UCI Women's WorldTour
It’s time to step down from the bike and do something entirely different. After a particularly long racing season, our two pros Annemiek van Vleuten (the Netherlands) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) look back at the season and ahead to 2017.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-AIS)
Straight after the UCI Road World Championships in Doha, I flew to Australia on a one-way ticket. It’s all a bit of an adventure and I don’t know exactly when I will return to Europe.
First, I did a super-fun mountain bike stage race, the Crocodile Trophy. I only entered for fun but half-way through I realised I could win so I started to race a bit harder. Unfortunately, I took wrong turnings two days running and lost a lot of time, but I still finished second overall and most importantly had a lot of fun. We slept outside in tents, I met a lot of people and it was a great way to see some of Australia. Since then, I have been taking a complete break from cycling that began with some diving at Great Barrier Reef followed by a three-day on-board scuba diving trip. It’s impossible to bike on a boat!
Now I’m in New Zealand on an adventure tour which includes rafting and hiking. I love doing something totally different from cycling but also a bit of thrill-seeking – although I draw the line at bungy jumping! I want to profit a maximum from the opportunity to do something different, without caring about how I feel, whether I have sore legs, whether it’s OK to go to bed late or drink a beer…
Going back to Doha and my fifth place in the individual time trial: it was a good result for my first-ever World Championships time trial. But I would have liked to have a medal. I was scared of the effects the heat might have on me, so I started off too conservatively. I could have done better in normal circumstances. As for the road race, I knew the course wouldn’t suit me. I would have loved to race outside the city like the men with the wind, the echelons and gutter action.
I have surprised myself this season – both on the hills and with my time trialling. I was consistent right from the beginning of the season, and in the Classics, I was always present in the final. I could continue competing at a high level through to the Worlds in Qatar. It’s inspiring for next year.
There were a lot of great moments and victories but one of the highlights of the year was winning the Dutch National time trial title. The Dutch national jersey is very important to me.
Although it has been a long season, I have finished in good shape and not feeling too tired. Even my last training camp in Sicily felt like a holiday. As soon as I go away and train in a different environment, I enjoy the lifestyle and feel as if I am on vacation – even if I am training hard.
I have a small training camp with my team in Australia in the middle of November and I will probably do a few criteriums, including a race in Tasmania. They aren’t very important but it’s a nice way to get back on the bike. I will aim to be in good shape for March and April next year. The UCI Women’s WorldTour calendar for 2017 is awesome, especially with the addition of races such as the Amstel Gold Race. It’s great that more races are being upgraded and it helps to keep us fresh.
I am also pleased that La Course by Le Tour de France will no longer just be a flat race along the Champs Elysées.
All these changes show that women’s racing is being taken seriously.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv Women Cycling Team)
The off-season isn’t that easy! It’s so hard to get used to living like a normal person… to wake up and say ‘what shall I do today?’ I’ve certainly enjoyed spending time with friends and family as I don’t see them much during the year. And like last year, some of the girls from my team came to Poland for two days. It’s fun to get together without cycling. We did some hiking, spent a night in the mountains and also had a good dinner out together without having to worry about what we eat.
I’m just getting back into training, and although I am taking things slowly at the moment I’m happy to have a schedule again.
It is hard for me to pick out one highlight from the 2016 season. I have great memories from every race, and my performances were steady all year. Obviously the Strade Bianche was great because I was on the podium, the Spring Classics were so much fun, and Anna (van der Breggen) winning the Flèche Wallonne with me in fourth was also amazing. The atmosphere is incredible at that race with so many people on the Mur de Huy. The last race of the first part of the season, with my victory I Luxembourg (at the Festival Luxembourgeois du cyclisme féminin Elsy Jacobs) was also special because after that race I went home and could celebrate with my family. Then I won the Polish national jersey, which has to be a highlight. I’ve been aiming to have that for such a long time, and this year the race was perfect.
Obviously, a lot of the season was geared towards preparing the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. I probably put too much pressure on myself but I have learnt from that which is good for my future. I must remember to stay the same Kasia. It’s just another race.
The UCI Road World Championships in Doha were super hard for me too. The temperature sapped my energy in the team time trial and I wasn’t able to ride like I usually do. I felt weak. I felt better in the road race so I think I just needed more time to acclimatise. In the end, it was a good experience.
From Doha, I travelled with Anna to the UCI Cycling Gala in Abu Dhabi where we had a really good time, lying on the beach and soaking up the sun. The actual Gala, where I won the award for best young rider of the UCI Women’s WorldTour, was amazing. I’ve never been around all these great cyclists before and I realised they are human! I was a bit nervous about meeting them but when we all started talking together it was like one great big family.
This was my third year as a professional and I have got to know the courses and where it is important to be in the front. I think I am smarter than I was last year, thanks to my team and my Sports Director. I have always looked to Anna (van der Breggen) as an example. Whatever happens she always remains the same, easy-going Anna. She doesn’t make a big deal out of anything and I can learn such a lot just from watching her.
I’m already excited about next year – there are so many cool races joining the UCI Women’s WorldTour like Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Amstel Gold Race. I love this area and I won up the top of the Cauberg this year in the Boels Ladies Tour. That will definitely be on my list of races.
Our team has a new sponsor and some new members for 2017 and I am really excited about it all. I think next year will be a good one!