Young, inspired, and badass

It might have been a Monday for everyone else, the work week for Parkhotel Valkenburg started last Friday. Another day at the ‘office’ started with an early rise, breakfast, briefing and departure to the town of Lisonne.  The team of Parkhotel Valkenburg was ready to continue their journey in the Giro Rosa 2019. 

After a nauseating team time trial and two days of delivering great support for her team mates, Marit Raaijmakers was feeling good for her first fourth stage of the ‘Guh-iro’ (think flume shooting Dutch G-sound). For today, she expected a nice, calm race where she would take her fellow Parkhotel riders in her wheel and bring them the cooled beverages from the team car. The 20-year old feels fortunate she got selected despite her young age and is thankful she gets to experience the longest race on the women’s cycling calendar. And that is exactly what she is her for: to gain experience, to help her team the best she can and grow stronger simultaneously. ‘The other day, I don’t remember who posted it, I think it might have been Marianne Vos, but they posted a photo of like eight years ago, when they were doing the Giro for one of the first times, as nobodies, working for others. And, yea, I hope I get to be like that one day. To look back at this Giro, while having made it as a top, pro rider’. There was no doubt Marit was going to work hard today, while also playing it smart for the rest of the race. 

Dressed in their hip cool vests, the riders made their way to the start. They had postponed that moment as long as they could, because they rather ride their bikes on the Tacx in the shade than wait in the fiery sun. Of course, the other riders in the peloton had to deal with the same suffer fest and some chose to wait in the shade of a restaurant awning while others asked their soigneurs to pour ice cubes into their jerseys.

The focus was obviously on keeping cool, because seconds before the start signal was given, the Parkhotel riders quickly removed their vests and third water bottle, which they either drank or emptied on their head. Some important Italian people wove the flag and held a ribbon up high, so the peloton could ride underneath and depart. The square felt empty without them.  

Despite the anticipation of a ‘calm’ race, the tempo was murderously high and at one point, Marit tried to spot the riders at the front of the pack to figure out ‘who the hell was doing this to me?!’. No answer was discovered, and she kept doing her work, but the work was a lot harder than she had expected. Many attacks were made and brought back; the peloton did not want to let anyone go. Eventually, three Italians succeeded to break away and created a decent gap. The ‘chasse patate’ of Virtu rider Anouskha Koster withstood for some time but the bunch also took her back in. At one point, about thirty riders somehow got on the wrong side of the road, facing oncoming cars and a half meter high concrete wall that a Boels rider had to climb over. The well-mannered peloton paused for them to come back and the race resumed when the pack was together again. 

On the climb, the efforts of the team and the talented, strong legs of Sofie de Vuyst got her the two points she needed to win the green jersey back again. After the climb, the gap kept growing and the three leaders were four minutes away from the chasers. The chasers woke up too late and could not reduce the distance in time. With a repeat victory of yesterday’s race, the highest placed Parkhotel champ came in at position 24 for Demi Vollering. Sofie and Nina followed shortly after, while Marit, Sophie and Esther were with the concluding group. Gathering around Wim with the recovery drinks ready, they had a quick chat about how things went. Demi cued everyone to take off to the camper, while Sofie stayed behind to receive her new green jersey on the podium. 

Back at the team zone, Marit changed out of her kit into something less sweaty and went to greet her biggest fans. Her parents, former cyclists and team directors themselves, had cycled up to the finish to watch their daughter reach the line after racing 100,1km. The cycling virus obviously rubbed off on Marit since she has been cycling since she was eight years old, both on the road and the track, winning multiple national prices and growing into a considerate cyclist to the ones around her (e.g. she finished stage two, uphill, in a groupetto, and warned the riders behind her about the already finished riders that were now descending on the same road). She knows the game, she knows what she wants, and she is here to stay.

Tomorrow, Parkhotel Valkenburg will continue their Giro Rosa adventure in Ponte in Valtellina at 11:45. An 88.8km course awaits the riders, where the young, inspired and badass Marit will certainly show her talent and hard work.

Text: Suzanne Schrijnder