Why did you choose cycling?
I used to always play football. But when I was 12, after developing a visual disability caused by the removal of a tumor from my head, I was no longer able to play. Shortly after, I went along to a summer camp for new sports, where I got onto a tandem mountain bike. As soon as the wheels touched the tarmac, I instantly fell in love with the speeds that you can achieve! The tandem pilot was a member of the NOC NSF, believed I had talent, and was enthusiastic! The national team coach was also immediately convinced at a talent day for disabled athletes.
What does speed mean to you?
Going all out, right up against the limit! That’s what I say. That means speeds of about 50 to almost 60 km per hour. A focus on going faster and faster, where nothing else really matters anymore. Without focus and concentration, you start thinking about all kinds of other things instead of focusing entirely on the cycling. You start falling behind and it becomes tougher. But if you’ve got a rhythm going and are focused, it’s wonderful!
Tell us about the teamwork. What’s it like while riding tandem?
Roland van der Sloot is my regular pilot now and we train very intensively. We work well together! Ideally, the pilot should not have to say anything. You can feel from the pilot’s pedals whether he is going faster or is about to stand! But you have to spend many hours training together in order to form a close partnership and complement one another perfectly. This is how we get better and better as a team. Road races are slightly different. If the pilot notices that someone starts breaking away, he shouts "Go faster!" as an extra trigger. Or he shouts "Focus!" or "Brace yourself!"
What is your greatest success that means the most to you?
In addition to winning races, there is one race that means a lot to me: the 2018 Dutch National Track Championships in Alkmaar. The evening before, my mother was taken into hospital seriously ill. It was very sad, but she wanted me to cycle at the championships. I promised her that I would come back with a bouquet of flowers and a medal. And I did just that, even winning two silver medals. It went amazingly well, and I even shaved 12 seconds off my personal record. But I knew who I was racing for and that was what I was focusing on. Up to now, 2019 has been very promising. Looking ahead, 2020 will be the year in which we prove ourselves!