The Vennbahn wins “Cycle Route of the Year 2014”
“And the winner is … Vennbahn!” With these words, delivered on Friday 28th February, just before the opening of the cycle and hiking trade fair “Fiets en Wandelbeurs 2014”, on the 1st & 2nd of March at the RAI exhibition centre in Amsterdam, the proud team responsible for the Vennbahn received yet another international award for their European cycle route.
The Vennbahn was voted “Cycle Route of the Year 2014” in the context of the “Fiets Awards”. After the “European Greenways Award” (September 2013), this is the second honour won by this international track within a short time. The East Belgian Tourism Minister Isabelle Weykmans and Vennbahn Product Manager Dany Heck from the East Belgian Tourist Agency (Tourismusagentur Ostbelgien: TAO) accepted the award and its certificate on behalf of all Vennbahn project participants. The first to congratulate them was René Takens, President of the Dutch Association of Cycle Manufacturers.
Confirmation for a job well done
“I consider this award as confirmation for the validity of our concept and recognition of a job well done. It underlines the unique status of the Vennbahn, a reality we have achieved both for our guests and for all those who live nearby,” said a radiant Minister Weykmans. “To hold such a title is hardly self-evident,” said Dany Heck of the TAO, who are entrusted by the regional project partners with marketing this unique tourist structure, “considering that the competition was most impressive. We are all the more delighted then, that our European cooperation concept has been recognized with yet another international award.” To triumph, the Vennbahn needed to perform better than three other very attractive European Cycle Route concepts: Pirinexus in Spain and France, Tour de Manche in France and England, as well as Valsugana in Northern Italy.
But it was the former railway track, already among last year’s nominees, which finally carried off the prize. The four cycling experts from the Netherlands who formed the jury were above all convinced by the overarching nature of the concept. “We are most impressed to see how such a small Community can implement such a large and ambitious project as this cycle route,” said jury president Bert Sitters before the assembled guests and press representatives gathered in the RAI Conference Centre.
On behalf of all the project partners they accepted the “Fietsroute van het Jaar” (Cycle Route of the Year) prize: Sandra De Taeye (Director of TAO, far left), Minister Isabelle Weykmans and Dany Heck (TAO). Jury president Bert Sitters (2nd from right) congratulated them on the award.
The professional jury praised the fact that the Vennbahn is an international network offering a considerable number of connections to other cycle tracks. Indeed, as the jury mentioned in their summing up, for Dutch long-haul cyclists, the route from Aachen to Troisvierges carries an importance far beyond its character as a regional attraction: “The Vennbahn is likely to become a vital connecting element for long distance tourers heading southward.”
The Vennbahn, at 125 kilometres, is one of the longest former rail embankment cycle routes in Europe. It runs along the border between Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, binding three regions and three nations in the spirit of a European cooperation project. Since its official opening, the surrounding regions (Aachen City Region, East Belgium, North Luxembourg) have seen a spike in visitor numbers. The cycle route takes one through such landscapes as diverse as the High Fen and the Our Valley. Because it is, for the most part, laid out along the former rail embankment, its gradients and curves are particularly mild and safe for cyclists.
The “Cycle Route of the Year” prize was first granted in the context of the “Fiets Awards” at the cycle and hiking trade fair “Fiets en Wandelbeurs”. In addition to this prize there are also such awards as “Bike of the Year” and “e-Bike of the Year”. The “Fiets en Wandelbeurs” was held on the 1st & 2nd of March at the RAI Exhibition Centre in Amsterdam.