Kirsten Wild could become an honorary Brit. She’s been coming to the UK with impressive regularity these last few years, and what’s more she wins on these shores too. As recently as last month the Dutch Sprint Queen took the top spot in the points race at the London Six-Day. This was on the back of victories she took at the Ride London Classique, and the Doncaster stage of the Tour de Yorkshire this year – a sense of déjà vu as she achieved exactly these same victories on the road two years previously.
At the age of 36, Wild shows no sign of stopping. Powered by Stroopwafels, her focus is on Tokyo 2020. Rouleur spoke to her at the Cycle Show in Birmingham.
Rouleur: With all the trips that you do here, the UK must feel like a home from home?
Kirsten Wild: Yes, I didn’t come to the UK much before, but in the last four years I have been here so many times. It’s nice.
What do you think of cycling in the UK?
I think cycling in the UK is really big, and I think women’s cycling in the UK is really big too. I remember when we raced in Yorkshire we started at eight o’clock, and the place was full of people. It was unbelievable. In Holland at that time, people would just stay in bed.
How’s this season’s performances compared to previous years?
This has been a really good year for me. I have had some nice road wins, similar to 2009 and 2010 when I was with Cervelo, and in 2013 and 2014 when I was with Giant-Shimano. It was great to win again at the Tour de Yorkshire and also at the Ride London Classique.
You have developed a formidable partnership with team-mate Lisa Brennauer…
Yes, we felt very comfortable together. We [originally] knew each other from track cycling and we just really connected well. I think we have the same approach in racing and in approaching people. Lisa is experienced, a good sprinter and she knows exactly what to do and when to do it. We are also quite straight and clear in our communication. We just say how we are going to do things, and we both know how things works.
In your previous Wiggle High5 team would you say you got on best with Lisa?
I got on with the other girls as well, but with Lisa I had a very good relationship. Sometimes when I’m tired, we can just speak to each other in Dutch – which makes it easier. It is so important, as we spend so much time away from home. I spend more time with Lisa than with my boyfriend, so it is important that we have a good atmosphere.
And how did being with Wiggle High5 compare with your previous team?
It was good at Wiggle High5, I really liked it and would have liked to keep going, but unfortunately the team stopped. When I first arrived there I thought they were such a close knit group that I was a bit scared, and wondered if I would fit in. I didn’t know how the group would be, but they were really welcoming and open and the group was really professional. We had lots of fun, and I really find that that’s really important.
What do you do for fun when at home?
I don’t have a hobby. Cycling was always my hobby and now it is my work. So when I am not cycling I have nothing to do. I like to go out with friends, have a coffee, a nice chat, listen to music.
What music do you listen to?
I prefer Radiohead, Coldplay, Redhot Chilli Peppers, and rock music. I listen to Dutch pop music as well.
What do you do during your downtime?
I see my family – my grandfather, my brother, my niece, my parents. I go away with my boyfriend. We have a holiday planned in Spain so it’ll be nice to get in a bit of sunshine. We won’t take any bikes but we may hire the city bikes to use as transport. We won’t race on them!
Do members of your family cycle to a high level?
My older brother used to be into mountain biking but he has stopped now. My younger brother, who is 30, has recently got into cycling. He wore all my old cycling kit, and got out on his bike. He’s pretty good and can ride for 2 hours at 35 kph average. In fact I am a bit scared to go out riding with him, as I don’t want him to beat me.
Will we see him racing then?
I don’t think so. He’s still a leisure rider, not a competitor. We go out on rides together, but not very often because we don’t live so close and I am travelling.
You’ve had a lot of success in your career, so too have your compatriots like Annemiek van Vleuten, Ellen van Dijk, Chantal Blaak, Marianne Vos, and Anna van der Breggen. What is it that makes Dutch cyclists so successful?
It may be because cycling is very much in our culture. We start cycling when we are three or four years old. You go by bike to school, and you learn the basic skills of cycling. It becomes second nature. The infrastructure in Holland is really good, with bike paths, so it is just a small step to go cycling. Also, I think women’s sport is really supported in Holland.
Do you get a lot of support from the government?
You get funding from the government when you reach a certain level, but to get there you still have to train hard regularly. I think it’s just that women’s sport and sports groups for women are very common in Holland so it is easier to get into sport – not just in cycling, but other sports too like football, hockey, ice skating.
Is there much rivalry within the national team, given that there are so many of you wanting to be selected for championship events?
I don’t feel it because I am more focused on track. If I am on the national team I am more of a helper rider. However, for the World Championships in Qatar two years ago there was a bit of a masculine thing, when people were trying to see who was the best sprinter, and the fastest in training. I felt there was tight competition at that time. At this year’s championships, all the riders were very well suited for the course, so there was a lot of rivalry. But I didn’t feel it so much because I had my own projects.
How are you feeling about racing with WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling next year?
First of all, I have really enjoyed this year and normally I would have stayed with Wiggle-High5. But then when things change you have to find another plan. So that’s when I met with Team WNT and we had a really nice talk. They gave me the freedom to go on the track, which is quite important for me, and I can use the bikes from the national team too.
What are your goals?
My main objective is to qualify for Tokyo 2020. That is what I call the “red line” through the season – I don’t know how you say that in English. Everything I do will feed into that objective. So that’s the thing that will be at the back of my head the whole time. All the training and racing I do will be about getting points to qualify for selection. I am getting older, but for me age is not a barrier.
What do you always take when you go out on your bike?
I never go out without some Stroopwafel (a Dutch biscuit/waffle containing syrup). It is very sweet but gives me a lot of energy!