You are Dutch, work for a cycling organisation and you ride your bike every day?’ – Yes, that is me!
I rode a bike for the first time without training wheels when I was four years old, the summer before I went to primary school. I remember it was at the campsite and I was so happy, that after a few meter I rode straight into a hedge! From then on, you could find me riding around my hometown Delft on two wheels.
Riding a bike was something I did to get from A to B, I definitely didn’t consider it exercise or classified it as sport. My choice of sport was field hockey, which I started playing at the age of seven. The local hockey club was my second home and family – training three times a week, playing on the Sunday, coaching junior athletes, organising the youth festivities and pouring beers behind the bar as part of the ‘Bierteam’.
Hockey was my life and the reason I ended up chasing a degree in Human Movement Sciences / Sport Psychology. After finishing my Bachelor’s degree in 2012, I went on to study in Lund, Sweden. From then, I kind of never moved back to Holland – sorry mum!
I moved to Melbourne in September 2013 to finish off my Master’s degree with a research at Victoria University. Why Australia? My dad has a sister and brother who moved to Sydney more than 40 years ago. In 2001, 2005, 2008 and 2011 I had visited Australia for holidays with my parents, younger brother, sister and loved it!
The first thing I asked my aunt when I got to Australia was whether I could borrow her bike to take to Melbourne. She replied: ‘You do know cycling here is not like cycling in Holland?’. I just said ‘Surely it is not that different…’. Can now say I was pretty naive back then! Riding in Melbourne was so different – barely any bike lanes, hills and weird hook turns. But I managed to ride almost everywhere, saved a lot of money by not taking the tram for every single trip and by the time I finished my thesis I knew my way around Melbourne.
My planned nine months stay in Australia turned into a full year. After my research in Melbourne I travelled the country and did 89 days of regional farm work, picking kiwifruits in the highlands of Victoria. After a few months back in Delft to earn money and pack up my things, I moved to Sydney in January 2015. Soon after I started an internship with Bicycle NSW, which definitely sparked my passion for cycling. I kept telling anyone who wanted to hear: ‘Look it up on Google Maps, I swear you will be faster on a bicycle than by car or public transport!’ From an intern position, I rolled into a part-time and then full-time, sponsored role as an event manager for Spring Cycle and Gear Up Girl.
In Australia I had slowly picked up running, but an injury in late 2015 caused me to mix it up. I started swimming and, for the first time ever, riding a bike for a non-commuting purpose. The injury went away, but I had caught the triathlon bug and signed up for my first sprint race. After completing this one on a borrowed bicycle, I realised I needed a bike the right size. I walked into Park Bikes during a lunch break at work and a couple weeks later, at the end of January 2016, I walked out with a road bike. I named it Carel (Dutch version of Karl), as this was my nickname back in Delft because my friends considered me to be a bit of a tomboy.
For some crazy reason, in May 2016, I decided to sign up for L’Etape – this was before I had even completed my 100km ride!!! Looking back, I really think I had no clue what I was getting myself into or how much training I should be doing for this. However, training for L’Etape turned out to be the best thing ever! By race day I was definitely not ready to tackle this, but through training rides I had created this amazing group of friends around me; pacers from my runclub that were now riding bicycles, girls I met through the Rapha Women’s 100 ride, a group of Instagram famous triathletes and the Park Bikes / Parklife green army!
After L’Etape I didn’t really think about triathlons anymore, it was replaced with thoughts of racing crits. Thanks to some encouragement from my new gained friends I started racing and haven’t really looked back since! Hilly long rides are still on the program every now and then, but hill anxiety is a real thing! I rather avoid them if possible and race around a crit track instead. Triathlons are also not completely off the menu yet, as I have one thing on my bucket list: a half Ironman! Hopefully I will finally get to tick that one off at the end of 2018.
This #DutchieinSydney cannot be happier to be part of the green army. Leaving behind friends on the other side of the world, only to find a whole new group in Australia is an amazing feeling. Big thumbs up for a special group of friends – the Jungle Girls! Finding this many girls in a man dominated world, is something I am not taking lightly. Getting to ride with or race against only girls, it is just something special. Big shout out to the two original Jungle Girls that have been a major part of getting more women on the bikes. Be proud!
So whether I ride around Sydney on my old, red, rusty commuter or Carel on a race track, every time I am riding I proudly advocate to get or more women on a bike. I stopped comparing the Dutch cycling to the Australian way, because it is never going to be like back home. But here is to hoping that one day, we have a 50/50 split of women and men riding and that we all can respect every type of road user. Because in the end; smile today, be happy tomorrow!