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Jumbo-Visma has signed a former Olympic speed skating champion to its women’s line-up for the remainder of the 2022 season.
Carlijn Achtereekte, who raced with Jumbo-Visma’s speed skating team, won gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics in the 3,000-meter competition, and she competed at the Beijing games earlier this year. After re-evaluating her future when her contract with the team expired in April, the 31-year-old decided that she wanted to try cycling.
Following discussions with the team’s sports director Merijn Zeeman, Achtereekte was quickly snapped up. From June 1, she will swap her skates for cleats and begin racing with the team.
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“I have always had a passion for cycling. I sometimes thought: why don’t I do that? But skating went well and that’s what I focused on,” Achtereekte said. “Now I get the chance to develop into a professional cyclist and I am very grateful for that. I am eager and ambitious.”
Achtereekte is far from the only athlete to swap skating for bike racing, particularly those from the Netherlands, and many of the current crop of pro riders have a history in speed skating, including Demi Vollering and time trial world champion Ellen van Dijk.
However, most of the riders that have come from speed skating have done it at a far earlier age and learned their craft in the lower ranks. Jumbo-Visma does have experience of training up riders that have made a late switch into cycling, most notably Primož Roglič, who took up racing after starting his career as a ski jumper. Amber Kraak also joined the team after first competing in rowing.
For Achtereekte, it will be a steep learning curve over the coming months.
“It will be a matter of trial and error. As a skater, you ride in your own lane and you aren’t bothered by anyone,” she said. “Now I have to learn to deal with the peloton’s nervousness and fight for my position. That will take some getting used to, but I assume that I will learn those skills quickly. I’m going to copy the art of my teammates and hope that I can play a role in the service of the team.”
After joining the squad for a training camp this week, Achtereekte will make her debut in Jumbo-Visma colors. She is already penned in at the Dutch national championships on June 25 but she could race earlier, depending on how she fares at the training camp.
While she may still have much to learn in terms of riding in the peloton, team manager Esra Tromp believes that Achtereekte’s mentality as a top athlete will stand her in good stead.
“Within Team Jumbo-Visma, we always look at how we can make each other better. Carlijn misses the routine of cycling in a peloton, and there is work to be done on a technical and tactical level, but she also brings a lot to our team,” Tromp said.
“[She has] a top sports mentality, for example, and experience with performing at the highest level. Carlijn dares to make choices; she sets priorities and knows what to do to achieve her goals. She breathes top sport. Her knowledge and attitude are valuable to our team.”