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A chance to work with one of the greatest was too good for Coryn Labecki to pass up.
The American racer switched to Jumbo-Visma this off-season following five years at Team DSM (formerly Sunweb).
It’s a move that put her on the same roster as Marianne Vos, who recently claimed an unprecedented eighth world cyclocross title in Fayetteville last month, and Labecki wants to make the most of it.
“She’s a living legend,” Labecki said in a recent call. “It’s a real big honor to be able to race with her and learn from her and see what makes her tick, just the ins, and outs of what it takes to be a legend. I think it’s just really cool.
“I respect her a lot for [winning an eighth title]. I mean, to win seven cross worlds, and then come back however many years later and win an eighth is pretty remarkable. So, to continue to find that motivation year after year after year. Is something that’s really impressive.”
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At 29, Labecki is entering her 10th season as a pro — having begun her pro racing career with Exergy -TWENTY12 back in 2012 — and her sixth racing in Europe. She’s racked up several big-ticket wins in that time, including the U.S. national road race title, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the Tour of Flanders, and the Women’s Tour.
She added a Giro d’Italia Donne stage win to her palmarès last season, but she still feels like a fresh-faced addition to the European peloton and sees partnering up with Vos as a chance to gain more knowledge from someone who’s been and done almost everything there is.
“A lot,” Labecki said when VeloNews asked her what she could learn from Vos. “I mean, I don’t know yet. I think there’s a lot to learn. I feel like I’m still pretty new at this. I mean, I do have five years under my belt, but I don’t feel like I’m a well-seasoned veteran. But I think there’s a lot that I don’t know yet and some small things. Maybe it’s not a lot, maybe it’s just the grind of the lifestyle but I think only time will really tell what I will learn.”
As well as working with Vos, Labecki was attracted to working with a squad maintaining her well-established lifestyle in Europe. It has become a home away from home for her.
“I came from a Dutch team so I already knew a little bit of Dutch and I’m just putting it to more practice here,” she explained. “I wouldn’t have to change too much about my lifestyle [moving to the team]. They’re based in the same city where I was staying as far as a team house goes, so that move was pretty straightforward and easy.
“It is hard living this double lifestyle a little bit but I love the culture and I love traveling and to be able to do this during a period of time where not a lot of people can travel I think it’s special and I’m really just grateful to be able to do this as a job.”
Good memories and new possibilities
Labecki made her switch to European racing with the Dutch-registered Sunweb team aged 24. She’s made a name for herself with multiple national titles across several disciplines, and an overall win at the 2016 Joe Martin Stage Race.
Her debut in Europe was more than she should ever have expected with a string of top-level wins, including becoming the first American to win the Tour of Flanders. However, the last two COVID-impacted seasons have been a little more difficult for her, in spite of the Giro stage win in 2021.
“It started out really successful. I think I had, honestly, my best years with Team DSM and I learned a lot. Obviously, talent only takes you so far but definitely drew my experience for that team grew as a person as well,” Labecki said. “It was a little bit of struggle the last few years, I think I was just kind of finding a rhythm with kind of living a double life in the U.S. and in Europe. Now I think I can say that it was really successful and I’m really grateful for my entire time there.”
The surroundings might look very different for Labecki in her new team, but her targets have a similar hue to them, with one key addition. The American has her sights set on the sprint classics from the hills of Italy at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda right through to the hills of the Netherlands at the Amstel Gold Race before trying to earn a spot at the Tour de France Femmes in July.
She’ll have to balance those ambitions with those of her new teammate Vos. The pair has a similar skill set, and their targets will overlap at many points this season. That’s something Labecki is prepared for and she believes it will work well.
“It just reinforces our team and we’ll have a couple more cards to play. We’re both really professional and when someone’s better on the day, that’s just how it goes,” Labecki said. “There’s a lot of respect there. I actually haven’t spent too much time with her because she’s been racing cross but we’re both going to be here in Tenerife at altitude, and we’ll be training together.
“I think the classic season is always well suited to me and we’ll see how I come out of altitude. How my form ends up but yeah, I mean, normally the race is from Binda through Gent-Wevelgem, Flanders, Amstel. Those are that’s kinds of races that suit me really well. I will probably target that with a bit of a double leadership with Marianne and then, of course, the Tour is later on this season and hopefully be part of that roster. I’d like to get to stage one there.”