Posts

1903 Tour de France with Keir Plaice

Keir Plaice, a former semi-professional cyclist and 3rd year Bachelor Arts and Culture student, is embarking on a cycling ride of a lifetime. He is riding the route of the original Tour de France of 1903 and documenting his experience in his Le Grand Tour column in the cycling magazine Soigneur. Read on to find out more about Keir and his project!

Interview and photography: Brian Megens
Interview and text: Karissa Atienza

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Tell us about yourself.
I came to the Netherlands to race bikes for a Dutch cycling team in the summer of 2010. I’d rode for two years before that as a semi-professional cyclist in Canada. I wanted to try and make it to the very top of the sport, ride the Tour de France and the World Tour, but after a couple of years I realised that it wasn’t going to happen. I also met a Dutch girl that bound me to the country.

Why Maastricht?
After my cycling career, I realised that I better go to school and start a future outside of cycling. I’ve always loved reading. I really love literature and arts. I love going to museums and experiencing paintings. I decided that when I go to university I would study something purely out of interest and immerse myself in something I’m really interested in. I wanted to study something to do with art and literature in English. My choice was Maastricht or Groningen. Maastricht is a much more beautiful city than Groningen, especially if you’re a cyclist.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

How do you experience combining your study with your other interests?
When I decided start university, I decided that that would be my first priority. At the same time, whenever I had the free time I would go for a bike ride. I find that they really complement each other. I think lots of people who are very ambitious with school get completely caught up with university. When I go on my bike, I don’t take my phone, I don’t take anything. You just have a couple of hours in the countryside where it completely clears your head and it re-adjusts your priorities. It really helps you when you’re studying cos you’re not stressed about things.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

How did you start journalism?
When I was racing, I started keeping a blog mostly to let friends and family know how the races are going. After a while, I got bored saying the race grew hard after 25 km, I was in the second group, I suffered all day but finished 30th. So then I became more interested in conveying the experience of racing through words. Bike racing is something I was completely in love with and I thought it was a cool exciting, interesting experience but anytime you read anything in the newspaper or magazine, it just states the result. None of the experience is conveyed in the stories you read about it. I found that a real shame.
The cycling magazine Soigneur somehow found my blog and they really liked my writing and got in touch. I’ve been able to do several really interesting projects with them.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Tell us about your project.
The project started early this year when Soigneur asked me for any cool ideas. As a cyclist, of course, the big dream for everybody is riding the Tour de France. It’s the holy grail for every bike racer. It was something I had always wanted to do. It was an idea where I could give a conclusion to my own cycling story, to have my own Tour de France. I’ve always known that the early Tour de France was really interesting. At that time the sport was just beginning
At the same time, I’ve always known that the early Tours were really interesting. Back then, it was completely new. Someone just had an idea of ‘hey, let’s race in France’ and the idea just took off. Now, it’s all very organised and it’s the same every year. The stages of the early Tour de France were also much longer so there was a more adventurous approach towards the sport as opposed to the racing today. It’s impressive what the guys racing in the Tour can do today, but at the same time, every aspect of their lives is completely controlled. Because it’s so competitive and everyone is so good, there’s absolutely no room for error.
So you miss some of those crazy stories of what used to happen where the guys would go for a 120km long breakaways, stopping for ice cream, pull over at a bar on the side of the road because they didn’t have enough water, hiding behind the bushes and let the peloton or whatever was left still think there were someone in front. Because it wasn’t at this super high-end top of the sport, of course, they were still very competitive, they had a lot of freedom.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

What’s the plan?
I will ride the original route of the first Tour de France in 1903. So there are 6 stages, each between 270-470km. In total, it’s about 2500km. It’s basically the same programme as what they rode in 1903. Each of the stages is will be ridden in one shot. I’ll wake up at 4 ‘o clock in the morning and grab my bike and finish it. In between the stages, there are two or three rest days. There is a Maserati car riding with me for food, drinks, repairs and spare parts.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

How did you prepare?
Apart from my regular riding of about 15 hours per week, I made sure to do a few longer drive of 200-250km range. A couple weeks ago I went to Norway to ride a really big race there called the Styrkeprøven. It’s 540km from Trondheim to Oslo. That was twice as far as I’d ever ridden in my life. I surprised myself and finished second place at 14 hours and 10 minutes.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (www.brianmegens.com)

Follow Keir’s journey through France in the Soigneur magazine and the Maserati Cycling youtube channel and relive the first Tour de France! Watch Keir conquer the first stage of the Le Grand Tour from Paris to Lyon:

My Way to Make Money with Aaron Vinnik

Studium Generale Lecture Anti-Semitism

As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In the Weekly column ‘My Way to Make Money’ we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work. This week we interview Aaron Vinnik who is employed by the university as a teaching assistant in the history department. Before graduating his masters at the Maastricht University in European Studies with a Cum Laude, he obtained his bachelor degree in History & Political Science at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. In his spare time he likes to travel and experience new cultures. Aaron has a preference for outdoor sports and is in love with his new race bike which takes him to the beautiful surroundings of Maastricht.

My job
As a teaching assistant in the History department, I am employed to dedicate my time teaching meaning I have no time for research. Normally, I teach one course at the same time. I teach at FaSos, however, Arts & Culture takes only 20% of my time while 80% of my time I end up teaching European Studies students.

A regular day at work looks like…
On days when I teach, which is 2 to 3 times a week, I usually have around 2 to 3 classes a day. Most of the time the students have lectures in the morning followed by the first tutorial at 11am until 1pm, the second class is from 1.30pm until 3.30pm with the last tutorial at 4pm and ends at 6pm. Although it’s the same teaching you do, each class is different and that gives the class new dynamics. If students are well prepared, you can give them more space for discussions while some groups need more guidance. On days where I do not teach, I’m either doing some readings to prepare for classes later in the week, or I am making/grading exams or revising bachelor papers.

I like my job because
It’s dynamic, I’m not teaching the same thing for a long period of time. Over the year, I teach a number of courses, so if you teach something that’s not your cup of tea you’re not stuck to it for the rest of the year. Working with students and helping them understand the material is a fulfilling job. As a teaching assistant, I have more experience with academic materials and therefore I can help them better than if they do it on their own. Another point why I like my job is the working environment in FaSos. The tutors get along with each other and the senior staff is really supportive of us, something you don’t see everywhere I think.

The thing that makes the job hard is
Students who are not paying attention. It’s amazing because sometimes even after multiple attempts via email or announcement in class they still don’t absorb the information. You try to be helpful to students but often they disregard it and can even backfire on you. This is most especially first year students in their first 6 months. They are struggle because they’re not used to the PBL system and/or university. Another factor in making the job sometimes difficult is the third class at the end of the day. This can be tough because you want to give every group the best you have. You want to be as alert as you were in the in the first group. I notice that also some students are struggling with this, from 4-6pm they’re not the most motivated and alert which is understandable because it’s also their end of the day. The challenge as a tutor is to give each class the same benefit from the experience, regardless of the time, participants or material.

I got this job by
applying for it. In my masters I was a research assistant for the head of the history department. He made me aware of the position and advised me to apply because he thought it would suit my abilities. After the interview, I was offered the position which was 2 years ago. I started my job in the summer of 2012.

The main reason for choosing this job is
that I knew I would enjoy teaching because I have done it before so it wasn’t far outside of my comfort zone. It was the first job offered to me after university and nothing else was playing, therefore it made sense to start working for the university. Another reason is that Maastricht as a city appeals to me. It’s a good place to live especially as a student. As a student you’re surrounded by students who you can socialise with. Working is a bit different because people have more obligations and responsibilities. As I’m interested in doing a PhD, being able to do a job where I can develop skills that will become useful when I want to apply for a PhD is perfect. In my job I get feedback from experienced and skilled people from the university.

The time I spent in doing my job is..
Irregular. We have a certain amount of teaching hours. In some periods we’ll be working more than others. The reading and teaching within a course is pretty consistent but the time it costs changes from course to course.  Also the amount of work depends on the specific task I have to do. For example, assisting and grading papers takes more time, with all the meetings necessary, than grading exams. However, in the end all tutors have a maximum amount of hours.

I didn’t expect the job to be..
As interesting as it is. Everyone jokes that the Germans have invaded Maastricht. However, you’ll be astonished by the diversity you have in class. You’ll have Brits, Dutch, Germans, Belgians, Spanish, Italians and so on. This diversity makes it interesting especially because in European studies you try to teach about Europe and its diversity, seeing a mixture in your own class on where you teach about makes it a far more dynamic experience.

My goal for the next years
is to start and finish a PhD in security studies or a related field. Hopefully, I’ll be working in that field. It can be for the government, an industry or a think-tank. I want to apply my knowledge from my PhD in a related field outside of academia for a while before returning to teach.

I love my job because
Over the years my teaching schedule change, and this pushes your own boundaries.  Teaching something new demands refocus year in year out. I get satisfaction from teaching, helping students finding their way in the academic world. Maastricht is a nice place to live, although in a couple of years I want to live in a bigger city. However, Maastricht is close enough to a number of big cities which allows me to travel and explore the areas around me. This provides me with new knowledge for myself and to pass along to my students.