In another VeloVoices exclusive, Jack speaks to ex-Rabobank and Quick Step rider Marc de Maar about his professional career to date and his aspirations for the future as he begins his second spell with Pro Continental squad UnitedHealthcare.
Marc de Maar describes himself as “not a world-class rider”, but he will always have his special place in the cycling history books as the first ever man to wear the national champion’s jersey of Curacao. I’ve been fortunate enough to put a few questions to the UnitedHealthcare rider, to get to know a little about himself and his background.
Perhaps better known as a liqueur, Curacao is actually 444 square kilometres of island off the coast of Venezuela (and home to the drink), and was formally part of the Netherlands Antilles, prior to its dissolution in October 2010.
Marc then had to choose whether to race for the Netherlands (his place of birth) or Curacao, as he had previously held dual Dutch and Antillian nationality. He chose the latter, and I started out by asking him why he did this, and what his connection was with the island.
My parents live there. And I’ve spent the half of my life on the island. Because of that I got really involved in the local cycling over there. And I felt – and actually I still feel – very appreciated for everything I do to help the cycling develop.
Besides that, Curacao feels much more like a home and a place I can be myself then the Netherlands. Because of this I feel a big connection, that’s also the reason I’m feeling proud to represent the Curacao colours everywhere I race!
It was back in 2006 that Marc first turned professional, with the Rabobank team. At 27 years old, he’s had more than enough experience of the everyday trials and tribulations of a professional cyclist. I asked him what the life is like.
It’s not even that special. It’s just a job – although I ride a bike to make money which is not so average. And besides that, it started as a hobby. I’m still really happy and thankful I can make my money with practising my hobby – there are not a lot of people who can say that.
But I also have days I don’t want to go to the office and stay home. Luckily it is only a few days a year when I have this feeling. Especially when it rains … What I like the most about being a cyclist is the travelling and the freedom. Of course I have my responsibilities, and the biggest is training and making sure I stay in shape. But I can go out riding in the morning, at noon, even in the evening and it doesn’t matter if I go training in Spain, or Belgium or the US or even Curacao as long as I keep on training.
There are a few interesting wins on Marc’s palmares, such as a gold medal in the road race at last year’s Pan American Games and stage wins in a number of smaller races such as the Canadian Tour de Beauce, won in the past by the likes of Levi Leipheimer and Francisco Mancebo, and the overall win at the Belgian stage race Le Triptyque des Monts et Chateaux, with past winners including Matthew Hayman and Lars Boom. I asked what type of rider he was.
I’m quite all-round. But for the coming season I want to start working on my TT skills and climbing skills a little more specifically. My favourite races are the smaller stage races, like the Tour of California, Utah, Colorado, Tour of Britain, Volta ao Algarve et cetera.
This season, Marc is back at UnitedHealthcare where he was for the 2010 season. After a year riding in the WorldTour for Quick Step, I asked him what his goals for 2012 are, and his reasons for returning to the American UnitedHealthcare outfit:
I want to start winning again! That goal is pretty obvious! I think this year’s roster will bring much more possibilities than last year’s roster at Quick Step. I only participated in WorldTour races. And I started to realize, after being around for seven years now, I’m not a world-class rider, but I’m more than a reasonable rider who is able to do some really good results once in a while. This is also the main reason I left Quick Step.
It was also because I kinda missed the UnitedHealthcare family. It’s a really close team. We are a bunch of characters but there is enough space for that, and everybody kinda accepts each other.
And finally, what are Marc’s ultimate cycling ambitions?
My biggest ambition is to participate in the Olympics and the Tour the France. I’ve done all the biggest races in the world, except for these two.
For the Tour de France, it seems that I have to wait at least two more years. I just signed a two-year deal with UnitedHealthcare. This is a really ambitious team, and they really want to move forwards. Their programme is getting bigger every year, so hopefully in two years we’ll have a view to riding the Tour de France. If not I just have to make sure I’m gonna win a lot of races so I can join a team that goes to the Tour for sure!
Thanks to Marc for answering our questions, and don’t forget for more info you can follow him on Twitter!