Interview: Loes Gunnewijk on Drenthe, ORICA-AIS, the Olympics and much more!
Geplaatst op vrijdag 8 maart 2013 om 09:33
If you watched the women's Olympic Road Race, you'll
Gunnewijk's relentless attacking with her Dutch
team-mate Ellen van Dijk, as they exhausted the
peloton before they'd even reached Box Hill and
helping Marianne Voswin the gold. This is how
Gunnewijk races - she's a Classics star whose tactical skills,
teamwork and ruthless attacking serve her well as ORICA-AIS' road captain. She won
the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2012, and
the Ronde van DrentheWorld Cup in 2010, so she's
perfectly placed to tell us all about racing Drenthe on Saturday
and much more!
I love this race, it's a really nice race.
It's stressful and positioning is really important", Gunnewijk told
the Café, from the team's Drenthe base in Dwingeloo.
"In the first 10km there's the first time over the VAMberg, then
it's a real fight to get to be the first one on the cobblestones -
and then the real race starts on the cobbled
sections. You need a little bit of luck, because
the stones are pretty bad, so you can puncture - that makes it
hard, and positioning is crucial, and then in the final you have a
two more climbs of the VAMberg. The hill is not
that hard, but at the end of the race it can make a difference, and
then you can have opportunities to get a breakaway, when you go
Gunnewijk knows all about the opportunities here - she's been on
the podium twice, each time using every opportunity for breakaway
action. In 2010, when she won for Nederland
Bloeit, she got into a break of 11, and after some intense and
aggressive racing, jumped at 1,500m to go, winning one of the most
exciting races of the year.
"It was amazing", she said with a smile in her voice, "the year
before, I was second by just a few millimetres, and in 2010, there
was first a breakaway of seven, and I came with a group of three
riders to join it. There were a lot of attacks,
but I held myself back a little bit, and then I saw a really good
opportunity in the last 1,500m, and I went, and there was
immediately a gap. I went full in the corners and never looked
back again, just rode full gas. And they
hesitated a little bit behind me, and that was perfect for
me! So I had a lot of goosebumps in the last k,
but when I knew I would really make it to the finish, it was nice
to have time to celebrate my victory, while they were sprinting
behind me, and it's an awesome feeling - really good memories."
Samenvatting Ronde van Drenthe 2010:
The race was a beautiful one to watch, and a perfect show of
Gunnewijk's strengths. She's the first to admit
that she's not a bunch sprinter, so it's always in her interest to
disrupt the trains, and make the race more exciting - and she
enjoys it to boot. You'll see her attack for
herself and her team-mates, and as road captain, her team-mates'
success makes her just as happy as her own. "I
really like to win", she says, so she'd much rather work for a
team-mate's victory than end up coming tenth herself, if the
opportunities haven't been there for her.
The road captain role has become more important in the last few
years, as the women have been racing without race radios, and, as
Gunnewijk says, communication becomes key: "If the communication
within the team is not so good, you can win or lose a race because
of it." Does it become hard, as a Dutch rider
racing with a predominantly Australian team?
"I speak Dutch to them and then they listen!" she
jokes. "No, of course we speak English, and you
don't have to tell each other whole stories - you can be pretty
Sometimes "short" is an understatement! I
asked her about a story from the 2012 Tour
of Qatar, when then-ORICA team-mate Judith Arndt said
in a team video that it was the way Gunnewijk yelled at
her that made her attack, and go on to win the race.
"It was true! I said 'Come on, Judith!', and she said a bad
word to me, and it was a good moment! I was like, OK, now I
know what I have to do, just make her angry. We
had a good laugh about that!" Will that work
with the team's new star rider, Emma Johansson?
"Maybe!", she laughed, "I will have to try it - we will see!"
Ladies Tour of Qatar 2013 4th stage:
This year, Qatar was a bit different for the
team. As with last year, ORICA-AIS sent a team
of Classics specialists to the flat, sprinty race in February, and
while they showed exactly how well they were racing together,
attacking like crazy and forcing breaks and getting riders in every
significant move, they couldn't repeat last year's success.
"The team was really strong in general this year, and we had a
lot of good riders, but I think we also had some bad luck, because
the wind in the final laps was sometimes too much of a headwind or
tailwind and that makes it easier for the sprinters - of course,
they still had to win, no bad words about that, but for us it would
have been better to have a bit more cross-winds at the ends of the
stages, because then it's a little bit easier to hurt the other
[Race winner] "Kirsten Wild was really strong - she did a really
good job. That's the way it is - but last year,
we had a little bit more cross-winds, and we were attacking one by
one, and she was also really strong at that points, but after so
many attacks, she blew up and Judith was away, and it could also be
me who was in the break. You have to try it a
lot of times and see what breaks - that's how racing works."
Of course, ORICA-AIS came away from Qatar with the team prize -
and once that perfect Classics squad hit Europe for parcours that's
more to their tastes, things changed, starting with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, where five of the ORICA
riders were in the final breakaway, with Tiffany
Cromwelljumping at the end and winning, and Emma
Johansson taking her first of four consecutive third
places in a week and a half.It was exactly the same tactics we'd
seen at Qatar, and Gunnewijk explained the team rationale.
"For the whole of the last 20k, the four of us attacked the
whole time - yeah, anybody from our team could have been in that
final break, and it was Tiff - and then you play the game behind
it, so every rider who wanted to attack, there was one of us
directly in her wheel, and that helped Tiff to break - if it had
been any else from us, we would have done the same, that's why
we're in the team."
It's interesting that a rider with such a strong team ethic
started off competing in the individual sport of speed skating, but
starting off skating is a common route for Dutch cyclists.Gunnewijk
had always been a sporty child, but skating was the sport she
really focused on, from an early age. She ran
and cycled for summer training, but it was the speed on the bike
she'd enjoyed. "I was always the last one who
came back in running, and I didn't like it too much, it was too
slow - and in cycling I sometimes made the boys suffer, and I
really liked that", so when she found she wasn't improving as much
as she wanted to in skating, she tried her first
races. The main difference between skating and
cycling, she said, was the need to learn tactics, rather than just
have the speed, but she soon mastered that, and after just one
season with a Club, was signed to her first UCI team in 2004.
Her career has always been at the top levels, racing with Dutch
teams until signing for ORICA last year - and a highpoint was when
she was one of the four riders selected to represent the
Netherlands in the 2012 Olympic road race. The
way that she and Van Dijk attacked from the start, before race
winner Marianne Vos took over, made the race really fun to
"It was also really fun for the legs!" she
laughed. "That was our plan, for Ellen and me to
make the race really hard, and let the others also suffer! You
know, maybe you don't get the breakaway, but other riders also have
to put energy in it, and they don't have that energy any more on
Box Hill - and Marianne is more fresh, and that was our
plan! I think it's always good to go into a race
with a plan, and just fight for it, and go for your goals."
It was a huge experience for her, and she describes it as a
rollercoaster, with things happening so quickly it was hard to keep
up, and you can hear how much it meant in her voice, as she
described how it felt wearing the Dutch jersey at the biggest
sporting event in the world.
"The crowd was amazing, we had so much goosebumps when we were
warming up, and also in the race - the start and finish area by
Buckingham Palace were incredible. It's pretty hard to describe, if
you were not there, you know - there was so, so much! After the
race we had the celebration in the Holland Heineken House, and our
Crown Prince, who becomes king in two months, was there with his
wife behind the finish line to congratulate us, you know, that's
She trails off, still lost for words about how much it all meant
to her. It could have been difficult to continue
racing after that, but for the Dutch, there was another big goal
ahead, the World Road Championships on home soil in
Valkenberg. "It was a little bit like I had to
take a deep breath and then, OK, now we go to the end of the
season", she says. "And I was riding really well
in the Holland
Ladies Tour again, and everything went really well until
the fourth stage, and then I crashed, and so that was a little bit
painful, and not the best way to end the season, but still, it was
a good season."
After some time off the bike, which Gunnewijk spent in her
typical rest-period style, catching up with friends and family,
following other sports and "just relaxing on the terrace with a
coffee", she was off to Australia in December for their summer
racing, team camps and travelling - and she's obviously enjoying
herself with the team, and ready for more.
"The team spirit is really good this year - we love to race, and
we love to attack and make the race hard. The
team is relaxed, and we have a lot of fun - but when we work,
we really want to work, and the girls always want to
learn, and make each other stronger, and I like that also, just to
have a laugh and just be relaxed when you can be, but when you have
to work, be serious, and go full gas. We have
had a good start of the season, so we are not
complaining! But there are still enough races to
Gunnewijk's goals for 2013 will follow her previous patterns,
focussing on the Spring Classics, especially the tough races like
Drenthe and the Ronde van Vlaanderen, then aiming for the Dutch
National Championships, and at the end of the year, the Holland
Ladies Tour and the World Championships, especially the Team Time
Trial. Above all, she'll be enjoying the racing,
revelling in the cobbles and the hills, and taking opportunities
wherever they arise.
There will surely be many Gunnewijk moments this year, where she
streaks out of the bunch up the road, the peloton scrambling to
chase her, or she cannily aids a team-mate's escape
attempt. Next time an ORICA rider attacks like a madwoman out
of the break, imagine what Loes just yelled at her - and how happy
she'll be if her team-mate wins!
To find out more about Loes Gunnewijk, visit her website, follow her on Twitter and
rider profile at theORICA-AIS website.
You can watch this year's Ronde van Drenthe World Cup live on
Saturday 9th March 2013 from 15:00 CET (2pm GMT,
9am USA EST and 1am Sunday, Australia NSW) on RTV
Drenthe - commentary will be in Dutch, but it's always a
great race to watch. There's more information
about the race on the Ronde van Drenthe
website and race twitter, and on
Podium Café race preview.
Terug naar 2013