When you meet with Niels Feijen you’d better prepare
Niels Feijen is a true sportsman. A man on a mission. Goals and the path to those goals are set. You are there to facilitate. Whenever Niels is in the Netherlands we go for a ride on the bike and/or play pool and believe me, he won’t come unprepared. He’s going full blast Rambo-style and will kick your ass, also when he says he’s going for an easy ride or wants to play some cheap training sets. It’s all about training and performing. His daily schedule, food, exercise, everything is being calculated. But, that’s OK. He’s a former world champion. That’s what champions do. I actually don’t want to use totally non-original clichés (a pleonasm and cliché in one sentence, that’s some terrible writing), but he’s one of the guys who stands up when he falls and comes back stronger. Mister Miyagi would be proud of him.
His first big tournament this year, after an elbow injury that kept him from pool for months, was the World Pool Masters and guess what, he won. His protestant work ethic; hard work, understanding the enhanced value of scholarship, rational systematization, and investing the money he earned in becoming a better player is what makes him the player he is. Niels is often compared to a robot, because of this work ethic. He’s ‘The Terminator’ for a reason. Some say he’s not talented, but he is. More than others. He’s a strong beast mentally and puts in a lot of effort to become better at every aspect of the game.
Cycling with Niels Feijen
When I was about 16-years-old, I would go on my first ride from Scheveningen to Katwijk with Niels on a small mountain bike, not knowing what would happen next. I proudly arrived with my new red and blue bike, but it wasn’t a bike with which I could actually go fast. It was more of an off-road bike. He was already waiting for me and I saw he had a much better bike than me, an actual racing bike. I got a 2 minute headstart and it immediately became clear I wasn’t able to keep up with him. So, we decided he would go ahead, but I didn’t know the area and route yet. Guess what, I got lost. Cycling an extra 30 minutes to find my way back and Niels was gone. He probably was tired of waiting for me. I was exhausted and thought: “this guy is no fun at all”.
Three years later, I bought a Trek 2.3, a beautiful white racing bike with red details and Shimano 105 gear on it. I was, and still am just a guy who likes to go for a ride when the sun is shining. For those who aren’t familiar with the weather conditions in the Netherlands, that’s not often. Later, I would buy another Peugot retro racing bike to go around town and that increased the hours I made. I was prepared for another meeting with Niels.
I hadn’t seen him for a while. After a year, maybe two, he would visit the Netherlands again and I got the usual text if I was willing to go for a ride. I told him I didn’t cycle that much and my stamina was not so good at the moment, but I thought it would be fun to suffer again. Little did he know. I was ready.
It was a grey day with strong winds. If there’s something that makes cycling heavy, it’s wind. I don’t care about rain, snow, warmth, or cold, but strong wind is killing. He was staying at his mom’s place and we agreed to meet there. That was a good 10 km. for me to warm up. I arrived, said hi to his mom, his wife Katrine, and little daughter. Quickly after we left for a ride through some pastures. It was a pretty tough ride due to the weather conditions. Like always, Niels would pump up the speed after 20 minutes or so.
We were going against the wind the first part. At some point we made a turn and had the wind favoring us. I knew this was the point where he would go all in. It was a long straight road without any traffic. I felt the adrenaline coming. I told him: “Let’s go!”. I waited for him to go first so I would be able to surprise him, because I felt my legs were still good. He hit the 49 km/h pretty fast and I was close behind him, completely out of the wind. This was my chance. It was my turn to go Rambo-style and accelerated to 52+ km/h. I kept it steady and fast to the end of the road. When I looked over my shoulder I knew victory was mine. He was pretty far behind. My revenge was sweet. It took me a couple of years, though.
Years later he’s still revenging me for that one. Almost every time we meet. Believe me, he doesn’t like to lose. I’m still feeling the consequences once in a while.
World Champion 9-ball 2014
When he became world champion in 2014 he celebrated it at Hague 5. Back to his roots. He would thank everybody who’ve helped him during his career with a nice little story to go with his thanks. This cycling story was the one he told when he gave me a funny little horn to put on my racing bike, because I never had a bell and I still don’t. I should get one.
I feel honored to still be part of his training schedule when he’s visiting, even though my kill level is far below his. I enjoy being butchered by him. Last time he visited Hague 5 together with Marc Bijsterbosch in preparation for the World Cup of Pool they beat me 7-0 twice, 7-1 and only after that I was able to win a set 7-3 with two racks on the wire. But hey, that’s OK.