about me: I love watching the television series “Grand Designs”.
Life motto: Always finish what you have started!