Frigid Weather Paving Way for Epic Ice Race 124-mile Dutch race may be held for first time in 15 years By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff Posted Feb 9, 2012 1:00 AM CST Updated Feb 9, 2012 2:46 AM CST 3 comments Comments Races cross the finish line at the 1997 Elfstedentocht. (Wikimedia/Neils Schouten) (Newser) – A brutal cold snap has brought misery to much of Europe, but in the Netherlands they're hoping the cold lasts long enough to allow the return of the world's biggest ice race. The Elfstedentocht—11 Cities Tour—race is only held when the ice is thick enough along its entire 124-mile course of canals and rivers. The Dutch are getting excited about the prospect of holding the race for the first time since 1997, Der Spiegel reports. The race has only been held 14 times since its inception in 1909. While only 16,000 competitors are allowed to take part, more than a million spectators are expected along the route if the ice reaches the required 6 inches of thickness. In 1963, conditions were so harsh that only 69 people finished the race. " It all depends on the wind. A strong wind makes skating hard," a 59-year-old man hoping to race in his fourth Elfstedentocht tells Reuters. "Though I'm getting a bit older now, I'm 90% sure I will make it."