Ladies & Bike

How’s life in the saddle for a young female cyclist?

The girls of the Belgian Lensworld–Kuota professional racing team answered a few of our questions and gave us new insights, shedding light on how women approach this gruelling sport.

 

 

How did you as a girl develop this passion for such a tough sport?

 

Maaike Polspoel – Belgium

It happened by chance for me. I started out using the bike as training for other sports, then I entered for a race. It was fantastic… so from that point on I was a cyclist!

Kaat Hannes – Belgium

It was a family thing … my father and brother were cyclists and I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Nathalie Verschelden – Belgium

As a child I spent a lot of time at my grandfather’s house. He was a great cycling fan, and he would take me to see a lot of races. Of course, I got the bug too. Ever since, the bike has been an exclusively competition thing for me.

Alice Maria Arzuffi – Italy

I started with cycling when I was 11 years and since then I’ve given free rein to this passion. I’ve built my life around this world.

 

What were the main difficulties at the start of your careers?

 

Nathalie Verschelden

The physical aspect, without a doubt. When I started I had no experience of training programmes, sports nutrition, etc, so I had to learn quickly. But once I got beyond that stage, I realised how important the mental aspect and determination are in cycling.

Maaike Polspoel

If you want results you need to have the best equipment, and at the start you have to buy everything … and on top of that, proper maintenance is of course critical … cycling is an expensive sport.

 

What sacrifices do you have to make as a cyclist?

 

Alice Maria Arzuffi

As with any sport, you do have to make some sacrifices to get results.

It’s not easy having a relationship when you’re always travelling around the world to compete, but life as a cyclist isn’t forever.

Maaike Polspoel

When you love what you, don’t even notice the sacrifices. You just focus on doing your best. Cycling is what I’m into and for now, nothing else matters.

Kaat Hannes

I have to be careful what I eat – above all I can’t overdo the chocolate … and then of course I miss going out with friends.

Nathalie Verschelden

The diet can be tough at first, but then you learn to appreciate it. Now I love feeling fit. It’s difficult even to see family as much as you want, but on the other hand, when you’re always travelling you learn about true friendship.

 

On the competition side, what’s your favourite race?

 

Kaat Hannes

I’m bound to say the National Championship, because I just won itbut I actually really like the classics, particularly the Amstel Gold Race, with its narrow lanes that I now know by heart.

Maaike Polspoel

If I have to choose one it’s the Strade Bianche: it’s a really epic race with dirt roads and stunning scenery, and of course the mind blowing finish in Piazza del Campo in Siena!

Nathalie Verschelden

It’s my first year in a UCI team and I’m not familiar with all the big races, but I have high expectations for the European and World Championships, and I must say even the Giro Rosa fires the imagination…

Alice Maria Arzuffi

One above all else: the Giro Rosa!

 

How many hours a day are you in the saddle?

 

Maaike Polspoel

It varies greatly depending on the type of training. It goes from 2 hours for a light session to 3 or 4 for more intense training, right up to 6 for endurance training.

Kaat Hannes

On average 17-18 hours in a week; about 1 to 5 hours per day.

Nathalie Verschelden

For a light session just one to one and a half hours, but for targeted training over long distances it can be more than five hours.

Alice Maria Arzuffi

It depends, say from one and a half to five hours.

 

What features do you like best in a saddle?

 

Alice Maria Arzuffi

Every woman has their own physical characteristics, and you need to find the seat that best suits them. Me, I like saddles that are wider at the back.

Maaike Polspoel

My preference is for saddles that are quite wide and without much padding. I don’t like saddles that are too soft.

Nathalie Verschelden

The ideal seat must be matched to the width of the pelvis. It must be light and comfortable, but for me the centre gap is also important, as it helps relieves pressure.

 

 

How many types of saddle do you use during the season?

 

Kaat Hannes

On the road bike I immediately felt at home with the Novus, while for the time trial races I use the Kronos Tekno Flow, also by Selle Italia; it lets me ride efficiently also in the aerodynamic position.

Maaike Polspoel

Personally, I use two types of saddle. I use the Selle Italia Novus S Flowroad on the road bike; it’s perfect for any type of race, whether on the flat or uphill.

For the time-trial bike the SLR Tri Gel is perfect: it’s very comfortable and I can give my best.

Nathalie Verschelden

The SLR Superflow for road races and the Kronos Tekno Flow for time trials. Both allow me to push to the max in different situations.

 

How much does the saddle affect performance?

 

Maaike Polspoel

The saddle is fundamentally important. It is the connection point between the upper and lower body. It has to be perfect from every point of view, otherwise it becomes impossible to ride at a high-performance level.

Alice Maria Arzuffi

With a good saddle you can put more power into your pedalling, so it should obviously never be a source of discomfort or pain when you’re riding.

Nathalie Verschelden

A lot. We spend a lot of time in the saddle, so obviously, if you don’t feel comfortable or can’t find a good seating arrangement, then you’re not going to get the best performance.

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