The fastest woman on two wheels: Get to know Lorena Wiebes
From being an acrobatic gymnast as a child to racing for town signs in training, find out more about the 23-year-old sprint sensation.
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Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) doesn’t like training, but lives for racing her bike.
Since turning pro at the age of 18 in 2018, Wiebes has made a name for herself as the fastest woman in the peloton. Last week, she proved unstoppable as she stormed to three straight victories at the RideLondon Classique, and she’ll be expecting to rack up more at the Women’s Tour next week.
To get to the top, she needs to train hard, but she’s not a fan of just putting in the miles. To keep herself interested and give her the small feeling of being in a race, she loves to battle her teammates for town sign sprints.
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One imagines she wins pretty much all of them.
“I love the adrenaline it gives you during the race. I’m more like really focused on races, because I really like to race and the competition in that. I think if I only had to train, I don’t know if I would be a cyclist, because I really do it for the race racing,” Wiebes told VeloNews.
“I still sometimes try to get a bit of racing into training, like doing a sprint or something. The sign sprints for the towns that’s what I like to do more. When I was with Parkhotel, we really went for every sign, and like fully sprinting. When you were in Limburg, then there are a lot of signs.”
With the risks involved, to be a sprinter takes a certain mentality and the fastest riders in the bunch are often among the bolder characters in the bunch.
Wiebes is not your stereotypical peloton sprinter, and she can be a very quiet personality off the bike. She’s also quite a guarded person, not giving much away, even to those within her own team.
The 23-year-old says that the sprinter mentality is always lurking inside of her somewhere, but she changes slightly when she’s at the pointy end of a race.
“I think it’s always in there because I can also show what I want off the bike, you know? On the bike, it’s still a bit different, I think,” she said. “More towards the final, I think I just turn something off or your brain because I think you need to do that as a sprinter, but just on the limit and not over the limit. I don’t want to push girls into the barriers or something. I think it’s a bit different, but still, it’s somewhere in me also in normal life.”
To be able to go full bore in a bunch sprint, a rider often needs to suspend any feeling of fear they might have. Wiebes believes that she acquired some of her fearlessness from doing acrobatic gymnastics as a child.
When she’s not racing these days, her choice of activities to pass the time can go one of two ways.
“In the winter, I do some kickboxing, so that’s also the fighting spirit,” Wiebes said. “For the rest of the time, we have a boat. So, when it’s finally summer in the Netherlands and the sun comes out I like to go on the boat, chill and do not so much.
“Sometimes, I really like just to be on my own with no one around me, and to just relax and, or something and don’t think about anything. I only have to be careful to not get sunburned.”
Wiebes was always an active child and as well as acrobatic gymnastics she played soccer when she was younger. Her path to cycling took a little longer and it was eventually because of her father’s love of riding she started riding herself.
At first, she began riding cyclocross before switching to the road, which she had initially dismissed.
“My dad did always triathlons and then after that, he did some cycling. I started with some local cyclocross races at the club, just on a BMX bike, just for fun on a Sunday morning,” she said. “Then I started to do some cyclocross races on a national level. After that, I went on the road.
“I tried earlier to go on the road, and I didn’t like it. I was more into cyclocross then, but I made the switch later. I started to get some podiums, and of course, then it makes it also easier to continue… I was also a bit scared in the peloton when I was younger, and for cyclocross, it’s more like playing and a little bit less serious or something. Because, yeah, you’re just playing around in the mud.”
It didn’t take long for people to recognize that Wiebes had a talent for going fast, but it took her a little longer to see it for herself. However, in 2017 it became clear when she racked up a whopping six victories, including the junior European road race title ahead of Emma Norsgaard.
“Other people were saying it already the first year that I started on the road that I was fast, but I never really realized because I was not really focusing on my sprint or something in training,” she said. “When I was a junior, it was still hard to realize if I could be as good at the elite level because you’re only racing against juniors and it’s a big step up.”
Wiebes needn’t have worried about making the step up to elite level racing and, when she made the move at the start of the 2018 season with Parkhotel Valkenburg, she was quickly in the mix with the top riders. She notched up her first podium in her fourth race, the Omloop Westhoek Dames, and claimed her first victory by May.
Her victory over Jolien D’hoore at the Baloise Ladies Tour that July was a sign of good things to come. The 2019 season proved to be a breakthrough year for Wiebes, and she attracted the attention of a number of top teams.
Doing it differently
Feeling like she had outgrown the Parkhotel team, Wiebes tried to leave it during the off-season of 2019. However, she was contracted with the team until 2021 and the Dutch squad launched legal proceedings against her, accusing her of breach of contract.
Wiebes returned a threat, saying that she might not race for the team again if it didn’t free her from the contract. Thankfully, it didn’t end up going to court and Wiebes would compete for the team twice before COVID-19 halted the season, after the two parties came to an agreement.
“If it happened now, I would do it differently, but I’m still having a good connection with Parkhotel with the girls and our DS and so yeah, for now, it’s all fine,” Wiebes told VeloNews. “Actually in December, I went on a training camp with Floortje [Mackaij], and then also one day, I joined the Parkhotel group for rides and it just feels like normal.
“In the beginning, it was, of course, a bit harder, difficult. They were also difficult emotions when everything happened. I went with them to a training camp before the start of the season, and then it felt a little bit strange, but we accepted everything… Afterward, the contact went normal again and I think we all were okay with it. The chapter was closed.”
Wiebes moved to Team DSM in the middle of the 2020 season, where she has remained since. With the team, she has been building up an impressive palmarès and has become one of the most prolific riders in the peloton.
At 23, there’s still a lot of time for her to grow her list of victories. In a previous interview with VeloNews, she has cited Paris-Roubaix as well as stage wins at the Tour de France among her list of dream victories. She has some other big goals that she would like to tick off over the coming years.
“I would love to win the world championships one day, though I don’t think it will be this year, and then the Olympics in Paris. I don’t know where it will be or what the parcours is, but it’s nice to have that goal for the long term,” she said. “It would be nice if it finished on the Champs Elysees.”