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Emma Norsgaard set the cycling world alight this year.
The 21-year-old, who is racing the Giro d’Italia Donne this week, has been one of the most consistent riders in 2021. She currently sits fifth in the victory standings behind such illustrious competition as Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten.
Norsgaard dominated the Festival Elsy Jacobs earlier this year, winning two stages and the overall, and claimed a stage of the Thüringen Ladies Tour but she is still searching for her first WorldTour win. As a quick finisher who can handle the climbs, she looks up to her childhood hero, Marianne Vos.
“I have always been like a true winner, and I just want to win everything and it sounds so cliché. And I’m not sure if that is ever going to happen but Marianne Vos has won everything in her career,” Norsgaard told VeloNews.
“I feel like she’s just the perfect cyclist. It’s almost like there’s not any race I would say she could not win. I don’t know her personally, but she seems like a really nice person and someone you can have as an idol.”
The Movistar team sees Norsgaard as one of the emerging stars of women’s cycling, so much so that they extended her contract through 2024.
Norsgaard is serious about her ambitions, but she says it with a smile. She’s full of confidence about her abilities but she doesn’t have any arrogance. When she’s asked how she copes with being a leader at such a young age, she says she prefers to lead with her legs rather than her talk.
“I feel like an asshole sometimes when I have to ask for something,” she laughed. “Sometimes, in the race, it’s really heated and I say stuff really hard to my teammates. And I’m like, I’m so sorry I didn’t mean it like that. But they don’t even notice that. It’s like, ‘no, no, don’t worry, we didn’t even hear what you’re saying. We don’t understand what you’re saying’.
Making the most of the moment
For Norsgaard, chasing her cycling ambitions has a time limit.
The Dane has other non-cycling goals in her life, and she wants to make the most of the time she has when she can focus on herself.
“I also have other dreams. I want to have kids and I want to have a family and I feel like now I have the time for myself,” Norsgaard said. “I want to make something beautiful out of it, and get everything out of the next 10 years. I just want to win everything you know. Then and then I can settle, and maybe have kids. I’m getting married this year.
“I just feel like this is my dream right now to win everything. It sounds really ridiculous.”
At the suggestion that she could emulate Lizzie Deignan by taking maternity leave and returning to the front of the peloton, she said: “That would be pretty awesome but I’m just not sure I’m as cool”.
Norsgaard’s three-year extension with Movistar is becoming a more common occurrence within women’s racing but it was only a few seasons ago that most riders could only expect one-year deals. She is even earning a liveable wage, an unthinkable prospect when she began racing as a child.
While her brother Mathias, who is also a professional with the men’s Movistar team, was being nurtured by the Danish Federation, Norsgaard had to rely on her parents and getting an education.
“It’s like it’s a dream coming true. I feel like I’m living my dream. It’s amazing,” Norsgaard said of turning professional during this era of women’s cycling. “My parents were not forcing me, but they were really wanted me to have an education because they were so sure that women cannot live off cycling. My brother could do whatever he wanted because they were sure he could live from being a pro cyclist.
“Me and my brother have followed each other our entire lives and entire careers, and it has been totally different from each other. Starting in women’s cycling in Denmark is not amateur but it almost is. We don’t earn any money and we don’t have any help. With my brother, he had so much help from the national federation, and he went to schools where he could study and get money from the team and, and really live like a pro.”
As well as Norsgaard’s brother, he fiancé Mikkel Bjerg is a professional with UAE-Team Emirates. As well as understanding what each other is going through, it gives Norsgaard another insight into the world of possibilities available to the male riders.
From feeling like a bit of an outsider in the early part of her career, she can see the benefit of increasing investment in the women’s side of the sport.
“I feel like I have the same opportunities as my fiancé and my brother now and I never felt like that before,” Norsgaard told VeloNews.
“I feel like coming in at exactly the right moment in women’s cycling, because, I see it develop and I also know where it’s coming from. As a female cyclist, I’m just super proud, to see how fast it’s going also in which direction it’s going in. My fiancé is a male cyclist and I see so much similarity. It’s becoming more and more the same as, as men’s cycling.
“With my brother, we share so much stuff now that we have never been able to share before. Because women’s cycling was maybe not on that level before as it is not as is as it is now. I feel like it’s really exciting times to be a female cyclist, and I cannot complain about anything.”