Sander Douma: cycling track builder of Olympic class
Sander Douma was a very deserving amateur cyclist, an out-of-category lover of cycling and, as a successful architect, also blessed with great technical insight. Sporty, creative, communicative and enterprising.
But above all, his passion and perseverance made him and his company SDA Velodromes a much sought-after designer and builder of cycling tracks – from National to Olympic level – all over the world. And still new requests come to his desk.
The absolute crowning glory of his work was ‘his’ cycling track on which record after record was broken during the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece. ‘Who build that fantastic cycling track?’ From all over the world, requests regularly came and come to Douma’s headquarters in Stompetoren, North Holland. Tracks were laid in all corners of the world. A selection: Brazil, Dubai, China, Malaysia, South Korea, Australia, Georgia and even Russia. Money was never his motive: “I enjoy making things happen and wanted to help move the sport forward. Whether it’s for amateurs or pros. All those projects around the world were adventures with wonderful encounters with people and other cultures. That was my reward.”
In the Frisian town of Grou, Sander grew up in a family with a total of three children. Hardworking parents. Down-to-earth. His father started a beautiful business there: fashion house ‘ it beaken’. The shopkeeper instilled an entrepreneurial spirit in his children at an early age. And that helped Sander a lot. Hard work pays off, he learned in practice and he says: “I think I am most like my father. He was social and entrepreneurial. A very hard worker.”
Cycling to school
In Leeuwarden, Sander completed the Higher Technical School. “Every time you go by bike, you put the money for the train in your pocket,” his father challenged him. Summer and winter, Sander biked up and down to Leeuwarden every class day. Twelve kilometers there, twelve kilometers back. From the unspent money, he bought a road bike. Sander took up cycling.
In military service, his talent did not go unnoticed. He soon cycled his way into the military team, rode international races in the famous “Batavus” team and made the pre selection for the 1968 Olympics.
Sander therefore sought work in Amsterdam after his military service because he could cycle on the track there.
Unlike many of his contemporaries – such as Joop Zoetemelk, Jan Raas and Gerrie Knetemann who turned professional -, he remained a top amateur and, above all, a great cycling enthusiast.
Sander would reach the highest podium in another field.
Roofing Alkmaar cycling track
He decided to attend the Academy of Architecture. Besides cycling and his wife Jozefina-and later his family-the love for architecture had blossomed. In 1976, he started as an architect for himself and the family moved to the Schermer area below Alkmaar. Sander Douma Architects became a successful company with commissions from all over the country. The cycling club Alcmaria Victrix was next door; he became a member and continued cycling in his spare time. After all, Alkmaar was one of the few cities in the Netherlands that had a cycling track. Big problem was that the cycling track had no roofing with the consequence that races had to be cancelled when it rained because of possible falls.
A serious feasibility study led to money being found and Sander being able to implement his plan for a semi-covering in 1984. It was a striking, architectural piece of art and competitions and training were now guaranteed.
Olympic ambitions Amsterdam
Meanwhile, the City of Amsterdam had a grand plan to host the 1992 Olympic Games. Only the Netherlands did not have a suitable cycling track. Sander Douma’s plan to upgrade the Alkmaar track to Olympic standards ended up in the Bid Book to the Olympic Committee. Amsterdam did not get the games, but Sander Douma’s design did make waves in the international sports world.
He built a track in Athens in 1988 for the 1991 Mediterranean Games. This track became the cycling center for the 2004 Olympics! The cycling world praised the speed and comfort of the track. SDA Velodromes had proved itself on the highest stage in the world: “Well and then it really started to take off,” says track builder Sander Douma anno 2022.