This summer, I write for a Dutch magazine about life in the women’s peloton and the Tour de France. This is my latest piece.
Koen de Kort is a curious guy. When I tweeted this winter that I was going to prepare for the new season near Girona, he immediately tweeted back. “Wanna train together?” I was stunned when I saw the message. First of all: Koen de Kort following me? And secondly: a pro wanting to train with a woman?!
Pro riders like women, but not women riding a bike. They always have something to complain about. And they whine. And they don’t ride on. They are freaks living on one single lettuce leaf. That’s what they think about us. I regarded Koen’s tweet as a polite gesture. Untill, one week later, he tweeted again. “How about that training ride?”
We arranged to meet in a small village halfway. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to even find it or wouldn’t recognize Koen. Luckily bike riders always wear the outfit of their sponsors. I actually couldn’t miss him. To me he was one of the men from the pro peloton. I never really studied him and felt kind of awkward about that. Especially when Koen explained his enthusiasm to train with me by saying: “I was curious about you.”
We rode onto the plains. Koen chatted and chatted but the wind was blowing so hard I didn’t understand one word he said. I just nodded. It started raining and the wind picked up. To avoid the wind we decided to head for the hills. To the climb which mentions the name ‘Hincapie’ dozens of times on the ever ascending road.. Now I could understand what Koen was saying. I hardly ever met a cyclist who is more interested than him. We were busy talking when we reached the top of Hincapie. We looked around us and were amazed to see it had started snowing. Snow on the Costa Brava, crazy things happen.
I met a lot of them and most top athletes are only interested in themselves. That is not a bad thing. You don’t want to be distracted when you have to get results. Koen proved however that there is another way. Even when you congratulate him by sending a text because he just got on the podium of a big Flemish classic, he still answers: “Hey, how about you. Still training well?” You can overdo it because, hey hello! As if my training matters at such an important moment of his career.
Without a doubt, Koen is the same in the peloton. Some riders make themself unpopular by the way they act. People even hate them. Koen’s tactic is actually much better. Everyone likes him. I know from my own personal experience that you let riders you like pass easier than the ones you dislike. Koen will probably experience the same. They will let him through without even noticing he has a train of teammates following him. And even more importantly, they let him pass without realizing this might be his decisive move. They grant him this. And exactly because of that fact Koen will win a stage. Mark my words.
Translation: Procycling News / Tour de José