Loes Gunnewijk announces retirementThu 19 Feb 2015
ORICA-AIS road captain Loes Gunnewijk will race her final year on the bike in 2015, the 34-year-old announcing today she will retire at the end of the season.
An invaluable member to six teams across a career of 15 years, Gunnewijk’s contribution extends far beyond her results on the bike and will be sorely missed amongst the women’s professional peloton.
But a desire to create her own destiny has seen the 2010 Dutch champion make this season her last.
“I wanted to be able to make my own decision, on my own terms and I wanted to stop at the highest level and also with this team,” Gunnewijk said of her decision.
“Last winter I really worked hard at coming back after my broken shoulder and I think it made me consider my goals and I really want to go full gas one more year and then it’s time for a new challenge.”
The 2010 Ronde Van Drenthe World Cup winner joined ORICA-AIS in 2012 and has since enjoyed success at the 2012 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad-Vrouwen, 2014 Santos Women’s Cup and was a key member of the team that won silver in 2012 and bronze in 2013 at the team time trial world championships.
In additional to her professional team accomplishments, Gunnewijk also looks back at the memories of pulling on the national jersey as some of her finest and hopes that this will also form the key to her send-off at the end of the season.
“I think I have a lot of highlights, but especially the national titles,” Gunnewijk said. “It’s really special to hear the national anthem played for you.”
“The Olympics in London were really good memories and the worlds, but also stage races in the Giro and Holland Ladies Tour as well.
“It would be the ideal scenario to finish at the world championships. In Holland you have a lot of good riders so it’s also a battle to get selected but that would be awesome to ride the road race as my last race and it would also be my tenth world championships so that would be awesome.”
Post racing, Gunnewijk will utilise her degree to remain in the industry she loves, but for now it’s back to business.
“First of all I just want to focus on this year and ride well with the team,” Gunnewijk said when asked of the future. “After that I have a degree as a sport manager so I will stay in sport but how and what, I will think about that later.
“I just want to go out with a big bang. I want to go full gas, enjoy every race and I want to make good results.”
It is that exact attitude that won the hearts of senior women's road coach Martin Barras and his counterparts and quickly turned her into the ‘foundation stone of GreenEDGE Women’.
“Loes was one of those riders we had talked about at length during the long hours on the road well before we knew we had a team to build,” Barras said.
“We loved her aggressive racing style. But mostly we longed for a team captain of her caliber. For our new team, this was always going to be the first rider to recruit and the one the team would be built around.
“She has anchored our team on and off the road for three years and will do so for another season.
“So I am both sad and proud to know this will be her last season. Sad as this will mark a changing of the guard for us, as Loes has served us so very well. But also proud as she gets to finish her career with us and, to my mind, that’s the right thing to do.”
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FURTHER Q&A WITH LOES:
How you get first into cycling and in turn become a professional?
As a teenager I did ice skating like a lot of ‘Dutchies’ and as summer training we did running and cycling.
With running I was one of the slowest ones, I was on the back and I didn’t like it that much and with cycling I was one of the fastest ones. The boys would get grumpy at me because I was still in the wheel or could beat them.
I always loved cycling and to school and to sport I would always ride my bike so when I was 20 I went to a club for just a training race. I stayed in the wheels of the men and I got a trainer. The next year I started racing with the club and after one year I got a contract with my first UCI team.
Now it’s my 15th year in cycling so it’s gone fast!
What is your highlight on the bike?
I think I have a lot of highlights, especially the national. It’s really special to hear the national anthem played for you.
The Olympics in London were really good memories and the worlds, but also stage races in the Giro and Holland Ladies Tour as well.
What is your highlight off the bike?
I think one of the best things about bike riding is that you have kind of a freedom. It’s nice to discover the world on the bike.
If I didn’t become a cyclist I never would have been in Australia a few times, and to China, Korea and a lot of countries in Europe, so it brings me to a lot of places would otherwise not have been.
What is the toughest part about a career on the bike?
Being injured. If you cannot do what you want to do, that’s pretty tough.
How has cycling changed since you first began racing?
I think the level is higher, we have bigger bunches and there is more media attention and it has all become a lot more professional.
There is still a long way to go but it has all started.
What have you learnt/gained from a career in cycling?
Cycling taught me to be the person I am right now.
Top sport is tough but I learned a lot about myself, about other people and about the world. If you really want something you have to go for it, work for it and follow your dream.
You meet so many people along the journey; some of them are still my friends now. I think also, riding for an international team, you get to know different cultures and you learn a lot about that and that’s really interesting.
Do you have any plans as to what you would like to do after this year?
Not really yet.
First of all I just want to focus on this year and ride well with the team and after that I have a degree as a sport manager so I will stay in sport but how and what, I will think about that later.
I love sport and I will stay in it, but how exactly I don’t know yet. I am open for all sport but of course I love cycling.