Glorious return to cyclocross for Van Empel
Fem van Empel has marked her return to the field with a victory. The 21-year-old...
Julie Van de Velde won a bronze medal at the Belgian Time Trial Championship, but she also stands her ground in the road races. This season, the 27-year-old rider is wearing the Team Jumbo-Visma jersey.
"The move to Team Jumbo-Visma felt like a unique opportunity for me that I certainly could not pass on", Van de Velde said. "The women’s team is completely new and I think it will be very special for both the riders and the staff. The men’s team was very strong last year and I look forward to working with them. I think this is going to be a really exciting challenge. I hope we can achieve some good results and that I can contribute to that."
The Belgian didn’t make her debut in the peloton until later in life, but by now she has acquired a taste for it. "I used to do athletics, especially medium-long distances. In the winter mostly cross-country running and in the summer distances between eight hundred and five thousand metres on the track. Because I was often injured, I started cycling as an alternative training to keep in shape. I noticed that I loved doing it and that I was not bad at it either. As I was still injured a lot I thought: let’s try a race on my bike and see where I end up. If it does not work out, I can always go back to athletics. That took some trial and error, but now the cycling is going reasonably well. I do not feel like I have achieved all I can achieve yet."
Van de Velde still enjoys running. "In the winter I try to go running once or twice a week. I think that is a very good alternative training for cycling. When the weather is bad, an hour of walking in the rain is also not as bad as three or four-hours on the bike. It is very good for your condition, you train other muscle groups, but the same system. You also need a well-trained heart and well-trained lungs for cycling."
"On the bike, I currently see myself as a climber who can also ride a good time trial on a hilly course", the former athlete says. "My favourite race is Flèche Wallonne, a Belgian race with many climbs and a finish on the Mur de Huy. I like uphill arrivals. In 2019 the Spring Classics all went well for me. During Gracia-Orlová, the first race after that, I could even compete for the win every day. That gave me a good feeling and a lot of self-confidence. I still carry that with me as one of my best moments on the bike."
When she’s not on a bike, she likes to spend time with her family. "Enjoying coffee together or going for a walk in the countryside. But I also like watching sports on TV. I follow athletics and tennis and, of course, cycling. I used to look up to Tom Boonen, who was super popular in Flanders at the time. In women’s cycling I followed Grace Verbeke. She was the first Belgian woman to win the Tour of Flanders. She even lived in my town for a while. I certainly looked up to her."
"My favourite Belgian cycling term is ‘in de boter trappen’", Van de Velde continues. "Because it is a great feeling when you ride around with ease while everyone else is suffering. On TV it is also nice to see someone pedalling so easily. It’s a treat for the eye."
She is eagerly looking forward to the moment she can start the first races in black and yellow. "Last season was not my best season. My blood values were not good and I was not feeling well. Except at the Belgian Time Trial Championship and in Strade Bianche, my performances were a bit disappointing. Fortunately, I feel a lot better now and I have a lot of energy and excitement to start the season with the new team. The preparations are going very well. I had a good winter and since I took some rest, I feel much better again."
"In the first place I want to get back to the level I was at in 2019 and preferably even better", Van de Velde says of her ambitions for the coming season. "This year I hope to get even closer to the world top, especially during the Spring Classics and in the Giro. My biggest ambition for next year is to get in the selection for the Olympic Games and to put down a good performance there."