2020 has been a unique year for all, and a roller coaster ride for our sponsored team’s and athletes, as they’ve had to adapt to a revised race calendar, reset goals and maintain focus, fitness and motivation through periods of uncertainty.
Here, we’ve taken some time to reflect on the professional cycling season that’s just been and the many successes achieved, despite the change and challenging curveballs thrown along the way.
Photography by Velofocus
First up, is Team Parkhotel Valkenburg who recently rounded out their season in Belgium at the Classics.
To get some insight into the team’s progress this season, we spoke with team manager, Esra Tromp.
“Of course, it’s been a really crazy year. We started on a high in Valencia, Spain where we had a great result with Demi Vollering, placing 3rd overall. At the first races of the season, with a new group of riders, it’s always really interesting to see the team dynamic. In Valencia, we had a near-perfect start. The momentum continued the next weekend at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, closely followed by the Omloop van het Hageland where Lorena Wiebes won, claiming the team’s first victory of the season. It couldn’t have been a better beginning to the year.
The team’s early season success soon came to an abrupt halt when the effects of the pandemic began to really take their toll worldwide, and all events were forced to cancel or postpone – effective immediately, to an uncertain date later season.
Understandably, the sudden pause proved challenging for the entire team, as their performance goals and aspirations were suddenly put on standby, following months of hard work and preparation through the pre-season. Perhaps the most difficult aspect was the uncertainty that came in not knowing when racing would commence, deeming it difficult to train for a target or purpose and leaving little option but to persevere, maintain a level of fitness, reset, focus on other things and keep a positive outlook.
“We started with a little bit of rest and gave everybody some time to get used to the insecure world we were now living in. When we eventually got the calendar for the next part of the season, we started with structured training and team weekend’s together. Impressively, the motivation was still incredibly high and every rider was super ambitious and excited to get back to racing. During that rebuilding period, and with the revised calendar to work off, we decided as a team that we wanted to race for the win and put all our energy into races that suited our strengths. From there, we made the decision to not go to the Giro Rosa, so we could put all of our efforts into key one day races and specifically, the Ardennes Classics where our chances of winning were much greater,” shared Esra.
The team’s strategy paid off as they went on to have some great success at La Course by Le Tour de France where Demi Vollering stormed back onto the scene with a trip to the podium, taking 3rd place in a tight sprint between a very select, whittled down group of only the world’s best riders.
They went on to match the result in the Ardennes at the iconic Flèche Wallonne, with another hard fought third place for Demi. She was seamlessly supported and looked after all day by the team, to arrive for the final time at the base of the viciously steep, Mur de Huy, in the best condition possible. Come the closing stretch, she launched her attack against reigning champion and now World Champion, Anna van der Breggen, to leave it all out on the road for the win. In the end, she just fall short, settling for another satisfactory 3rd place at professional cycling’s highest level.
“We had great results in our return to racing, and the whole team played a part in contributing to the success we achieved. They really stepped up and confirmed that they’d used the Covid period to take other steps personally or physically, which was really good to see,” explained Esra.
The team’s return to success following what had been an immensely difficult period for all, only confirmed the progress and significant step they’ve taken in recent seasons. They were established in 2013, with a prioritized focus on the development of riders; teaching them, guiding them and giving them the opportunity to gain the experience necessary to progress to the World Tour. They have clearly gone above and beyond expectations over the past few years, with a team that can now capably win and consistently podium at women’s cycling’s greatest level.
Factor Bikes has been the proud technical partner of the team since the beginning of the 2019 season, so it’s been a highly rewarding process for us, following the team’s success as they’ve continued to move forward.
“I think we made some good choices in the last months and years with the team, and I’m confident that a huge contribution to our results is the equipment. We began our journey with Factor Bikes in 2019 on the O2 and this year, we’ve been competing on the VAM, that has only elevated our racing level further. The girls have been very happy!
It’s a given that a bike plays a super important part in making results happen, and I firmly believe that our bikes in recent seasons have been an important part of our success. Every year, as we’ve progressed, we’ve had better equipment and better partners around us, supporting us to reach the level we’re now at.”
“This year, we were also given a great opportunity to experiment with other bikes, particularly with Demi and Marit who rode the Factor ViSTA through Switzerland on a spontaneous gravel adventure, giving them the chance to up their skills and enjoy an experience they would have never normally been able to in a standard race season,” said Esra.
Now that the season has come to a close, the team are taking the time to prepare for 2021 where they will be returning to racing with new goals, back to their original roots, with a strong emphasis on development and providing a platform for the next generation of riders to progress to World Tour level. We look forward to continuing to work with them and follow their progress, and have no doubts that they will continue to make leaps and bounds in professional women’s cycling, with their realigned focus.
Follow the Parkhotel team’s journey on:
Photography by Velofocus
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