The secret behind ponytails

This summer, I write for a Dutch magazine about life in the women’s peloton. This is my third piece, and I’m really grateful José helped me out with the translation so you all can read it.

Vanity is something a female cyclist shouldn’t have too much. We can’t redo our hair during halftime in the race, or fix our make-up. First of all because we don’t have halftime – we just go on for three or four hours – and secondly because make-up ends up all around our faces due to sweat, snot and saliva which automatically comes with a tough race.

That doesn’t mean we are not feminine. Let’s take a look at the National Championships (NC) this weekend in Kerkrade. Not only the men rode there on Sunday, with the rain wreaking havoc. We were there too, on Saturday. And our race was a battlefield too. Maybe you read it already, or seen it, but Annemiek van Vleuten won the red-white-blue jersey before her teammate Marianne Vos and before my teammate Lucinda Brand. But there were more ladies riding there, 130 in total. Most of them abandoned during the race and only 25 of them made it to the finish.

Despite that, we all looked our best. There are always a lot of photographers at an NC, and even a tv crew. We all know we won’t have any screen time in the three minutes the Dutch NOS usually broadcasts, but you never know. So, behind our sunglasses, our eyelashes have all been covered with a layer of mascara – waterproof because that means it’ll stick. Our nails have been polished in the team’s colours and we wear matching earrings.

The most interesting of a female cyclist’s looks though, is the hair. Just like normal women, most of us have long hair. You can’t just have that hanging loose under your helmet, because that’s A uncomfortable, B unpractical and C even dangerous. Most riders have their hair in a ponytail or a braid which fits through the hole at the back of the helmet. I always think it’s a pretty sight to see. Flowing hair or dancing braids on the rider’s backs. I unfortunately only have a very small ponytail. It doesn’t flow or dance. Therefore I am very jealous of the girls with golden cascades on their backs.

The ponytails and braids are not only interesing because they are so beautiful. No, they also play an important role in recognition. We don’t see each other from the front during a race, like you would on TV. We usually see each other from behind. Even though not one behind is the same, most riders look quite similar in the same team kit. That’s where the different hairstyles come in useful. When someone attacks and flashes by you, you usually recognize her the fastest by the ponytail or braid. Of course the style or the posture on the bike reveals the identity too but it takes a little bit longer to analyze. I sometimes wonder how the guys do that. It seems a bit more complicated with all the short-haired heads under the helmets.

It’s for this reason I find it very useful that Marianne Vos wears her hair longer again. Without the red-white-blue jersey she had to leave to teammate Annemiek van Vleuten, Vos is a lot less recognizable. But nowadays she has a long, dark and curly tail. It is impossible for her to sneak off because you immediately see it’s her. But anyways. Whenever that ponytail attacks, you already know it’s too late.

Click here for the results of the National Championships.

Translation: Procycling News / Tour de José

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