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ILSE PLUIMERS
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In this episode, we are delighted to introduce Ilse Pluimers, a young and exceptionally talented athlete from the Castelli-equipped AG Insurance Soudal team, excelling in both cyclocross and road cycling.

It's a lively conversation about Ilse's passion for cyclocross and one-day road races, including the social aspect of cyclocross events and the fun she experiences with family and friends. We explore how she balances her road career with cyclocross racing in winter, and she shares insider tips and know-how about this amazing sport, covering technical aspects and how to get started.

Towards the end of the episode, we delve into Ilse’s passion and love for one-day cobble races, particularly the iconic Paris-Roubaix. She enthusiastically discusses her goals for the upcoming season, showcasing her dedication to the sport. We hope you enjoy this episode, gaining a deeper understanding of the world of cyclocross and Ilse's impressive journey in the sport.

Enjoy!

TOPICS COVERED & TRANSCRIPT

(00:00) Introduction
(05:02) The Cyclocross Athlete
(08:34) Cyclocross Course, Race Prep.  
(20:56) Race Time
(25:27) Cyclocross idols 
(26:25) How to Get Started, Technical Skills
(35:41) Paris-Roubaix, How To Ride Cobbles
(41:37) European Road Championship U23
(45:16) Getting Into Cycling
(47:40) Ending


SOREN JENSEN
During the October to February season, riders splatter through the trails of Flanders, pausing only to dismount and carry the bikes on their shoulders when the hills become too steep or the mud too heavy. Mud is part of the cyclocross experience as much as wheels are part of the bike. Often seen as a way for road riders to keep fit in the off-road circuit built around sharp turns, steep slopes, streams, falling trees and man-made obstacles like barriers and stairs. Cyclocross routes are nearly as old as the bicycle itself. And there are many stories about its origins. French and Belgian road racers in the early 1900s would race each other to the next town over from them, and that they were allowed to cut through farmer fields, over fences or take any other shortcuts in order to make it to the next town first. A key early figure was a French soldier, a later Secretary General of the French Cycling Union, Daniel Gouzeau, who would cycle through the forests alongside his horse mounted general. Gozo enjoyed these outings so much that he invited a few of his friends along and before any other race occurred, in 1902 he organized the first French championship. So it's a really old sport, it's one of the oldest in cycling. Hello everyone and welcome to the Castelli podcast. I'm Søren Jensen and we got a cracking episode lined up for you today. I know I say this all the time, but this one is a very special episode coming up. So sit back, kick your feet up and enjoy this one. With the cross season soon coming to an end, one of the most important and prestigious races of the season, the World Championships will take place in Tabor in the Czech Republic this upcoming weekend. So I think it's time to get a little bit of education on the sport so we know what we are watching when we're sitting back watching the world's on television this weekend. So I'm thrilled to introduce a young and highly talented athlete who excels in both cyclocross and road cycling. With one of her favorite cobble classic races being the queen of them all, Paris-Roubaix. We will do a deep dive on this iconic monument. So if you're not so much into cyclocross and its history, the do's and don'ts, use the chapter links in the podcast notes to skip forward and learn more about how to ride cobbles and especially Roubaix. But now let's welcome Ilse Pluimers from the Castelli Equipped AG Insurance Soudal team. Ilse, your history is amazing, I think. I mean, you're still very young of age. I know you come from a cycling family. So your brother is professional and I think it was your grandfather.

ILSE PLUIMERS
My grandfather was a pro cyclist. Then my parents met each other at a race.

SOREN JENSEN
That I want in the podcast also later. But also I know that you are damn hardcore in cyclocross.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, I like cyclocross. But when I was younger, I didn't like how I do now cycling, like really go full gas. But now it's more a bit beside and for the fun and just like, it's going great.

SOREN JENSEN
It's going great because we've been giving you a lot of kudos and likes on social because I think this year you won, was that three races?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, three out of four.

SOREN JENSEN
Three out of four races, that's pretty good.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, the first one I was second, but it was because I made so many mistakes and a lot of mud. That was horrible.

SOREN JENSEN
But how do you balance then cyclocross with your career on the road?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, with my trainer, but it's now really like doing it for training, so the races are more like training. But if you are on the start line, you always want to win.

SOREN JENSEN
But it has to be aligned with your road.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, exactly. So if I do a race, then it's like I can do it, but not too much, because otherwise I have not...

SOREN JENSEN
You don't have to, yeah. You also get too tired also for your road training.

ILSE PLUIMERS
A lot endurance-wise, because in the winter it's to make some hours and if you do cyclocross you have to take a rest day and have easy days.

SOREN JENSEN
Also before it's fully on, you know, cyclocross.

ILSE PLUIMERS
It's 15 minutes for you. It is.

SOREN JENSEN
Cyclocross is just for between brackets for fun, even though we know that every time you pin a race number it's race mode, you know, in the minuses.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Before the race I think, okay, you'll say it's training and it doesn't matter if you're a second or third or fourth. But then if the start sign is there, then I'm like, no, I want to win. And then it's full focus.

SOREN JENSEN
So I would like to have you tell our listeners more about cyclocross and what it means to be a cyclocross cyclist. And also what it takes, what skills you need, skill set and everything. Because also cyclocross today, I think it's different than it used to be. I mean, it's the oldest sport within cycling. And it's a sport that in the past, the big road cyclists, including Eddy Merckx, were using cyclocross to keep themselves fit in wintertime, have fun, detach themselves also from the world of road cycling, but now you have two type of riders for cyclocross. You have the fully professional cyclocross rider like Lars van der Haar from the Netherlands, and then you have people like yourself who has a road career, but also keeping themselves fit and fun like back in the day riding cyclocross in winter. Is it more difficult for you when you race up against some of these more professional.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, like in our, with the women's it's like you have a Fem van Empel and she's full focus on cyclocross. And you can see in the races that she's just so many steps further than I am because she is doing everything for it. But also like the tyre pressure or the, which tyre you are riding up. Is it Grifo or Rino? Yeah, I'm riding at the course I'm like oh I don't know if I have to do Griffo or Reno and she's like all the details she she knows and I'm like I don't know I don't know so yes there's so many steps in front of me for me yeah what I said it's for fun and it's like you have to get some skills of it and explosivity and that's really good for your road career because then after every corner it's better.

SOREN JENSEN
Also because you're more agile and more flexible also on the road because you got better technical skills you feel more relaxed. Yeah you're descending or when there's a crash or maybe riding the Strade Bianche, you know, or some of the couple races. Because you're more used to using these skills. Let's just take a step back. What technical skills do you need to have to be a good cyclocross rider? But let's start first with the physicals, so the body. You need to have a stronger core. You need to be good at running.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, I do running sessions once a week, but I'm not really good at it.

SOREN JENSEN
You're not good at it, you don't enjoy it that much. Sometimes you could also have a race course. What was it I saw? It was not, no, it was not Boom, it was Essen, I think, but it was so muddy. And the guys were basically running, I'm not saying 60% of the time. I mean, you had Val Trenard who kept, that was his first race coming back. I don't know if you watched it but he rode a lot of it but he also had to get off the bike and run because it was just faster.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah and then he has a little leg. No but yeah if you have a run course then I'm not there because I also want to do BOM the super season but yeah it was too much running because it was a bit faster course and that's more for me because I'm a road cyclist.

SOREN JENSEN
Talking about a cyclocross course, I think there is a distance, a maximum or minimum distance it needs to have about three, three and a half kilometers.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, I think two and a half to three and a half.

SOREN JENSEN
Three and a half kilometers, okay. So we have that course, so we got the length. If you, as Ilse, you could design your all-time favorite course, cyclocross course, how would it look like?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Fast, fast corners and straight, a long start, because now I'm starting in the back, so if it's a short start, then you're fucked. With a long start and then that you have speed, enough speed. But yeah, that's also because I'm a road cyclist. How faster the course, how better it is.

SOREN JENSEN
So again, very little running, no stairs, I assume?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Okay, stairs, it's okay. Yeah, okay, stairs.

SOREN JENSEN
Okay, stairs, yeah.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, that's fine for me. Then you have to go up. That's okay. But also no sand.

SOREN JENSEN
No sand, true.

ILSE PLUIMERS
I hate sand. Oh, somehow I will never do it. Never. No, no sand. But yeah, stairs is okay, because then you have a bit of different kind of stuff. But yeah, how fast.

SOREN JENSEN
But riding sand, we know it's very technical. Tell us about how do we ride sand? Is it about hitting it, the sand, as much speed as possible and just let the bike steer itself? Or how is it?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, that's it. And then look where you want to go.

SOREN JENSEN
To go, yeah, direction.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Look in front of you and just let the bike find their way. But yeah, I'm riding sand and I'm like panicking. Because my handlebars, I hold them so tight.

SOREN JENSEN
And you're losing a lot of energy.

ILSE PLUIMERS
I know sand is not for me. Because you have to let the bike find the way.

SOREN JENSEN
But one thing is for sure, don't think about crashing before you hit the sand because then you are down on the deck. Okay, we got your all-time favorite course here. How many barriers? We got the stairs, we got the all straight lines, we got a fast hard pack course. What about barriers? You like to jump barriers?

ILSE PLUIMERS
No, but if they are high enough, then no one can jump them and then it's fine.

SOREN JENSEN
What is the right height for you?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Between 40 and 50, yeah, 40.

SOREN JENSEN
That's still pretty high.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, it's high, but I think it's like that on the Super Prestige because then no one can jump off the wall. Yeah, but Peter's a guy. But that's fine. But not too low that some girls can jump and some not, because then I don't take the risk.

SOREN JENSEN
Because also, if you crash, you can hurt yourself, but also like they're in front of their home crowd or the fans looking at you. I mean, yeah.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah. And then I make mistakes and then it's even worse.

SOREN JENSEN
So let's tell our listeners how to jump, how to bunny hop. Is that easy to explain on a podcast? It's not a video thing. We're not out in the field. We cannot show them how it works, but can you explain it with words?

ILSE PLUIMERS
How I can learn to bunny hop for example. Now I'm not a good teacher in it, but I think you hold your handlebars like not at the shifters here like on the top, then you go out of your saddle and first your front wheel and then in the air..

SOREN JENSEN
You take to tilt the bike. First of all so you lift the bar with the front wheel, push your body weight back.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Do your front wheel and in the air also lift your back.

SOREN JENSEN
Yeah because in the air I think you tilt then your weight towards the front. And then you get there. But first you need to wheelie.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah then you have to go to the back with your body and then if you do your back wheel you have to go to the front. But it's so difficult. Don't do it at home.

SOREN JENSEN
Well I would try, but I would try it on the grass and maybe just with a wooden stick to jump first. Then we'll see how it goes.

ILSE PLUIMERS
When I was younger I wanted to try, but I only can jump with two wheels. But yeah, then you don't get that high. Or two times.

SOREN JENSEN
And plus also, if you jump like you said, with just a normal, like a normal road cyclist would jump, you're using the cleats because you're clicking to lift the bike, but you lift the bike up vertical, it's not like pulling it first back and then forward and you cannot get as high as you're saying. No, you're right. So we got now your perfect ferret course designed for you. So are there any race courses that are perfectly designed for you, that you can remember?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, now this year I did a lot of races in the Netherlands. And then last week I had Amersfoort. And that course was also fast corners and just some long straight parts. And that was a typical course for me. Some little hills, like the Expressif, where you have to be at the power, those hills are also fine. Because otherwise it's maybe a bit boring. Little, little hills.

SOREN JENSEN
Not too much, not too much.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, and I think I also did Hilversum. There was one in the forest. Then that was also nice because then it's also dry and a bit technical between the trees. But that was also a nice one.

SOREN JENSEN
You like it when it's technical, fast and fully on.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, technical, fast and a bit of power and then it's fine.

SOREN JENSEN
So now we get to the race. So we have the perfect race course now. We get to the race. Who would you have as helping you with the support, with the spare wheels and giving you also in the pit with an extra bike.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Now my boyfriend is standing in the pit.

SOREN JENSEN
He's amazing, your boyfriend.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, he is amazing. He is also a mechanic and now he is there with my dad. He decided to tie pressure as well for me because...

SOREN JENSEN
Then you pre-ride the course. And then you come back and tell him what tire pressure, you know, when is it lower or raise?

ILSE PLUIMERS
So we come to the race and he makes my bike ready for the raccoon and then he asked me what type you want and then I said yeah you can choose and then I do the raccoon and then he's coming to the course to see and then sometimes I stop with him and then he put a bit more air or less in the tires and then after that like in Amersfoort it started raining after the Wrecken yeah and then I'm really thinking I have to ride on Renos because I'm too scared if it's slippery.

SOREN JENSEN
You need something with more grip.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah exactly and he said no we don't do Renos we are riding Griffos because that's faster and I was like no no I want Reno's because I hate it when I it's slippery. And then I said no Grifo's. So he decides the tire but he also listens to me but most of the time I have to listen to him because he's right. And then yeah he is he stands in the pit with my dad and if I swap bike with switch.

SOREN JENSEN
Yeah when you swap change bikes yeah.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah exactly. Then I give my bike to my dad and he's.

SOREN JENSEN
He cleans the bikes then.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah yeah exactly.

SOREN JENSEN
If you feel like you need to change the tires you know or change the wheels you want to a different wheel, could this also happen during a race?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, it's possible, but I never did it. No, no, no. But then I just screamed.

SOREN JENSEN
So you screamed and then you would, on the next lap, then you would, they would have a red field.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, half of a lap.

SOREN JENSEN
Correct, you have to tune.

ILSE PLUIMERS
And yeah, my mom is always at the start and finish line.

SOREN JENSEN
Because going to a cross race, it's a... Completely different than a road race. And it's a whole day event, a family event as you're describing it also.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, maybe that's why I like it. Because on the road races you are only with your teams and with your team and not with your parents. My parents are there but not with me. And now it's really a day with my parents and then my boyfriend too. Yeah, and it's just so much fun and all my friends are there and maybe that's also the social aspect of it. Yeah it's really nice and also now last year I did it with my family but now when my boyfriend is here as well it's like I also can see that he's enjoying it, then I'm enjoying it as well.

SOREN JENSEN
I think that's cool that's nice yeah I always enjoyed it myself when I was on trips to Belgium and going I always try to go and watch one race on the weekend and when you see in the morning from nine o'clock you have this you know in some case you have the kids you know getting ready and doing their racing and at one o'clock you have the women's and then the men's at three o'clock. But even from the morning you would have beers, frits, waffles, everything you know and it's one big party.

ILSE PLUIMERS E
specially in Belgium and in the Netherlands it's not that big, no. Only maybe with a World Cup, but not...

SOREN JENSEN
So how many races would you do then in Belgium during a season?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Now I did Kortrijk and I was supposed to do Boom and Zolder as well, but I think... and Loonout, but I think I only will do Loonout out now because if I do shoulder and Loonout, then it's maybe a bit too much and I need also some hours on the bike for the road races. So I have to decide with my trainer if I still do shoulder or only Loonout.

SOREN JENSEN
What is your trainer and also the team saying to you, having with this great all this passion for cyclocross, but also being trying to keep you on a level that you can still pursue your road training.

ILSE PLUIMERS
I think more my trainer, I'm constantly in contact with him and he makes also my program for the winter, what's the best races and also that it's not a negative effect of the road station. So he is and he's also really supportive in that and he really likes it. And the team is also really supportive and I get a lot of material from them. But that's also a thing with Cyclocross, like we go with the camper but the whole camper is fully packed with everything. Like all the wheels and two bikes and a roller and everything. Yeah, it's crazy.

SOREN JENSEN
Yeah. So let's describe before we get into the racing here, because we talked about the circuit, we talked about the recon, but then when you finish recon, then you need to get into the zone, get more focused on the race. How much time before would you start eating your pasta or rice or whatever, what would you eat for a race meal?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Normally I start eating two hours before and then I do the rec a weekend. And then I change clothes and they wash the bikes and stuff. And then I start riding on the rollers. Like it's 20 minutes warming up, but I think it's 45 minutes before the real start. Yeah, because after that you put your helmet on. Then it's race mode. Yeah, and then it's race mode.

SOREN JENSEN
So then we're rolling up to the starting grid. And we said it before, because you're not racing consistently, you know, cross, then unfortunately you have to start in the back. But how is the feeling when you're starting there at the starting line. And it's a little bit like Formula One, because you're just standing there waiting those 30 seconds when the lights from red then will change to green. And you don't know exactly because you don't have the number countdown. You're just sitting there standing there and waiting. It's about 30 seconds. What goes through your mind when you're standing there at the starting grid? Let's just, in the back it's more difficult because you're probably thinking about all the people you have to cross or pass But when you're at the front, how what what what is what goes through your mind?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, if we have a national race then I… First of all, I really think why I'm doing this because then you are so nervous I think.

SOREN JENSEN
You're nervous and you know, you got 50 minutes of pain.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Exactly. So then I'm thinking that and then I also think, oh, I hope I have a good start because sometimes my start is so bad.

SOREN JENSEN
Why?

ILSE PLUIMERS
I don't know how, because normally I have the power, but sometimes it's also like a sprint and sprint is not my best thing. And sometimes I miss the start completely, but like in Kortrijk, where we had the lights and I was totally in the back. I had a really good start but then the girls in front of me were like so slow and then I'm stuck behind.

SOREN JENSEN
So that's difficult. Yeah it's really difficult to move up. One of the key aspects also especially I think if you're at the front line is and of course every cyclocross athlete, cyclist will know how to do a good start meaning also important is to clicking in yeah right away no problem clicking in be able to have this explosive acceleration at least in the first corner.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah that's hard because the clicking is sometimes difficult.

SOREN JENSEN
How do you train that?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah we have training on Wednesday and then we are yeah also doing starts and then you do your pedal boot to kick in directly and yeah you practice it a lot. But yeah sometimes you are missing it.

SOREN JENSEN
But a lot of practice. It is a very skilled sport that's for sure. So then we get into the race and you're in fully race mode and you got all these other athletes or cyclists in front of you you have to pass through. I mean there's a lot of things going through your mind I'm sure and you're working your way up. What happens then if mid race but you just pass that one of the two pits that you have a defect, have a flat tire. Have you ever experienced that you had to get off the bike and do the thing you don't like, run with the bike to get to the next pick to get a spare bike?

ILSE PLUIMERS
No, not a lot. But in Kortrijk I swapped my bike and then I clicked in but I broke my pedal so I couldn't click in and then I spun my bike and yeah they fixed it but yeah I didn't have to run I still could ride yeah yeah but I never had a half lap of running but if I had that then I'm like oh okay then it's not nice anymore. Then I hate it. So lucky.

SOREN JENSEN
No, it's a beautiful sport. It's a beautiful winter sport. I definitely, I'm also a big cyclocross fan and I watch every race on the weekends on television, every Saturday and Sunday from Italy on my couch. I love it. You know, both the men's and the women's.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, it's really nice. It's also nice if you have an endurance ride in the morning and then lay on the couch and watch the cyclocross race. Perfect Sunday.

SOREN JENSEN
Perfect Sunday, exactly. Who's your, if you have one, cyclocross idol, if you have any, who are you looking up to?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, but then I think more about the men's, like Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert of course. But now in the women's field, it's like Lucinda or Puck or Pam who is doing it amazing. And Puck has so much skills. I want a bit of her skills. That is fine.

SOREN JENSEN
But they are fully, you know, fully professional. Like, yeah, they're, I mean, that's the job. It's like a cross. You don't have to mix or balance two sports like you. I mean, you, you decide to follow a path that is road cycling. That's why you're also on this amazing team. But it's good, you still feel that passion for the sport, for the cycling. It's a good way of socializing with your family and your boyfriend and friends. So yeah, I know that's great. So someone who is new to cyclocross or would like to get into cyclocross, no matter the age group, because it's easy. We know it's for kids when you just go on the bike and you go there and play but what would your recommendation be to people who would like to get into cyclocross?

ILSE PLUIMERS
I think first of all do a bit of practice and do some trainings like small cornering and that kind of stuff and then.

SOREN JENSEN
Where would you usually do that if you don't have a cyclocross course near you?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, on the field.

SOREN JENSEN
Would you set up small cones or water bottles that you would have to corner or slide them through?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, that would be nice. And then just ride your bike. And then also if you have a playground for the kids with a bit of sand, just ride through the sand. When I was younger I also did this. And yeah, of course I had also training on the course but I think just have fun just yeah like what you said take a bottle and set it on the ground and just go running and then if you do a race yeah just have fun because if you don't have fun then then it's too hard to do this sport.

SOREN JENSEN
And then I think with just like everything in life and especially cycling have patience. Don't give up. Because the technical skills is learning the rope. It takes time.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, it takes a lot of time.

SOREN JENSEN
So I definitely need to practice my Bunny hopping there so I can see you it.

ILSE PLUIMERS
I practice I also can't. I have to practice a lot for that.

SOREN JENSEN
Well, you know what? Unfortunately, I will be flying back from Calpe here tomorrow. But, you know, I think on the next trip here, the next trip maybe even to the Netherlands, next time I'll meet with you. Maybe we can do bunny hop together.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Okay, deal. Then we have to practice again, I think.

SOREN JENSEN
That's awesome. Also just shouldering the bikes, because I know there are two ways you can shoulder the bikes depending on the distance you have to carry the bike. And there's one where you, maybe you can explain it, how there are two positions you can put your hand to shoulder on the handlebar.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, you can do it on top or under the frame.

SOREN JENSEN
And then you grab the lower part of the handlebar, correct? And that you would usually use for?

ILSE PLUIMERS
I do that one normally, but I don't do the other one because I also do it in two steps, but that's wrong because you have to go off the bike and then directly grab your, how do you say the...

SOREN JENSEN
The center tube? To lift the bike up?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, but I first grab the upper.

SOREN JENSEN
Ah the top tube.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah and then.

SOREN JENSEN
And then the down tube. Okay yeah that's an extra step.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah exactly but I have to learn to grab it directly like this.

SOREN JENSEN
And then you have also when you shoulder the bike the other one when you get you do the same you lift the bike but then you shoulder your hand around the headset the front exactly you grab the top.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, you can also maybe. I don't think you see that that often anymore.

SOREN JENSEN
I think more like the one on, yeah, under the frame, under the down tube. Yeah. No, it's such a technical sport and there's so many aspects of it. It's very much interesting. You know what, also in the podcast notes, apart from our linking also your social handle so people can find you if they're not already following you. And then also if you have any good websites for cyclocross cycling tips or whatever, I'm sure people can also Google it, but I'll add them into the podcast notes.

ILSE PLUIMERS
I don't know, but I think on YouTube there are a lot of videos where you can watch.

SOREN JENSEN
Go on YouTube.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, exactly. And also, yeah, watch the race on TV because then you learn a lot.

SOREN JENSEN
And yeah, I think that's true. Then now we talk about sand, we talked about hard packed surface, we talked about muddy. What about the World Cup in Valdisole when they're riding in the snow on hard packed snow? Have you ever done that?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah I have done it one time in the Dutch National Championships but then I was a really good race then I was with Puck Pieterse and Sharin van Anrooij and I almost beat them.

SOREN JENSEN
Oh really? Wow!

ILSE PLUIMERS
So I was really good in it but that was the only time I did it. But if I can do the World Cup, yeah, that will be really nice. And then also like Puck Pieterse, after that snowboarding or skiing because I like skiing. Also for that I want to beat them.

SOREN JENSEN
I need a perfect holiday combination.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, exactly.

SOREN JENSEN
That's nice! Bringing all your toys with you!

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, exactly! But yeah, you have that one or two times. But it's also really difficult.

SOREN JENSEN
It looks difficult! But I think it also depends how packed or fluffy the snow is. Because sometimes it also gets icy under that fluffy snow.

ILSE PLUIMERS
And if you are really light then it's also hard to ride that course. Because then you slip.

SOREN JENSEN
So we talked about also some of the big guys and ladies within the world of cyclocross, but also some of them who have transitioned to road cycling later. Some of them being, you mentioned his name before, Mathieu van der Poel, Wout Van Aert, Pidcock, and so on. And they're dominating on the road. And you rode the Roubaix twice. You rode the Rennes-Vevelinghem. Do you think your skills and toughness as a cyclocross rider helps you here riding those couple and very difficult races?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, I think so because you know how it feels to die completely and that's in the sidecars, the men's has to do an hour full gas. And yeah, you have a step forward to the rest of the peloton because you know how you can go really deep. Like also on this training camp, we had to do a test and also my training said we had to do a seven minute of, yeah, around five to 10 minutes, yeah, full until you are completely high. And my trainer said also, yeah, you have a step forward in front of the rest because you already know how it feels to go completely deep. And that's also in a race, you know how it feels when you go an hour completely.

SOREN JENSEN
You know you can do it, your body can do it.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, exactly. So I think it's good to do cyclocross next. And I think also Fem Van Empel is riding more and more at the road now. Yeah. I think now she is doing a full cyclocross season but I think also her cyclocross season is going.

SOREN JENSEN
So how much time do you think she rides during the week on her cross bike versus road bike?

ILSE PLUIMERS
I think also she is riding one or two times on the cyclocross. I think one time on the Wednesday, that's normally the day that everyone has a cyclocross training, because it's not too close to the weekend, and that training is really hard, always. So I think she's also riding one time, and maybe a day before the race to have the feeling on the bike. Yeah, so I think one or two times, but not more, because then it's also too hard, because training on the cyclocross bike is not easy.

SOREN JENSEN
So then talking about road cycling again here, we're talking about some of the big couple races. You rode the Tour de France Femme last year. And you rode the Giro Donne this year.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah. Oh, the Giro. A lot of uphill. Oh, I don't want to do that again. Or every day in the group. That was just horrible. Yeah, I'm not a climber. And then every day was climbing.

SOREN JENSEN
So no, that wasn't fun. Tour was fun. And yeah, and then also the more attention there is now, I think also for the Tour de France family and hopefully also for the Giro Donne and it will be in the future on the women's cycling. That's gonna be good. Do you know if you'll be racing one of the Grand Tours this year?

ILSE PLUIMERS
I think, but I don't know which one.

SOREN JENSEN
Which one yet, no.

ILSE PLUIMERS
So the Vuelta, Giro or Tour. But we have to discuss the race program still. So I don't know. But I hope the Tour, because it starts in the Netherlands. And that's really nice. And the first days are flat, so that's perfect.

SOREN JENSEN
Maybe you can then shine during the first couple of stages? Someone else from the team?

ILSE PLUIMERS
No, I think if we go to the Tour, it's completely for Ashley.

SOREN JENSEN
Protecting her and keeping her safe and out of trouble. That would be fantastic, especially starting in your home country. Do you then prefer one day races or grand tours?

ILSE PLUIMERS
One day races and especially the classics.

SOREN JENSEN
Which one is your favorite?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Paris-Roubaix for sure. But last year I missed it because I broke my wrist in Ronde van Drenthe so I couldn't ride but it was a big goal for me. Three big goals like this one and then the nationals and the European Championships. And then I missed my first goal so I was so sad about it. But this year it's a goal for me again. Because I really like that race. Just go and ride as fast as you can. It's beautiful.

SOREN JENSEN
But a long history. Which one of the couple sectors is your favorite?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Carrefour de l'arbre. That one is hard, but it's so nice.

SOREN JENSEN
It is very nice. And you're getting closer to the finish.

ILSE PLUIMERS
From there on it's full to the finish. Yeah, that one is so nice.

SOREN JENSEN
So, any tips here to our listeners on how to ride in cobbles? What is the thing you need to do? Stay in the center of the road, of course, if it's possible.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah and don't have your handlebar too tight. Just have them loose also on the top or at the shifters and just look where you have to go and yeah.

SOREN JENSEN
Keep pedaling as hard as you can.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Keep pedaling, yeah exactly.

SOREN JENSEN
Keep the chain tight.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah and sometimes it's the best in the middle to ride because otherwise the car says, riding down.

SOREN JENSEN
Then you usually stay just a few, one centimeter or two above the saddle.

ILSE PLUIMERS
I think I do, but I don't know. But I think I'm riding a bit above the saddle.

SOREN JENSEN
So because you don't have all this bouncing also then.

ILSE PLUIMERS
That's very something. Yeah, if you do the Paris-Roubaix, it's always a hell. Because then you think too much and then you have blisters and everything. And in the race it's just, just go and then there's Adrenaline. So, but after in the Wrecking it's horrible to ride couples.

SOREN JENSEN
Do you go with double wrapped bar tape and no gloves? Or do you go normal and gloves?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, normal and gloves. And sometimes blister...

SOREN JENSEN
Tape on the palm?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, exactly. So because my hands are... I get really fast blisters.

SOREN JENSEN
I think it's the same thing with most people.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, exactly. So normally I tape them and then gloves. And normal hand gloves.

SOREN JENSEN
And then you're ready there in your race suit and all the race aerodynamic gears. Oh, can't wait for you, you know, to see you on television.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, I really like Paris, it's so nice.

SOREN JENSEN
So, but then also talking about road cycling, do you have any childhood cycling hero, somebody as a road cyclist that you looked up to?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, I don't, not really, I think. But when I start cycling, I really like Chantal van den Broek-Blaak. But it's not like I'm like, whoa.

SOREN JENSEN
So it must also been, I'm not saying it's easy to transition into professional cycling because sometimes people, they can get maybe a little bit nervous about standing next to maybe one of the big stars and idols I've had, you know, since I grew up with cycling, but coming in with a more easier and clear mindset is maybe better most of the time.

ILSE PLUIMERS
It's better, I think, yeah. But sometimes if you write in the Peloton and then you think, oh, Lotte Kopecki or Marianne Vos, but it's not as I'm really thinking, like, whoa. But yeah, first of all, you look at them in the television and then you are riding next to them. So sometimes you think, oh, that's a bit crazy, but most of the time you just race and yeah, that's it.

SOREN JENSEN
You know, you're in the race mode again.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, exactly.

SOREN JENSEN
No matter if you're riding in the...

ILSE PLUIMERS
It's a nice mode. Then you don't think about… Just go.

SOREN JENSEN
Yeah, exactly. And then also with Roubaix, then coming into the Velodrome, there must have been goosebumps when you rode in on that Velodrome. At least that's what you always hear from the riders, you hear the crowd cheering.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, it's really nice. The first time I crashed like three or four times, so that was not my best Paris-Roubaix. But the second time I was around place 20, I also crashed, but later on in the race. And then, yeah, all the crowd too, her screaming and you have to do the one lap. But yeah, that's so nice. But I was so afraid because I hate riding on the Velodrome and then on the highest part. I screamed to Jolien like, what do I have to do? Because I can't sprint in this and then she said yeah just ride away and then I just before the Velodrome was there I attacked and then I was there alone so that was much better but if I have to do a sprint once there then I'm so scared.

SOREN JENSEN
I don't know how I will do that. Well you shouldn't be, I mean with your experience and you know on a track as long as you know as long as you're going, keep pedaling, there's no problem. Especially with the Roubaix, because it's not very steep.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, it's not really high.

SOREN JENSEN
No. That's awesome. But before we wrap up the episode, I also would like to congratulate you on the European Country Road Championship title. How did that come together when you took us through the last part of the race?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, it was my goal the whole season already. And the week before I was mentally really done. But then I was there and I had the time trial as well. But I was so focused on the road race. And first of all I was helping for Fem and Maike Van der Duin. So it wasn't that I could win the race. Because I was the whole day in the front and closing gaps. Because on one moment Zoe Bäckstedt attacks and Maike rode to her but then she dropped and then we had to close the gap with the net hands. And then I was riding full gas in the front with the girls. And then after that we said we keep Fem in the peloton for the sprint and we just keep on attacking because how harder the race how better it was for us and then I attacked myself and yeah two times two minutes later this group wins and then I saw that there was no one from the Netherlands so I was thinking fuck yeah I have to do it again so I And then I saw that every country was there. So I just sat on it and hoped that we stay away. And then at the last 3K, I looked back and I saw that the peloton was so far away. And then my brother said, before the race, you have to attack and you have to do an all or nothing. So on that moment I was thinking, okay, then I have to do an all or nothing. And then I attacked and Anna Schäckli joins me and I was like fuck she's a climber and I'm not a climber. So she just went in front of me at the last one and a half K I think, two K's. And she kept on going and I sit in the wheel just doing nothing because as the Netherlands we said we have to win we're just riding for gold so I sit in the wheel and at the downhill I throw my bottles away because I was thinking oh she's so light I have to throw everything away yeah and then the last climb yeah I attacked again and the last 200 meters 250 yeah 200 I think and then, yeah.

SOREN JENSEN
It must have been a fantastic feeling.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah but I don't know what to feel on that moment because I didn't expect it but I was feeling really strong that day and so focused but I didn't expect to win and my whole family and my boyfriend and friends and everything everyone was there only my brother wasn't there so he was really..

SOREN JENSEN
He was probably following somewhere on a mobile phone.

ILSE PLUIMERS
He had a race and then after the finish his old swanee was coming to him and he said to him that I won and he was like no no that's not possible, show pro cycling stats and then he saw and then, yeah, he was so happy.

SOREN JENSEN
That's beautiful, I like that story, beautiful, just imagine it, nice.

ILSE PLUIMERS
So everyone was there around me. Yeah, it was perfect.

SOREN JENSEN
One thing we forgot at the beginning, and that's my fault, I'm sorry, is that I never asked you how you got into cycling, how it all started. I mean, we touched on it with cyclocross, but, and your brother, and yeah, so I don't know if you want to take us through, tell our listeners your story about where you're from, first of all, and how you got into cycling and cyclocross?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Now first my granddad was a pro cyclist he was really good he was ten times Dutch champion and then my mom and dad met each other at the races and then yeah Rick starts riding his bike and I was still doing gymnastics and then I start to have like first one hour gymnastics and then after that I had to go to the cycling training. And when I think I was nine years old or ten and then I start cycling to do the show I stopped gymnastics.

SOREN JENSEN
Was that your brother who pushed you a little bit or it was just natural?

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, just natural. Also, my parents didn't push us, like still, they don't push us. They only support us. And yeah, but it was just for fun, just with the friends, and I go to the races just play with my friends and not really to ride my bike and then when I was 17 it gets a bit more serious but not really serious but I trained a bit more and then Natasha picked me up for the U19 team of them and yeah from then on it gets a bit more serious so I got my first trainer and in 2019 I was European champion at the United category.

ILSE PLUIMERS
And then I could join the elite team, but it was a continental team. And then from last year I'm in this team. So from the very beginning till now. It's really nice and now for two or three years it's huge.

SOREN JENSEN
And then also as a world tour team. It's a really nice team.

ILSE PLUIMERS
It feels like a family.

SOREN JENSEN
No, it does. Also, I can tell you as a partner of the team, it feels like one big family. Every time we meet you guys and the team, everyone is so open and welcoming. It's been a pleasure. It was amazing to have you on the Castelli podcast and hear a bit about your story, but also tell you or listen to us more about Cyclocross. Because also knowing that we have then when this podcast will go live, we will have the World Championships in Tabor taking place. And with some of the tips and some of the things that you explained about cyclocross I'm sure they're gonna enjoy it.

ILSE PLUIMERS
I'm not a really good cyclocrosser, so I have to learn as well.

SOREN JENSEN
I'm sure people can maybe pick up on a few tricks watching the big guys ride or do the bunny hopping and stuff. Yeah, exactly. Ilse, thank you so much. It was a pleasure to have you and I'll see you out there on the road.

ILSE PLUIMERS
Yeah, thank you as well for the invite. It was nice to do. Thank you. Bye-bye.
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