FEATURE: From Skating to Cycling - Who is Janneke Ensing?

Thu 27 Feb 2020

33-year-old Dutch rider Janneke Ensing is one of the latest editions to Mitchelton-SCOTT after the Australian outfit added more international riders to the team line-upfor the 2020 season.

But Ensing isn’t your usual Dutch cyclist; she didn’t start racing her bike as soon as she could walk, she took to the ice instead. Her pathway into the world of cycling was actually through ice speed skating, competing at the highest level.

“I started ice speed skating when I was really young, around six-year-old,” Ensing explained. “I got into it because my father was doing it and it is a really popular sport in the Netherlands.

“I was competing at world championships and world cups, I tried to go the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014, but I didn’t make it in the team. I was close, but it wasn’t enough. Ice speed skating in the Netherlands is also like in cycling in that there’s a really high level and a lot of good skaters. It is always hard to make the championships teams but I wanted to try, it was my goal.”

Smooth Transition
Moving from 45minute intense skating races to 140kilometre cycling races on varied terrain doesn’t sound like the easiest change, but having regularly used cycling as part of her training and with the similar muscles required, Ensing´s transition into road cycling was fairly smooth despite not beginning by choice.

“I got into cycling around 12-years-ago,” the 33-year-old continued. “I was doing ice speed skating at a high level but then I became ill with Epstein–Barr virus, where you are really tired. I was in a Dutch team but then once I got the illness they took me out and then it was really hard for me. I missed some competitions and I started thinking then maybe I could do something else in the summer. 

“When I was ice speed skating I was always using cycling as part of my training, so it was a steady progression over to full time cycling. I started riding that same summer for the Norwegian team Hitec Products Uck in 2009, it was a new team then and I thought racing in the summer was quite nice.

"Every year after that I started doing less and less ice speed skating and more cycling.”

Same, but different
There’s many obvious differences between road cycling and ice speed skating but in so many ways they’re also similar. The intense, technical, lung busting short distance races, can be compared to racing on the velodrome, cyclocross races or a short time trial in terms of the intensity level.

“I started skating with the shorter distance of 500metres and 1500metres and when I was getting older I switched over to a bit more long distance," Ensing said. "I got better results in the three and five-kilometres."

"The last years I was focusing more on the marathon which is a different discipline, it is a total of 45minutes in a group of 85-90 people in the 400metre ring altogether, so I guess that is quite similar to a peloton on the road.

“The 45minute intense race is actually quite similar to cycling. It is a really high intensity, full gas and I think it is really good training and complements cycling. Riders like Matthieu van der Poel have shown that it works combining intensity and distance. 

“It is hard to do that type of intensity on the road in the Netherlands in the winter, so it is a good combination of intensity together with some longer, easy rides on the bike.

“They’re still very hard to compare. I like cycling races more, working together in a team and making a plan. The races are always different and interesting but for the training, I prefer more ice speed skating. You have a lot of variety, you can train doing running, cycling, weight training, roller skating. There’s a lot of different things you can do.”

Ensing will make her debut in the black and yellow Mitchelton-SCOTT colours this weekend at Omloop her Nieuwsblad, which will be her eighth appearance in the event.

“I’m lucky to have been able to race in both sports,” the 33-year-old acknowledged. “The last four or five years I have been focused just on cycling. I didn’t make it to the last Olympics for skating, I have already made the world championship teams in both ice speed skating and road cycling, but the Olympics is still on my bucket list. 

“It is really exciting and motivating for me to be lining up with my first race for Mitchelton-SCOTT soon and with such a strong team for 2020 including Annemiek van Vleuten, the world champion.”

We wish Janneke the best of luck racing this weekend.