We interview one of the very first ambassadors to join us; the Olympic bronze medalist, World Champion and rider for UCI professional Woman’s world tour team Boels-Dolmans from Belgium – Jolien D’hoore
How did you start cycling and what was your road to becoming a pro-cyclist?
I’ve started cycling by doing a summer camp for cyclists when I was 12 years old. At that time I wasn’t a cyclist, I was into track and field but I was looking for something new. At the end of the camp we all received a license to race. So without knowing I could now do some bike races. Soon I started my first race; I crashed but I decided to continue. Every time I got better and better and I started to enjoy the feeling of winning. I never thought about making my profession out of it until I was 18 years old and I became World Champion on the road as a junior. My parents supported me 100% but I had to put my studies first. So I started studying physiotherapy at the university in Ghent. I’ve always done the combination school/cycling. A couple of years ago I finally became a professional athlete!
How was it coming from the home of road cycling, Belgium?
Cycling is big in Belgium. It’s great to ride the Belgian races on home soil. Especially when I was wearing my Belgian champion kit. People recognize you and support you.
Do you prefer track or road cycling? And what role has track cycling played in your success on the road?
I can’t choose! I prefer to do both. The track has given me so much bike skills and experience. Also as a sprinter on the road I benefit from the short and explosive work I do on the track. The other way around, road also helps to have a good endurance level to compete in the track races I’m doing (madison).
How do you manage both track and road seasons so well?
I’ve been doing this combination since I was 12 years old! The year after the Olympics in Rio was the first time I skipped the track during the winter and I felt I missed something. Mentally it’s a nice change as well. After a long road season it’s always good to come back to the track.
You medalled in the omnium in Rio 2016, do you prefer old or the new omnium format?
I prefer the old format. Having an omnium over 2 days makes it extra tough. Also an omnium should have some timed events. Now it’s a bit unpredictable. Even if you’re in shape you can still miss out on a good result, with all those bunch races. Coming into Rio, I felt good and I knew I could have a good result because I could ride good times in training. But this omnium makes it more like a lottery.
You’re also the first world champion in the woman’s Madison, how does that feel? And do you think that the Madison will help get more girls on the track?
Belgium has a history in the madison. Our men have so much experience and skills, so it as easy to share all that information with us. As a kid I did lots of madison training. And any free time we’ve got during training these days, we started to do a madison (during cool down, etc.). So when the news came out that the madison would be a new event for the women, we were very excited because we knew we already had the skills. I hope it helps to get more girls on the track. Surely it’s a cool event to watch! It’s the most beautiful discipline in my eyes: you need speed, endurance, technical skills, tactical skills – a bit of everything.
What do you think has been the biggest factor in your success?
My family and my boyfriend. They have been there for me from the start. Even during the bad days they have my back. That’s what you need as an athlete – people who support you onwards and upwards. I’m so grateful to have them.
What do you think makes a champion?
Hardship, discipline, mentally strong and the will to never give up even if people telling otherwise. It’s not only talent that makes a champion, but the eagerness to become stronger and work hard every single day.
What do you think of the state of woman’s cycling? And what would you like to see change or improve?
Women’s cycling is evolving so fast. Every year I think I had a good prep, I’m stronger than last year but everyone gets even stronger again. They ride faster and harder every year. Teams are getting more professional as well. More men’s teams realize they should have a women’s team having the same kit, same bike, etc. The only thing that’s still missing is the media coverage. Our races can be followed via Twitter or Facebook, but no live tv coverage. Once they start showing our races on television, sponsors would come and it would make our sport even bigger.
What do you enjoy most about cycling and being a pro-cyclist?
I just enjoy the whole package. We have a luxury life! We get to choose our own training hours, we have our freedom, the places my bike takes me are incredible, you travel the world, meet new people!
You have recently signed for a new professional team, do you enjoy being a part of a team and what made you choose this team?
Yes, cycling is a team sport. And the results you can get as a team is so rewarding. I’ve signed for 2 years with Boels-Dolmans. They have set the standard for women’s cycling and are always the team to beat. It’s an honour to defend the orange colours the next 2 years. I’m looking forward to ride with them and hopefully contribute to their success.
Where is your favourite place to train? And what is you favourite part of training?
I like riding my bike in Mallorca. But I’ve been 2 times in New-Zealand and I love this country. Good weather, goods roads, and friendly people. The life there is easy going and very relaxed. The feeling you get after you have finished your scheduled training is satisfying and my favourite part of training.
What are your interests outside of cycling?
My interests outside of cycling are sports in general and food. I love to spend time in the kitchen.
What is something we wouldn’t know about you?
I have a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy.
I was the junior World Champion in Cape Town on the road (2008).
I’m an ambassador for the Special Olympics.
I have 1 younger sister who is becoming a police officer.
I have 1 crazy cat (Fonzie).
I speak 4 languages (Flemish, French, German and English).
What are your plans and goals for 2019? And what are you biggest goals for the future?
Goals for 2019:
- World Track Championships in Poland for the madison
- The spring classics (especially the classics in Belgium)
- Belgian national championships (road)
Goals for the future:
- Olympic medal in the madison in Tokyo 2020
Do you have any advice for young riders?
Do what you like and not what you’re being told to do.
Would you mind sharing some stats?
Max power: 1395W
Max HR: 229bpm
Best time 3km IP: 3’30’’202
Be sure to follow Jolien’s journey via her social media channels:
Interview by: Matthew de Freitas
(co-founder of BLS)