Unless you’re the clear favorite at a race, it’s all too easy to come up with legitimate excuses when you don’t win. Someone always has more time, better equipment, more decades of experience and superior race-day resources and support. We comfort ourselves with these thoughts, and know if things don’t go well, we believe we probably had a harder week and worked at the office more than the winner.
Save the Excuses
Racing against Ellen van Loy in China sucks because these types of excuses don’t apply. Van Loy works at least forty hours a week working with adults and kids with Down’s Syndrome. It can be an emotionally and physically exhausting job, but somehow she finds the time to train enough to be ranked sixth in the world.
In China, she ate the same food and slept in the same hotel as everyone. She even had to share her room with a roommate she never met before—no VIP treatment here. And despite being on Telenet-Fidea, one of the biggest cyclocross teams in the world, van Loy didn’t have her own camper or mechanic in China, and stressed over building and boxing her bikes and transporting her spare equipment to the course.
Yet on race day, van Loy didn’t let any of that reveal her worries or sweat the details. She put in the work, showing that it’s possible to race as a professional, even if racing still remains mostly a hobby.
After the starting whistle, van Loy raced down the paved straight with Lucie Chainel-Lefevre, and beat the French rider to the first corner, securing the holeshot. She powered around the grass chicanes, up and over the first two staircases, over the bridge, and then off into the woods. Van Loy had the course memorized, and worked each corner like a charm. Just half a lap in and she had a clear gap over a chasing Lisa Jacobs and fading Chainel-Lefevre, and once the French racer dropped her chain on the third lap, the race for first was over.
“[After Lucie’s problem] I had over 30 seconds, according to Jonas [Bruffaerts, Christine Vardaros’ husband and mechanic] who was giving me time checks,” she explains. “So I could relax and not to take any risks for the rest of the race.”
“I’m the girl with the most UCI points, so I have the pressure to be first or second,” van Loy said of the race in China. It’s a new feeling for her, because in Belgium she’s lining up behind racers like Vos, Compton, Cant and Wyman, but comforts herself by realizing she has her own claim to fame. “I’m probably the number one ranked rider in the world with a full-time job,” she jokes, and she’s probably right. “Perhaps I’m the only one in the top fifteen riders or so to work full-time,” she guesses.
Make Room for a Lawyer
That top-15 van Loy referenced could soon have another full-time worker: the Australian Lisa Jacobs. After crashing badly in last year’s C2 event in China and suffering a season-ending broken wrist, the full-time lawyer returned to China this year looking for an appeal of last year’s harsh verdict.