A few months back I spoke to the, then, freshly crowned Dutch womens cyclocross champion Thalita de Jong. Within days of our interview she would go on to win the World Championships at Zolder.
The following was featured in the ‘Dig in at the Dock’ programme, so for those of you that missed it, chance to read it now…
Thalita working hard at the Dutch National Championships, on her way to 1st place
Thalita de Jong surprised many ‘cross fans and more than a few competitors when she won the Dutch National Championships, with a great ride against a strong field in Hellendoorn recently. So when the talented Rabo-Liv rider said she was happy to spend some time answering a few questions for the Dig In crew from her training camp in Spain, we had to get on it!
So, Dutch National Champion, how does it feel?
Brilliant! I only started riding ‘cross two years ago and raced a few times, before placing 8th at the Hoogerheide World Champs (2014). Unfortunately I broke my collar bone last winter, and it refused to heal quickly. I missed out on 6 months of training and racing. This season I started racing CX again, but making sure the races I chose were not too technical. I rode some cat 2 races and started to win a few, which was great. I went to Hellendoorn with the simple view of having fun: enjoy and just cycle for the sheer hell of it. I didn’t feel any pressure as I am really a roadie: I mean I barely did any training on technique.
My plan was: hole shot!!!!!! Get into the woods first then, if I made any mistakes, the rest of the pack would have to pay the price: if I got off, they would need to get off too. I hit the front and never gave up the position: I kept thinking ‘’stay op kop (at the front) and just go’’, give it #volgas. When I hit the finish line first I was just so happy. I get to wear rood-wit-blauw for a year, that’s super cool! It’s the stuff you dream of!
That was a cool sprint v Sabrina Stultiens to win (a long flat two-up drag).
What can you remember?
All the way through the race I was able to open up a gap on Sabrina. She would close up at the sands traps, where she has more technical skill, But in the sections where it came to power and strength I could stay ahead. Through the final bend I had a slight lead and put in a few digs then held tempo. I had a wee peak a couple of times to see where Sabrina was, and realized that she wasn’t coming back, but I still had something in the legs if needed. I wasn’t afraid of her.
You have picked up some nice results this ‘cross season, any special training or target races?
I’ve not done any really special training. I had a short season starting in May thanks to my injury, and raced in the road up until the Team Time Trial in Richmond, (Thalita rode to bronze with her team). After that it was time for a wee holiday and then the start of the ‘cross season. I made my own cross course in the woods, for training, but I was lucky to get out there once a week if at all, as I have been doing a lot of road endurance training.
I chose a few races to start the season that were not too tricky, including a few cat 2 races. It’s good to ride with a chance to win, instead of starting on the 6th row, and you’ve no chance. I won in Ardooie, Contern, Bredene & Petagne beating the likes of Joline Verscheuren, Loes Sels, Ellen van Loy & Christine Majerus in the process. (None of them are slouches on the bike!). I love riding Heusden-Zolder and Hoogereide too: they suit me as a roadie.
Can you make a career out of ‘cross riding?
There are very few women who can make a career out of this, but you can earn more on the cross bike than as a roadie. On the other hand, with the cross you don’t generally share your winnings with a team as you would on the road, so it’s difficult to compare.
Any goals on the road and cross for 2016/7?
I’d like to continue the progression I made last year, with my stage win on the Cauberg & 4th place on GC at the Holland Ladies tour, plus my TTT bronze at Richmond. I want to get some level of consistency in my riding and a few results for myself and for the team would be great.
For cross I want to enjoy riding in rood-wit-blauw as often as I can! That is going to be amazing. I need to improve my technical skills too: I’ve got nothing to lose, so I am going out there to win! I definitely want to combine the two disciplines for the next couple of years. After that I might devote a whole season to ‘cross: we will see.
Any plans for 21 February?
There’s a race in Scotland if you are interested…
I will probably be training that day … 😉
Our thanks to Thalita for some interesting insight into her cyclocross experience.
We wish her all the very best in the field and on the road in future.
Gold! At Zolder