Guest VeloVoice David Fletcher has filed a timely interview with 26-year-old Belgian track and road star, Jolien D’hoore – who is one to watch in this weekend’s elite women’s road race at the World Championships in Doha.
Sometimes ambition can be the downfall of a high profile athlete but in Jolien D’hoore’s case, hunger for success has been the key to her prosperity this season. Cruising through the season with elegance and finesse, she has taken many victories with her amazing sprinting prowess. Considering she’s had to cut back on her road ambitions makes her achievements all the more remarkable.
Jolien: 2016 has been a very challenging and demanding year. I had to cut my road programme to prep for the track, what meant that I never was 100% on the road. It was sometimes hard to deal with mentally, as the year before went so smoothly. But I knew it was all for a good purpose.
To finally get that Olympic medal was such a relief [she won bronze in the women’s omnium – Ed]. It sounds like a cliché but I sacrificed so much the last couple of years and I worked harder than I ever did before. When everything fell into place at the Olympics, it was a great feeling and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. My immediate thoughts were very emotional. Tears came to my eyes and all the hard work of the past months came back to my mind – all the suffering, the sacrifices…
One of the reasons she was able to capture that bronze medal was due to her change of team, from Lotto-Belisol Ladies to Wiggle-High5. The squad supported her desire to triumph not just on the road, but on the track, juggling the two disciplines with ease.
Jolien: The first year I rode with Wiggle-Honda [now Wiggle-High5] was an eye-opener for me. I came to full potential in that year. I never experienced riding as a team with girls who became my friends. It’s the team that makes the dream work and that was definitely the case with me. The team and my teammates gave me their trust, year in and year out, and I’m really thankful that Rochelle [Gilmore, managing director of the team] supports me in every way. Wiggle back me up with everything to develop myself as a rider on the road, but also on the track.
Big ambitions consequently lead to a jam-packed schedule. Accumulated race days and endless training rides must have taken their toll on the Belgian powerhouse, yet she confirms that she’s had her rest and still has something left in the tank for Sunday.
Jolien: After my competition at the Olympics, I stayed until the end of the Games, so I had a week off the bike where I enjoyed being a tourist in Rio. But once I got back, I immediately started riding again, although it wasn’t easy at first to get that mental focus back. That’s why I already decided before Rio, to ride Boels Rental Ladies Tour. If I’m in race mode, it’s easier to get that focus again. I suffered a lot, especially the first few days, but I felt I was getting better towards the end. My shape was still good, I barely lost anything, so I knew I could do something in Madrid and did [Jolien won La Madrid Challenge by la Vuelta – Ed]. In Madrid I felt strong, but still not 100%. I’m saving that for Qatar…
This season has definitely presented opportunities for Jolien, being an Olympic year and with a World Championship parcours that suits her to a tee. She seized her moment in Rio and now all focus is on the long, pan-flat, windy, draining and scorching Qatari course that hosts the UCI Women’s Road Race World Championships on Saturday.
Jolien: I had two goals this season. The Olympics (that box is checked) and the World Championships. I have my mind set on this and I hope I can show myself.
I am confident and the course suits me perfectly but we have to wait and see how I cope with the heat. That will be the big question mark for everybody. But I’m well prepared and ready for my second World Championships.
Regarding the team that surrounds her, she believes that, although they don’t have the most horsepower, they are committed to their goal of taking the rainbow jersey home. Concerning favourites, she ranks her best friend and teammate, Chloe Hosking (Australia) – whom came second in the Madrid Challenge – as her biggest fear. She also sees the opportunists as a threat to dethrone the sprinters.
Jolien: Obviously you can’t compare us with the Netherlands or Australia but we have five girls who are committed to support me and I’m 100% sure they will give everything they have to put me in the best position in the end. My main threats are Chloe Hosking, Kirsten Wild, Giorgia Bronzini, but also Annemiek van Vleuten, Ellen van Dijk, Anna van der Breggen, Lisa Brennauer…
Looking ahead, she expects big things in her third season with Wiggle-High5.
Jolien: Next year I want to be at my best from the very beginning of the season starting with the Omloop, a home race. From that race on, I want to fight for the victory every week until Flanders. It would be dream come true to win in Flanders. Then I will target a few sprint races, like La Course, Yorkshire, China maybe.
And finally we ask Jolien, with the sport’s growing profile, what does the women’s side need to reach the heights and views of the men’s discipline?
Jolien: Every World Tour race shown on television, which attracts sponsors, which gives the teams more financial possibilities, which raises the professionalism in women’s cycling.
To finish off, we close the interview with the quick fire round, Teammates.
Best friend: Chloe Hosking, in and out of the race we get along very well. She has become a part of the family in Belgium.
Funniest: Giorgia, no explanation needed.
Best dresser: Anna Christian/Dani King
Worst dancer: That would be me.
Most dedicated: Emma Johansson. She is the most dedicated and professional athlete I have ever seen.
Best to share a room with: Amy Pieters, we both speak the same language but that doesn’t mean we always understand each other.
Header: Jolien D’hoore winning Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta (Wiggle-High5)