When Ella CyclingTips spent the day with Boels-Dolmans in northern Italy last weekend, we had the opportunity to sit down with all six riders that would line up for Trofeo Binda the following day. In a roundtable format, we asked Evelyn Stevens, Lizzie Armistead, Chantal Blaak, Ellan van Dijk, Christine Majerus and Megan Guarnier to tell us about their first race.
The ways in which they got their starts are varied – and so too were their first race experiences. This Voxwomen video that we shared earlier in the week served as a teaser to their stories – stories that we detail for you below.
Evelyn Stevens – Cyclocross race in Northern California
The first time I pinned on a number was for a cyclocross race in 2007 when I was 26. I was visiting my sister in San Francisco, and she was like “Awww, this is great. I signed you up for a cyclocross race. Buy these clipless pedals.” So I did. It was my first time in clipless pedals, my first time doing cyclocross and my first race.
The best part was that when the race started and everyone just jumped off the line, I was like: “Whoa! Why are we starting so fast? What’s the hurry?”
It was great. I was awful. I crashed numerous times. When I was done, I was like “Oh. That was fun. I should go buy a bike.”
I wasn’t last. I have no idea how I finished. All I know is there are photos of me with this women wearing a full face helmet and racing on a mountain bike riding next to me, so I probably wasn’t near the front of the race.
It’s the only time my sister has ever beaten me in a bike race. She likes to remind anyone who listen about that.
Lizzie Armitstead – Revolution in the UK
My first bike race was a Revolution. It was in front of 6000 people on a velodrome. I was 15.
I had to borrow a jersey. I was in a club, but my mom wouldn’t buy me a jersey because she said it was too expensive, so I borrowed this guy’s jersey – and I crashed.
There was this massive crash. I think you can still see it on YouTube. It’s one of those famous crashes. There were two girls left in the race. The rest crashed. I still have splinters in my ass from it. Blue splinters.
Editor’s note: We’ve dug around a bit for the clip and come up empty-handed. If you find it, feel free to post it in the comments section and we’ll add it in.
I ripped open this guy’s jersey in the crash, and my mom had to buy a new jersey from him. And that was my race.
Evie jumps in: And you weren’t hooked?
No, I wasn’t hooked. But you got money in those days. The lottery gave us money to ride. That’s why I started cycling. For £500.
Chantal Blaak – Rabo Dikke Banden Race in Holland
My first bike race was not a real bike race. I was 11-years-old. It was on a normal bike, a city bike, with all of the school kids. It’s called a Rabo Dikke Banden race
I won it. Then I had to go the final for all the cities around us. I won that, too.
Evie pipes up – “You won the whole thing?
Yes, I won the whole thing. I even beat the boys. I won the Rabo Dikke Banden Race.
Lizzie’s turn to jump in – “What the hell is a Rabo Dikke Banden race?”
It means thick tyres. It’s called Rabo Dikke Banden race because we ride on city bikes on thick tyres.
When I won, they gave me a membership to the cycling club for free, and that’s how I started cycling.
Ellen van Dijk – Mini-Dutch stage race
My first bike race was when I was 11-years-old. It was a local race. It was like a tour, with every evening a little race. It was boys and girls together, so I was 11 but the boys were 10. If you are girl, you could race one year younger.
The first day was time trial of 1km. Of course, I won. I was already very tall at that age. I was just standing on the podium towering over these small boys standing next to me.
Christine Majerus – School safety demonstration in Luxembourg
My first bike race wasn’t really a bike race. I just made it into a bike race. It was a primary school thing that teaches you to respect riding safely – like arm out, keep your distance.
I think I forgot all about the safety thing, and I just tried to catch everyone back. I was the first to finish, but I was last in the safety things.
That day, I won, but I was pretty late with the real bike racing. My first real race was a race with boys, and it was not so motivating. I probably finished last, and I got lapped twice on a 2km circuit. But since then I have improved.
Megan Guarnier – Collegiate road race
My first bike race was when I was a freshman in college, so I was 19, I think. That’s how a lot of women get started in America – in college. I raced for Middlebury.
It was miserable weather – raining and really cold. There was an uphill finish. That’s all that I really remember.
I think I won. That must be why I liked it.
Lizzie asks: “Did you win any money?”
No, no. There’s no money in collegiate cycling. I just liked it for the glory of it all.
I have to say that Lizzie, when you won all those appliances in Drenthe, I think those were some of my favourite prizes. I got a Krups coffee machine and a little panini-maker once. My mom had driven me to the race, so she got to keep those.
Ellen quips: “So you started cycling for the panini-maker?”
Yes. I race my bike for panini-makers.