UCI Women's WorldTour
On the eve of the UCI Road World Championships in Doha, Qatar, Annemiek van Vleuten (the Netherlands) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) talk about their preparation since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and their aspirations for the UCI’s leading annual road cycling event.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-AIS)
I arrived in Oman on Tuesday with the Dutch National Team and will fly to Doha on Saturday. For my first training ride it was over 40 degrees and I drank 5 bottles in 3 hours. I am not someone who suffers particularly from the heat but this is at another level and I am very happy to have time to acclimatise.
My big goal in Doha is the individual time trial on Tuesday. I started to think seriously about the Worlds time trial after winning the Dutch time trial National Championships in June. Then at the beginning of September, I won the prologue of the Lotto Belgium Tour by 7 seconds. That is a pretty big margin over a course that only took around 5m30. It gave me confidence. The Lotto Belgium Tour was my comeback race after my crash in Rio, and I was so happy to win the prologue, the Queen stage and the overall classification. I also got a lot of encouragement from the other girls in the peloton which was super nice.
I hadn’t done any specific training since Rio, just riding my bike and enjoying myself. But I realised I was still in Rio shape. The only thing perhaps that was lacking was the long power efforts on the time trial bike. But last week I worked on that during a training camp in Sicily with Marianne Vos, and I was getting better every day. I had also done some aero testing on the track before the Lotto Belgium Tour and have done some fine tuning to my position on the bike so it has been good to get used to that too. I have only made little adjustments, but even a marginal gain can make all the difference.
After my victory in Belgium, I raced in two one-day events in Italy held on September 24 and 25: the Giro dell'Emilia Internazionale Donne Elite and the Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli Internazionale Donne Elite. In the first I got caught up behind a crash and couldn’t finish, and the next day I tried to attack in the uphill section but there wasn’t time to get away. It is great to have these two races on the calendar but I would love to see the organisers make them harder, with more climbs.
I have done nearly all my specific work now, so until Tuesday I will get used to the heat, rest a lot, drink a lot and sleep a lot. The time trial is quite long and very technical with lots of corners, which I like. It has been a long season and some riders are getting tired, but I am super fresh and eager to go for this one.
As for the road race, I raced on the course during the Ladies Tour of Qatar. I would have liked to see the women’s course go out of the city where there are likely to be crosswinds, and the formation of echelons. But it is going to be a flat race without wind. Nevertheless, the Dutch team has strong riders and two fast sprinters so we have a lot of cards to play!
And after Doha? I am really looking forward to spending three and a half months in Australia where I will get a chance to stay with some of my Orica-AIS team mates. I will do a mountain bike stage race, the Crocodile Trophy, at the end of October. But just for fun. I will take pictures and enjoy it. I will also do some road races while in Australia without forgetting to take a break, get some rest, and be a tourist.
Scuba diving is on my wish list!
Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv Women Cycling Team)
The last month has been really positive for me with some great results. I felt so good at the Boels Rental Ladies Tour in the Netherlands which I followed up with the U23 title and 2nd Elite at the European Championships. On top of that I have the Young Rider classification of the first ever UCI Women’s WorldTour. I am so happy about that.
But going back to the Boels Rental Ladies Tour (August 30-September 4), it was definitely one of my best races this year. I won stage 3, stage 6 and the overall best young rider! I didn’t expect to perform that well so soon after the Olympic Games. When I got back from Rio I took a break, relaxing with family and friends and just cycling a little. After so long focusing on the Olympics, my body and head needed time to recover and refresh. It turns out that the break helped me get into good shape!
Of course I could never have done this without my team-mates who gave me great support and put so much faith in me. I don’t know if I am more pleased with my best young rider jersey or my fifth place overall. When I am racing, I never aim for the young rider jersey. I just want to get a good result.
Then came the European Championships in Plumelec, France, where I was able to successfully defend my Under-23 title. This year we rode in the same race as the Elite and I came second overall behind Anna van der Breggen in a sprint finish. That means I have two medals – U23 gold and Elite silver. I appreciate both medals equally, like my own small babies!
Going into the Europeans I was hoping to have a great race day with my Federation team mates, who worked really hard to put me in a comfortable position and let me save as much energy as possible. Second behind the Olympic Champion is pretty good! Anna is also my team mate at Rabo-Liv and she sets such a good example. I love watching how she deals with the cycling world. Yes, she is Olympic Champion now, but she is still the same Anna that she was when I met her three years ago. She is a great team mate and I am already feeling sad that she won’t be with me next year, as she is changing teams.
My last two races were in Italy: the Giro dell'Emilia Internazionale Donne Elite and the Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli Internazionale Donne Elite. The first one was really bad for me as I was tired after travelling and training and not fresh enough to put in a big effort. The next day I was already feeling better and in any case they were both good preparation for the Worlds.
I am in Doha now and really looking forward to Sunday’s team time trial with my team-mates which is a major goal as we won bronze in Richmond last year. We trained together in the Netherlands last week and have also checked the course here in Doha. We are all excited.
The road race course doesn’t really suit me but I have come here to work for my Polish team mates and I really want to do my best to put our leader in the best position. These are my 6th UCI World Championships, including as a Junior, and it is always special to wear your national jersey and fight for your country.
I have no specific plans after Doha but it will definitely involve a big rest and no bike!!!!