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Breaking barriers: Insights from Team Visma | Lease a Bike Women

In a sport once dominated by men, women have now become a vital part of the professional cycling arena, as well. In this interview, we sat down with a few of the riders of Team Visma | Lease a Bike Women to talk about their journey to the top, and to get their advice on how to reach your goals.

In the world of professional cycling, the pursuit of excellence knows no gender. However, it’s undeniable that women cyclists have historically faced more challenges and barriers than the men on their journey to success. Despite these obstacles, the riders of Team Visma | Lease a Bike Women stand as a testament to the resilience, determination, and passion that define women’s cycling today. 

We had the privilege to sit down with some of the extraordinary women from the team to delve deeper into their experiences, challenges, and aspirations in the world of cycling.

Get to know the riders

Marianne Vos

Marianne was barely six years old when she started cycling. She got the love for cycling from her father and older brother. Marianne proved to be a talent on the road, on the track, and in the field. She won her first cyclo-cross world title in 2006, at the age of nineteen. That same year she also won her first World Championship on the road. She now has thirteen World Championships to her name in addition to two Olympic medals.

Rosita Reijnhout

19-year old Rosita started riding a mountain bike when she was six. Later on, she changed to road bike and, until a couple of years ago, she only trained and cycled occasionally. In the U23 World Championships in Australia, she rode to a 25th place and she finished fifth at the Dutch championship. She also got the first Team Visma | Lease a Bike Women victory of the ‘24 season.

Fem van Empel

Fem started cycling and cyclo-cross at the age of eight. She became the U23 Cyclo-cross World Champion when she was 18. In the cyclo-cross season ’22/23, she won race after race and even became the European and World Champion. In the ‘23/24 season, she again extended the European title.

Riejanne Markus

Riejanne’s dad was a cyclist and when she went to races with him, she fell in love with cycling. At the age of 19, Riejanne was number two at the Dutch National Road Cycling Championships. In 2019 she was European and World Champion in the mixed team relay. In 2022 she became the Dutch champion of the road, and in 2023 she became Dutch TT Champion.

Leading by example

In addition to their achievements on the road, these athletes lead by example, inspiring the next generation of women cyclists through their actions and attitudes. Riejanne aims to inspire through the team’s vision to write sport history together and her fearless racing style. “By showing courage in the race, I hope I can inspire other people like that as well”, she says. Rosita also underscores the importance of teamwork and enjoyment, asserting: “I hope to inspire others by achieving good results and demonstrating that it’s a true team sport”.

Inspiring change

Being part of Team Visma | Lease a Bike Women is more than just racing; it’s about inspiring a generation and breaking down barriers. 

Marianne sees their presence as a symbol of progress: “One of the developments we have seen in recent years is that the largest men’s teams in the world are also embracing a women’s branch in a very beautiful way. This is visible to the fans, to the outside world. The teams are nearly identical in terms of clothing, so the difference is no longer apparent to the fans. This is a significant and beautiful development. Equality is increasingly prevalent in that sense. In this way, we demonstrate that professional sports are for everyone”.

“Especially nowadays where young kids or people can follow our races on TV, I think we can inspire people to ride as well”, notes Riejanne.

“I think many young girls look up to Team Visma | Lease a Bike because it’s a very well-known team. Particularly Marianne has been inspiring many young girls for years, and I myself was inspired by her as a little girl.”

Rosita Reijnhout

Overcoming obstacles

The road to success in professional cycling can be challenging regardless of gender. Marianne reflects on her early doubts and uncertainties: “As a child, I never thought I could become a full-time professional cyclist. Back then, it was so out of reach for so many people that I didn’t even consider it to be an option”. However, she persevered, witnessing the evolution of women’s cycling into a realm of possibility.

“There were not many teams [when I was a young cyclist], and you also didn’t always have the opportunity to make a living out of it”, Riejanne says. But with a steadfast determination to rise to the top, she always stayed motivated and made her way, step by step.

Dream big, work hard

For those dreaming of a career in professional cycling, the journey begins with a dream and is fueled by relentless determination. Fem emphasises the importance of setting goals and pursuing them with vigour: “If you have a goal in mind, go for it. Nothing comes easy. Get the most out of yourself and find the right people around you”. 

And Riejanne and Rosita both believe that, in addition to setting ambitious goals, you have to stay focused on why you started in the first place. “It will not be an easy road, but I think as long as you enjoy what you’re doing, you can always make your dreams come true”, Riajanne says. For Rosita, cycling for the love of it is a top priority: “Enjoyment is the most important thing. Nothing is mandatory. Cycle because you feel like it and fully commit to it. That’s how I’ve always approached cycling”.

No barriers to success

The riders of Team Visma | Lease a Bike Women’s team exemplify the spirit of determination, resilience, and passion that define women’s cycling today. Their stories of overcoming obstacles, chasing dreams, and inspiring change serve as powerful reminders of the potential within each of us to defy expectations and reach new heights. As we celebrate their achievements, let us continue to support and empower women in cycling, forging a path towards equality and excellence on two wheels.

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