“I’ll go 100 percent for the games.”

“I’ll go 100 percent for the games.”

Puck Pieterse finished second at the World Cyclo-cross Championships in Hoogerheide in February of this year.Photo by Rob Powell/PSR/Getty Images

Seasons change quickly in Puck Pieterse’s cycling life. It still has to be summer, but Pieterse has already started its third cycling ring.

In February, she finished second at the World Cyclo-cross Championships in Hogerheide, behind fellow generation Wim van Embel. Exactly one month later she was cheering in Piazza del Campo in Siena, after finishing fifth in Strade Bianche. And now, at the beginning of May, she’s riding her mountain bike for the first ever World Cup race in the Czech Republic, Nove Mesto.

“I will probably ride all the World Cup races, maybe even the races in America. Plus the Dutch National Championships, European Championships and World Championships,” Pieters says of her MTB program for the rest of the year.

The mountain bike will take priority over the coming months, but first it will return to the extremely short road season of only two races. In Strade Bianche, her first appearance at the highest level, Pieterse easily followed the big names of the women’s peloton. After finishing, World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten told Pieterse that she should be able to win this race in the future.

And the world champion also wanted to get a quick photo with Pieterse in Piazza del Campo. “I don’t know if I had very good legs or luck with positioning and avoiding falls,” Peters himself modestly explains, “but it was so nice that it worked right away. Shortly after the match the pressure went away and I had a chat with everyone. That’s the way it is.” with which she met anime and actually wanted to be filmed.”

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An hour and a half full home

Despite her impressive entry, road cycling would be of secondary importance to Peters in the years to come. “I’ve made mountain biking and the Olympics a big goal, so I want to make it 100 percent. It doesn’t give much room to race on the road. With the mountain bike World Cup season on, I have a lot to do and have to see if there’s something suitable on the road between them.”

However, the fact that Pieterse can compete directly with the world top on the road says a lot about its class, while today, Saturday, May 13, it celebrates its 21st birthday only in the Czech Republic. It remains emphatically modest when it comes to mountain biking.

“This is really very different on the road. There’s a lot of technology involved. On the road, I benefit from mountain biking and I’m one of the more technical. But in mountain biking, I’m still one of the lowest, and there are women who come down faster than me.”

“On the road you can still earn a lot by driving smart, not acting crazy and saving. When mountain biking you always end up where you belong. It’s not about missing the beat there but it’s a full hour and a half from the start “.

Anne Terpstra and Anne Tauber

As she did last year in cross and on the road, Pieters will also be riding a mountain bike in the elite in the coming months, in order to try to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Paris in 2024. It’s going to be crowded, because there are likely to be two starting places in the Netherlands.

This weekend in Nove Mesto, eight Dutch women will start with the elite, including Anne Terpstra and Anne Tauber, who raced in Tokyo, as well as world cross champions Van Empel and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Pieterse’s teammate in Alpecin-Deceuninck.

For all women, the qualification requirement is a place in the top 8 at the World Cup or European Championships or a top 12 ranking at the World Cup. You can qualify until May 2024 and your best results will ultimately be decisive. Although national coach Gerben de Kniggt always has the option to disqualify. Peters sums it up simply: “Only two are allowed. Those will be the ones who ride the bike as fast as they can.”

“Look where I stand”

In her fourth participation in Nove Mesto – she has raced there before as a junior and twice as a U23 – Pieterse wants to see where she stands this weekend compared to the pros. She is a European champion with promises, but now she rides in the same field with top world riders such as Pauline Ferran Prévot, Jolanda Neff and Effie Richards. To see if her Olympic dream can become a reality.

“Two years ago I was already driving an elite race, but where am I now? I really have no idea. It will be my first time so I need to gain experience and see where I end up in the field. Watching the World Cup in action, And watch the legs recover.”

“In cross country and U23 on mountain bike, I’m used to competing to win. Then you drive differently than I did in the coming weeks, when I’m among the other women who drive faster.

However, Pieterse also hides Pippi Longstocking. (“I’ve never done that before, so I guess I can.”) She wants to gain experience, but she also talks about the “achievement goal.” “This is the top 8. This is a qualifying condition for the Games. I’ve trained well, I’m in good shape and if it’s right in my head I should be able to get a good result.”

“I’m driving here without any external pressure. It’s different from the cross, where I expected to get the podium. It would be nice of course to get an outright eighth place in my first competition. Then it remains to be seen if it’s good enough to qualify for the Games. “.

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