After a full 25 years of racing, Daphny van den Brand (ZZPR.nl) is entering her penultimate season of ‘cross. With her limited time, this Netherlander has her sights set on two top priorities – to win World Championships one more time and to add two more national jerseys to her current fleet of 11.
During the offseason, van den Brand went quickly to work on realizing her goals with a full schedule of bike races – road, mountain bike and marathon events – straight through to the end of May. June was an easier month partly due to pollen season, but mostly so she could make time to fit in a marriage to long-time boyfriend Johan van de Ven, with the idea that they could spend the rest of the summer enjoying a relaxed honeymoon.
“After being together for 14 years, Johan asked me to marry him last year in Hoogerheide at the World Championships. We were just married June 26th,” explains van den Brand. Adding, “Directly after that, there was a one-week training camp in Annecy [France]. Mid-July we rode the Trans Alp on mountain bikes as a mixed team [she laughs]. It was an eight-day race, and for us it was very successful until day five. My husband and I had lung problems – we couldn’t get enough air – so for the last seven kilometers we were pushing the bikes on foot. The next day we decided to quit – it was our honeymoon! [chuckles] We were back at it mid-August as a mixed team with the Trans Schwarzwald stage race on the mountain bikes for seven days. This time we won!”
And if that weren’t enough training, van den Brand topped off her pre-season preparation with one more significant event early September, Tour de L’Ardeche (five days – six stages), where she finished 22nd overall.
Another significant change in van den Brand’s racing this season is in her team, namely the loss of Sanne van Paassen, recent GvA winner and perhaps this early season’s strongest rider in Europe. As she usually joined van den Brand on the podium, van Paassen is now added to van den Brand’s short list of rivals with whom she must contend for the win. Leading up to the first World Cup, van Paassen had topped her at both UCI events held, with van den Brand coming in second. But the season is a long one with many opportunities to flip the finishing order.
Van den Brand plans to retire in 2012, much to the disappointment of her fans – especially her Netherlands fans who have come to expect to see her every year in her Netherlands Champion colors. When asked why she would stop racing after next season when she will only be a mere 34 years of age and very likely still competing at the top, she said, “There just comes a time to stop. I love cycling but I also love children. When you have to do top sport it is not good for your body. I hope that when I quit I am quick to have children, but I may have to wait one or two years, I don’t know. I will have been cycling for over 25 years by then, and I think it’s enough.”