Unsung Heroes: The Jumbo-Visma Women’s Team at the Ladies Tour of Norway

The story of one domestique's winning ride, and the team support that got her there.

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‘Unsung Heroes’ is a series in which we pay tribute to riders who don’t often get the recognition they deserve. The domestiques that spend race after race riding in the service of their teammates, often playing an invaluable role that’s hard to see from the outside. In this edition of Unsung Heroes Amy Jones tells the story of one domestique who got her chance to shine earlier this year, and the team support she got along the way.

Some of the most memorable and popular wins in cycling are those taken by riders who spend most races working for others. While the star attraction on the Jumbo-Visma women’s team is of course Marianne Vos — who has taken countless victories throughout her career — one particular Jumbo-Visma Women’s result in 2021 stood out: Riejanne Markus taking her first WorldTour win on stage 2 of the Ladies Tour of Norway. 

The four-day Women’s WorldTour race got off to a bad start for the team, which consisted of Markus, Anna Henderson, Anouska Koster, Nancy van der Burg, and Amber Kraak. 

“During the first stage of the Tour of Norway, our team had a lot of bad luck,” Markus recalls. “We wanted to race aggressively and make it a hard final. But it became a shit day for us as a team. There was a big crash with three of our girls involved, including two of our best sprinters. In the final, we had a miscommunication and were behind another crash, so we completely missed out on the results that day.” 

The team before a tricky stage 1.

Henderson finished the stage but was forced to sit out the rest of the race, meaning the team was down a rider. “The next day we had to start with five instead of six riders,” Markus says. “Anna stepped out because of the crash the day before. With the team, we decided to try and race aggressively again and we hoped to make up for the disappointing result of the day before.”

Markus’s Jumbo-Visma team played an integral role in bringing down the gap to the two breakaway riders, Aude Biannic and Audrey Cordon Ragot, and, “with 60 km to go we made a move with the team,” she says. “We hoped for side winds and created an echelon.

“With the five of us, we went all out, and although the peloton was stretched, the direction of the wind was not perfect. When we stopped I tried to attack and I immediately got a gap.

“First I bridged a gap of over a minute to Audrey Cordon-Ragot and Aude Biannic. Towards the final, I attacked again and tried to make it solo to the finish line. The gap was over a minute but the sprinter teams started to work together to try and close the gap.” 

While Markus’s teammates supported her by working on the road, she had encouragement in her earpiece from the team car too: “I got so much motivation from our sports director Lieselot [Decroix] in the communication,” she recalls. “And also heard the team was supporting me from the peloton as well. I was too scared to celebrate before the finish line because the bunch came really close.”

In what was one of a series of instances where a breakaway survived, in what should have been a sprint stage, Markus squeezed across the line just ahead of the peloton to take her first WWT victory.

Riejanne Markus winning stage 2 of the 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway.

“The feeling after the finish, the happiness and pride on the faces of my teammates is something I will never forget,” says Markus. “When you can give them a big hug and share your emotions it gives a very special feeling.

“The support from your teammates is so important throughout the entire race. First of all, when you want to make a move with the team, you have to trust each other completely. You all have to go all out for it to succeed. Later in the final, they can protect you from behind; disrupt sprint trains, cover attacks, and bring the speed down in the bunch if possible.

“I’m very thankful for the support and trust of my teammates. Only one can win a race in cycling, but it’s without a doubt a team sport.”

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