I love cycling. A bike isn’t just for the road, or just for racing, or just a tool I use to do my job. It’s a way to see new things, meet new people, have fun with friends. Ride through forests, over mountains, by the ocean, see the sunrise, see the sunset. It’s a way to live life, to push your limits. Enjoy the adventure.
LET'S GET 2018 started
For a professional cyclist, January is about one thing: Training camp. The beginning of another year of adventures on the road; new teammates, new objectives, new challenges. This year, I’ve spent 22 out of 31 days at our team hotel in Calpe in southern Spain, being looked after by the fantastic staff of Team Sunweb. Luckily, I also had a week at home in the middle, staying in touch with reality, living a normal life and keeping my daddy and husband skills up to speed. When I was back home, I also raced ‘The Mother of all Beach Races’ at Egmond. One picture from that says it all; a really tough day on the bike.
When I’m away with the team, I have a few rituals to keep the balance of #liveslowridefast. The most important one is coffee. No surprise for a cyclist, perhaps. Every day after lunch I make myself a nice brew, share it with a teammate and we kick back, relax and talk. Not just about cycling, more about life.
Back in the day, I used to have an ordinary ‘French press’ coffee maker and would just throw in some ground coffee from the local supermarket. Now, to stick with my principles and appreciate the small things in life, I’ve stepped up my coffee game. This year, I took a Cafflano pour over coffee maker on camp. It has its own grinder, so I can use my own beans and enjoy the freshest coffee possible in an ordinary Costa Brava hotel room. We’re even developing our own blend of #liveslowridefast organic beans. Stay tuned for news on that!
And do you guys know I can now officially call myself a coach? For the last three months, I’ve been working with Dennis. He’s spent January out in Calpe in his own apartment so I can keep an eye on his training. I sneaked out to escape the hotel buffet and we enjoyed dinner in true #liveslowridefast style in his tiny apartment. We discussed his training and goals for next season while eating our steak and enjoying our first glass of wine of that week.
Dennis is doing great and I am really proud of him. He is my try-out athlete to see if I am a real coach. So far, I am enjoying the process and it’s something I might do more of in the future. But for now one athlete is enough. I still have to train my own ass off in January to follow all the young guns in my team.
BONN OR BUST
It seemed like a fun idea when my good friend Jelle Mul talked about this on a nice summer day in August. Why don’t you join us on a bike ride from Amsterdam to Bonn in early November, he said. It will be 290km and we ride to the Climate Change Conference in Bonn from Amsterdam to raise awareness for fossilfree.com. Without thinking twice I said yes and next we had a mixed group of 12 riders, with cycling hipsters, long distance adventurers and even an ex-pro. Bonn or Bust.
We set off at 5:00 in the morning. Why such a ridiculous time, I asked myself. I did some quick math and figured we would get there by mid-afternoon. What would we do with the rest of the day?
By 14:00 hours we were only 120km into the ride and we had racked up 7 punctures already. I almost called it quits. Bust was closer than Bonn at that moment. The weather was bad and the stretches of gravel were not friendly to the summer tires that half the group were riding on. The continuous drizzle and the on-going stops for punctures made a quick run for the train back home an appealing option. The one thing that stopped me from jumping on the train back was that I had a spare bag with dry clothes, but annoyingly this was in the support car that was just slightly out of sight for the whole day.
After 17 hours, 305km and 15 punctures we finally made it to Bonn! It was 23:00 and I was so tired that I could only manage to just eat a pizza and have one beer before crashing on the hotel bed. Bonnorbust, once behind you it’s a great story but if you’ll ask me again for a crazy adventure in August, I might think twice.
When I was living in the US, I did a couple of off-road races, which were a lot of fun. Grinduro is a gravel race and an enduro race rolled into one; 100 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing, high up in a remote area. There are four timed sections that count for the win; a singletrack downhill, a fire road downhill, a big climb and a flat segment. It’s about more than racing though; it’s a celebration of cycling, of having a good time on the bike. There are maybe 10 food stops, with beer, whiskey, grilled cheese, everything you want. But you need to have balls to do it too. It’s challenging, riding singletrack like that on a cross bike with 40c tyres.
During the winter, I like to do some beach races in Holland. I normally race a couple of times in November and if I race in December it means I’ll have raced 12 months of the year, which isn’t something many pros will do. I like it; it’s something to train for and it’s fun. I’m lucky because the bike shop near my house has a beach team and they help me a lot. You need some special preparation with your bike; we race on 29er mountain bikes with rigid forks, with special wide tyres and a secret tyre pressure. They’re the experienced guys, so I just hop on the bike and race. It’s just fun with the boys, everyone laughing, and it’s good training in winter. One hour, full speed, some good intensity. The beach is always changing; we’ll race in the snow in January and everyone is suffering in the cold and wet and I enjoy that too. The feeling is always better afterwards than when it’s a walk in the park.
My friend Ted King, who who was a pro for Cannondale, once rode from San Francisco right down the California coastline on Highway 1. That’s a pretty crazy trip when you think it’s over 1,000km on one road. I joined him for two days; we did 200km and then 240km. They were the first two days after I started training again for the winter, so it was pretty rough ride for me. We went all the way down to San Luis Opisbo. Man, we had so much fun. That was an adventure we created ourselves, which is something I really like to do.
The Grasshopper is different again; it’s a 50 mile single loop; up and down a mountain and the first rider across the line wins. You have to climb gates, cross rivers and there’s a pile of beer and chips waiting for you at the finish line. It’s in a beautiful place and my kids loved it. We camped out, daddy raced his bike for a few hours and we just had a good time together as a family.
OUR WORLD CHAMPS
The day before the World Championships, I meet Karsten Kroon, who was with me at Rabobank, and ride to Luxembourg, riding right across Belgium and back in a day. It has become a bit of a tradition for us. It’s a 250 kilometre day and there’s a pizza place on the border where we stop for a big pizza, then ride the four hours home. Afterwards, we go for a nice dinner in Maastricht, with a lot of wine, and then spend the next day on the couch, watching the Worlds on TV.
I still have things I want to do on the bike; the Cape Epic in South Africa, maybe the Crocodile Trophy in Australia. The Crocodile Trophy was the first mountain bike race I thought ‘I’d love to do that’; a full on stage race where everyone camps in tents at night. I’d also like to ride Paris-Roubaix before I retire as a professional, as it’s the only Classic I have never done. I don’t know if that wish will ever be fulfilled though.