You had only just started your Mechanical Engineering degree in 2018 when you won the junior world title time trials in Innsbruck. What was it like to cycle in your rainbow shirt?
“After that, I had only cycled in one junior competition, a time trial in France. When I joined the women’s elite cyclists, I wasn’t allowed to wear it anymore. The shirt is now framed and hanging above my desk.”
Was it a big change, joining the elite cyclists?
“Yes, it was. Everything was suddenly different. I went from my safe little world at school to the big outside world. I did a lot of endurance training by myself that winter. Cycling and studying were the only things I did.”
What was the women’s debut year like?
“My first competition was the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the opening of the Belgian cycling season, in March 2019. At the start of the race, there we were, a team of six first year elite women who had no idea how it would go. We cycled alongside our idols such as Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen and Chantal Blaak which was amazing. It went surprisingly well. The goal was simply to finish, but I finished in the first 60. It was cool.'
‘I was blown over, really stupid’
And after that it went wrong?
“Yes, one week later at the Omloop van Strijen race. Cycling in the polder in gale force 7 was not a good idea. I was blown over, really stupid. In itself the fall was not that bad, but a girl crashed into me and my elbow broke. I still have the scar. Suddenly you’re down and everything happened so fast.”
Did it ruin your preseason?
“I spent a week on the sofa after the operation. Then I spent three weeks on the exercise bike. A couple of weeks after that I went on a weekend training camp. I shouldn’t have done that as I could only brake using the left brake. My doctor had advised against it, but I still went out to cycle. It went well.”
How did the rest of that season go?
“I was very afraid. I had a metal pin in my arm and was afraid of falling on it. But it wasn’t a lost season. In terms of results, it could have been better, but I learned a huge amount that year: how to deal with fear and how to take my place. The high point was the Thüringen Ladies Tour in Germany. I enjoyed the climb there. If you climb with a small select group for one-and-a-half hours, it’s less scary than cycling in a big group.”
‘It was good for my social life’
You became a member of the WTOS Student Cycling Club in October 2019.
“I could train there in the evening with a group. That was good as you don’t have to cycle alone in the dark. Most of the members were guys and they cycle faster. A group like that pushes you more. It was also really fun. I enjoyed having more contact with people in Delft. We got together, had drinks, meals. I really missed that in my first year. You can also enjoy yourself without alcohol. It was good for my social life.”
You’re now in former cyclist Servais Knaven’s NXTG Racing Team.
“It is a training team. NXTG stands for ‘next generation’. It is difficult to cycle among older cyclists as a 20 year old girl. But we all come up against the same obstacles. We support each other and explore our abilities together. Developing your ability is the important thing, not performance.”
So you were looking forward to the new season?
“At the start of this year I competed in five or six races. I was in shape and could do it. I now know that I really can keep up and do well. In a competition in Spain we formed a bunch sprint for our sprinter Charlotte Kool and it went really well. She was sixth and that gave us a huge kick. We were in the flow. I was looking forward to the Amstel Gold Race. I know the course well and really wanted to compete.”
And then came the corona crisis.
“Yet another bad early season. There are no competitions, but our trainers are copying them. This means that we do a climb in Limburg – separately – on the day that the Amstel Gold Race would have been held there. As if it were a real race. Just to become stronger.”
How is the contact among you?
“We talk about how things are going in our weekly Zoom session. We are not really getting bored, but you miss being on the road with each other and the adrenaline of competing. It’s hard now that you don’t have a clear goal. You need to understand that you are doing this so that you will be very good in two years’ time. The progress that I am making now, will prove itself next year. You need to change the way you think. I wanted to perform really well at the National Championships at the end of June so I could have a chance to enter the European Championship later in the year. I have no idea how they will make the selection now.”
‘I have become more independent’
And what about your studies?
“During the day I study until three o’clock and then get on the bike. In the weekend I spend all my time cycling. It’s a bit boring on your own. In terms of my studies, it’s also good to take the subjects that you should take.”
What is your study planning for the near future?
“I want to get my first-year diploma this year and I’m partly working on the second year. I want to get my bachelor in four-and-a-half years. I like to clear my head and do something else apart from cycling. To put your brains to work instead of your body.”
So have you gotten used to the ‘big wide world’?
“Ha ha, yes. I’m less stressed and have found my way. I am still living at home in De Lier but will soon move to Delft and share a house with two other WTOS girls. I also met my boyfriend at WTOS. I have become more independent.”