Interview with Marieke van Wanroij and Lieselot Decroix of Jumbo-Visma

Get to know Marieke, Lieselot, and the Jumbo-Visma team ethic as Dr. Stephen Seiler interviews these two pro-team coaches.

Dr. Stephen Seiler interviews Marieke van Wanroij and Lieselot Decroix, two former professional cyclists who now coach the Jumbo-Visma women’s cycling team. The women cover a range of topics with Dr. Seiler on women’s cycling and their personal lives, including:

  • Their athlete backgrounds
  • Both receiving higher education while maintaining their coaching careers
  • The importance of communication within a team
  • The growth of women’s cycling and how women’s races are structured differently than the men’s
  • The advantages of training with multiple cycling disciplines
  • Male vs. female coaches

RELATED – Fast Talk Femmes: Inside the Pro Peloton with Carmen Small

Video Transcript

Dr. Stephen Seiler  00:00 

Marieke and Lieselot Decroix from Jumbo-Visma, professional cycling team for women. The last time we spoke together I believe was in February of this year, kind of just before the start of the classic season. In fact, I believe that time we spoke and Lieselot you are on the way out the door. 

Lieselot Decroix  00:25 


Dr. Stephen Seiler  00:25 

The first classic race. So you squeezed in that interview and now all the classics have happened plus the Vuelta and I guess in a little way, there’s a kind of a build up to the next half of the season, perhaps, but it’s full speed, right? 

Lieselot Decroix  00:45 

Yeah, it’s been full speed and now it’s a little bit cooled down. We have like a week, a little bit less racing for our team. So gives us a little bit time to breathe again. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  00:56 

Yeah and Marieke. Also, I guess it gives the athletes time to breathe. How do you how do you guys manage that interim period when they’re kind of is it recovery? Is it a training block? How do you do that? 

Marieke van Wanroij  01:11 

Well, yeah. We looked already in it in the winter. So we made a full plan. Like, for some of them, it wasn’t until the classics and then a week of rest and for some of them it was after the Vuelta and most of them they had a week of recovery and just get off the bike, doing some different things and yeah, try to build up towards the next upcoming races. For some of them it’s ride London, Pyrenees tour, Giro also. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  01:47 

So the team is at what 18 riders, is that right? As I recall?

Lieselot Decroix  1:54


Dr. Stephen Seiler  1:55

16. Sorry. So a bit smaller than the men’s teams that are at about 30, but you still have, I guess, at any given time, you have riders that are about to do a race, maybe some riders that are sick or injured. You may have two different races you’re preparing for at the same time. Are some athletes doing altitude training when other athletes are at sea level and things like that? 

Marieke van Wanroij  02:21 

Yeah, that’s correct. At least last period, we have some riders on the altitudes and preparing for example, for obstacles at Vuelta that was a block and other riders rode already earlier with Flanders, et cetera. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  02:42 

Well, just in this introduction, I think what we’ve done is kind of introduced the fact that professional cycling for women and men it is a complex organization. I mean, it’s way different than a basketball team that just goes to one place and then they’re always one team. So we’re going to talk about some of these issues and also about women’s cycling, but I have to start with you two Lieselot and Marieke. You have your own stories. You’ve been professional cyclists, both of you. Here, one is from Belgium, one is from Netherlands, the heart of cycling. I’m not going to try to get into a competition of which one is the true heart. I think it’s two different hearts beating together. And so you represent women’s cycling in a great way because you’ve been part of this development and so I suppose I want to start with just that typical genesis question, genesis story and begin with Marieke. You’re the senior cyclist in this team of two here.  

Marieke van Wanroij  03:54 

Yeah, that’s fine. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  03:55 

I’m the most senior, but I’ve never been a professional cyclist. Trust me, I’m way senior. Marieke, tell us a little bit about how you got into cycling. We’ve talked about this a bit and your pathway was not so traditional. You started a bit late. So tell us about that. 

How Marieke and Lieselot Got into Cycling

Marieke van Wanroij  04:14 

Yeah. I think I worked already as a sports podiatrist, but I got injured with running. So my colleague at that moment, gave me a bike and there it starts, like I was riding and then someone picked me up and said, “Hey, but you can do this well, why you should not race?” and then I started to race and I won my first race. It was a little race, but there it started and I think months or maybe a year later, I was going to training with Marianne Vos and it was actually a good training and there I got asked by her like, “Hey, do you like to join my team next year?” So yeah, it goes really fast at that point and I think I did it for 10 years. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  05:09 

Rehabilitating from an injury, one year on the bike and suddenly you’re cycling with the greatest of all time and she says, “Hey, I think you’re pretty good. You want to join the team?” That is pretty amazing and so you were probably 25 or so for when you went into… 

Marieke van Wanroij  05:29 

Yeah, 24. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  05:31 

Yeah, so that’s a late start, but you had over 300 races and a 10-year stretch and we’ll get back to that, but part of that story will be that I did see two podium finishes, but otherwise you were a designated helper, a domestique as they say. And so you are riding for the team, for the GC candidate or for the sprinter, whoever it might be and that was your role and then you transitioned into coaching. So we’ll come back to that. Lieselot, you have your genesis story, maybe a little bit more traditional. You came in a little bit younger, but you can tell us. 

Lieselot Decroix  06:12 

Yeah. I started cycling actually when I was 16. So not super young, but I was playing basketball as well until I was 18 and then I started university so I had to pick one because I couldn’t keep combining two sports so I was a bit afraid to give up a real team sport that moment, but still I chose to choose for cycling and then yeah, I combined my studies with with cycling as a professional back then. I always say professional because we weren’t really paid. So we were always combining it with our studying or working on the site and I was just like Marieke. I think I did it for 10 years in the peloton or in the pro peloton until 26, was my last year. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  07:09 


Lieselot Decroix  07:10 

2016, sorry. Not 26. 2016 was my last year. Yeah. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  07:19 

Okay and you represented Belgium in the, I believe it was the 2008 Olympics. Is that right? 

Lieselot Decroix  07:24 

Yeah, that’s right. I was still very young at that time. I was the only Belgian athlete at that time also to be selected and I can say I’m one of these athletes who had a sharp rise to I would say the top or close to the top, but was difficult to stay there. For me, like having the pressure on my own shoulders was pretty difficult coming from basketball where I would be always also a team player. Sharing the pressure was for me easier and later on in my career when I was combining cycling with my Ph.D., I found myself in a role also more supporting the older athletes and more as a helper as a domestique and that was also a role that actually suited me much better than having the pressure on my own shoulders and yeah, I think that’s also along the way you learn a lot about yourself in elite sports and also as a coach, you take that lesson with you. 

Coaching While Earning Higher Education

Dr. Stephen Seiler  08:28 

Lieselot you mentioned just very nonchalantly that while you were an athlete, you were doing a Ph.D. So that’s kind of like I was working on my garden the way you say it, but some of the people listening may have choked on their coffee when you said that because it’s a pretty big deal and Marieke you did a master’s in coaching at Johan Cruyff Institute. So both of you have been done serious education that has informed your coaching. I guess Leiselot, you didn’t know you would use your Ph.D. in coaching when you did it, but you have a Ph.D. in what was it, human biodynamics or something? 

Lieselot Decroix  09:13 

No, I did a master’s in biomedical sciences and then I was actually working in the lab in bio-artificial skeletal muscle, but I was with my cell cultures all day and I really didn’t like it so much. So then I switched to a Ph.D. in exercise physiology where I was working with actual human beings doing all kinds of fun stuff and so that was actually my Ph.D. So it was really like combining the passion of my studies science and then also my passion cycling and just exercise physiology and for me that was, like, really a great time, but of course that would limit my time that I had to train because basically yeah, a Ph.D. was a full time job, as you know, and so it was sometimes a bit hard to combine both, but if you love what you’re doing, it’s worth it.

Dr. Stephen Seiler  10:14 

Yeah and now you two are part of a small but dynamic team of coaches and you’re the primary coaches for the women’s team together, as I recall in our last chat. And then you have a race leader or DS, as they’re often called, the directeur sportif. You have the organization is also a sports nutritionist, I believe, as part of the team. Are there other members of the coaching or the support team that we should know about? 

Marieke van Wanroij  10:47 

Yeah, we have also our team manager, Richard Tyson, and he’s also helping us in coaching and leading the process. 

Managing a Team with Two Coaches

Dr. Stephen Seiler  10:55 

Yeah because with two coaches and 16 riders, that’s a fairly significant, a pretty big load to follow every day. At the level they’re working, I suppose. How do you two manage that together because it seems, Marieke, you have your specialty more on the, maybe you might say, the psychology side or the holistic? Lieselot, you’re more of a physiologist, I’m sure it crosses over, but how do you two and the rest of the team kind of share the load? 

Marieke van Wanroij  11:30 

Yeah, I think we really are good in bundle our knowledge and learn from each other. I learned a lot from Lieselot and the opposite way around and I think, yeah, that brings us farther as a team, as a coach. Yeah and that’s really nice that we can cooperate like that. 

Lieselot Decroix  11:52 

Yeah, I mean, weekly or maybe even daily, we discuss about the riders, but each rider has their own performance coach, but then if we need or if we feel the need that another coach is joining in our talks, we do that and we have our coaching or staff meeting to make sure that if there’s more need on the psychology part or more need to discuss some data in depth, we do that together and we make sure that an athlete also knows that,. Okay, maybe Marieke is her trainer, but she can always reach out to me or that I will be included or Rutger [Tijssen] or Carmen [Small] will be included in the talk if there’s a need to do so to make sure that for their development, the right persons are there, but they’re not lost in, “Okay, who do I go to?” So that’s a bit the way that we’d like to structure it and I think it’s pretty clear for all the athletes how we work. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  12:55 

These athletes, they move around. They’ve had different coaches. Do some of them still have other personal coaches that are in the picture as they move into the Euro team organization? Is that an issue? 

Communication Among Team Experts

Lieselot Decroix  13:09 

Yeah. I think for us it’s really important that as Team Jumbo-Visma, so not just the women’s team, we have a lot of experience over from the men’s side and we really have the opportunity to share that within our coaching staff. So that also means that we believe that it’s important to have really your coach inside the team. Of course, sometimes that transition is not always easy because we come from, especially women’s cycling, a time era where everybody just had their own coach and they would just move teams, but they would take their own coach along. I think in men’s cycling, that took also about maybe 10 years to get there to like it’s normal, if I go in basketball to another team, that I have a different coach. And I think now in men’s cycling, it’s also normal that if you move to another team, you have another coach. So in women’s cycling, it’s also getting there, but for some it’s still like a transition period where, maybe they have their old coach as a mentor or something, but still really the training part. It’s something that we really invest on in doing it internally. 

Marieke van Wanroij  14:18 

I think that’s also what we see when you have that good cooperation with the nutritionists or with the coach, with the race coach, and you keep the contact close, you can come much further than, for example, when your training is out of the team and you need to look for contact. Second, I think we have really a good philosophy about training about nutrition and when you want to build on that. I think it’s good to work like we do and yeah, also on that in the past when I worked as a sports podiatrist, for example, when someone was injured it was also important to keep close contact with the doctor and the nutrionist and physical therapist to make sure that you can get the patient back on the road or in work. So, yeah, it may be a bit similar like that, the way how we can cooperate together. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  15:15 

It’s really interesting because I find that as we move into this discussion of the growth of cycling, the growth of the sport and the organization, one of the things that does happen is the organization gets bigger, you have more expertise, but you also have more people, more heads, more different ways of seeing the same problem. The sports nutritionist, the psychology person, the physiologists, if you present a certain athlete and a certain issue, maybe they all see it from their area of expertise and how do you kind of bring it all together so that your athlete is not confused, so the message is cohesive. Do you have some specific advice? Marieke, you work a lot as an organizational kind of glue, I suspect that putting things together. How do you try to solve this issue and make sure that all that expertise doesn’t become confusing? 

Marieke van Wanroij  16:16 

Yeah, I think it’s all starting with good communication and open communication and I’d say that leads into the organization or the way how we look into training or nutrition and the steps you want to take with them and I think that’s just very important to what I said, like to talk about it and to make it clear at that way. I don’t know Lieselot how you see it, but I think… 

Lieselot Decroix  16:46 

Yeah, it’s super important that we’re not all working on islands, but we’re really putting the athletes in the center and the communication lines between all the different experts are all on the same page. So we know as a coach, what the nutritionist is working on and if there’s sports medical issues that everybody’s in the loop and that’s the ideal situation. If you have everything, all these experts within your team because that just makes it communication so much easier. 

Marieke van Wanroij  17:17 

That’s also why we have the performance meeting set with the women’s team, but also once in a month with the men’s team. Yeah, we share our knowledge and when there is something different or something is changing, we talk about it as coaches and we can inform the athletes as well. So I think they manage it really well in the team. 

Coaching Self-Coached Athletes

Dr. Stephen Seiler  17:43 

That’s interesting. Well, another question I have is, you’ve been athletes and I guess there’s almost a certain bona fides that you establish is that you have been in the peloton, you have experienced all this racing and that’s part of your background for being able to coach these athletes, but you’re also working with, let’s use the example of Marianne Vos, who I suppose, would think she knows quite a bit about coaching herself. I mean, she knows her own body pretty darn well, after all these years. Are the athletes at that level, would you say they’re almost self-coached or how do they after so many years and so much success and experience, how does that interaction work? Marianne brought you into cycling and now your her coach? How does that work? 

Marieke van Wanroij  18:41 

Well, that’s really nice. First of all, we respect each other or the relationship from coach athletes, but I think it’s really good to look to the individual. When you have a lot of young athletes, yeah for sure, she will ask different questions than Marianne, but I think still also for Marianne, there are some questions like, how I want to go to a goal, how I need to act as a leader for example and we can support her in depth, more specific and for a young athlete is maybe about like, technical or maybe tactical and fueling, how much do I need to eat or whatever. So you have maybe different questions, but you look more integral to the process of the athletes and try to guide them with them. 

How Women’s Cycling Is Growing

Dr. Stephen Seiler  19:40 

Fascinating and I guess Marianne Vos is representative of other athletes that I’ve encountered and the ones that keep staying motivated to perform at such a high level for so many years. She’s still hungry and she’s still trying to learn, I suppose and that must be one wonderful to work with as a coach, to have someone that is still looking for a pathway to improvement after so many years. I want to move into this, women’s cycling. I’m sitting talking to you. You’re representing a women’s team. The women’s sport, of course is growing, but women’s cycling is perhaps growing at even faster rate right now. I’m watching. Many people are watching, more than we ever did before as sports fans, but I suspect there are growth pains that anything that grows fast. The racing schedule is getting tougher, the races maybe are getting a bit longer. We’ve talked a little bit before about the gap between the juniors and the senior level may be right now a bit big. How are you coping and what do you see as the kind of the pathway for women’s cycling, on its own, but also compared to what we see with the men? 

Lieselot Decroix  21:07 

Well, I think there are still a lot of, let’s say opportunities, not growing pains, but opportunities. Yeah, I think one of them is what you also mentioned, just the race calendar. That is really growing. Some races are really stepping up some really high level races, but then some other race organizations also have difficulties to just keep organizing races and if we look in that, like of course everybody wants to have the best teams, everybody wants to have the best riders, but the truth is also with 16 riders, even if you have 16 riders to do a double program. Yeah, it’s very, very challenging to really have a good program for every rider and that’s suiting their level. I mean, we see the top athletes, but also there is a big gap between the sub top and developing riders and that can be like lacking under 23 category, but also just other riders who are maybe have never had the possibility to be a professional rider and still have so many steps to make. So I think it’s also important for riders that they can have a race schedule and a race program that’s suited to their capacities and they are not just thrown into the world tour and that’s what you see. There are so many world two races, so many world tour teams, but where do you get all the riders and what is actually the best for each rider to develop them on the long term. So I think it’s great, I mean that there’s more women being able to have just the salary, so they don’t have to work or study on the side, but also that of course takes time. You don’t build an aerobic engine in six months. I mean, it takes some years. So also we cannot forget that it needs time to just develop like athletes and I think that’s one of the things that maybe some riders but also some teams are going too fast and then obviously I think also another big challenge is that because there are so many world tour races and world tour teams, there’s also still really a need for smaller teams, more newer, more focusing on developing and I think it’s a good addition from the UCI to have some hybrids teams with the development team and a world tour team so that I think that’s for sure, a good step, but also on an organizational level, you need time to adapt, you need time to have more staff, you need time to set your organization in a good way. You need time to have more bikes, you need time to have more vehicles, more campers and so on. So yeah, it’s really a lot of challenges still for teams, for organizations, but also for riders. 

Marieke van Wanroij  24:08 

Yeah, I think also for the athletes like what the motivation, when it goes too fast and they jump into the world tour and the big races and yeah, it’s hard for them and they get disappointed. I think when you have a category under they can build step by step and they keep motivated during the process and I think we keep a bigger pool of riders into it and I think at the end like at the whole world can profit from it like a rider, but also organization, teams, etc. So I think I agree with this a lot. It’s very important to think further than just a wall to her. Yeah, think about a good base and a category and staff and coaches, et cetera. 

Progressive System of Development

Dr. Stephen Seiler  24:59 

So there needs to be this progressive system, the U23 category is still important. One thing we see that I think is interesting, on the one hand, you want this time development not too fast and so forth, but at least on the men’s side and I think to a degree on the women’s side, we are seeing very young athletes that are very competitive. Particularly on the on the men’s side, the young jersey or whatever you call it for the Tour de France is kind of a waste of a jersey now because that person is winning the whole tour and they’re under 23 and we’re seeing this, it’s not just one or two, it’s a number of really young athletes that are dominating or able to dominate. They’re able to be highly competitive. Now, are you seeing some of the same in the women’s side? If so, what do you think has changed both for men and for women that would allow these young athletes to be so, what should I say, to be so successful at such a young age? 

Marieke van Wanroij  26:14 

I think, what really changes the way of guiding the athletes and the team around the athletes have been with the athlete in the middle and yeah, having a training coach, having a mental coach, have a nutritionist, having a race coach, like putting goals, making a process towards the goal, I think that’s different compared to that than 15 year, when we were a rider. We’ve seen that that young riders are popping up earlier, but still, I think you don’t have a big pool here of riders who are already there. You still have a pool of riders who need maybe to build on more years to become a world athletes and I think that we need to keep an eye on that, but yeah, for sure. We see that they popping up more at a young age than before. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  26:14 

Access to information about training certainly has changed. It’s these young athletes can go into the internet, they can find a lot of good information, it seems. Maybe not all the information is very good, but certainly, compared to how it was when I was an athlete, the amount of information available about just the training process has really changed. I hope that’s a positive thing. 

Lieselot Decroix  27:40 

I think it’s positive, but there needs to be a filter and that still the job of a coach and even younger age, also a parent to make sure that there’s a filter on information and still some guidance in there and I do think that, okay, it allows younger athletes to maybe grow a little bit faster, but it also allows the very experienced ones to still make steps versus where maybe normally you would think, ‘Oh, they shouldn’t be done’ and especially in women’s cycling. If you see especially the GC, Yeah, they’re still alive, the 35 lessors are still also dominating. So it also means that they still make steps and that’s, that’s on both sides though. I think and that’s a little maybe still a little bit different than the men’s peloton versus the women’s peloton that we still see a lot of older athletes and in the next coming years, they will probably retire so I think that will open up also more opportunities for younger riders. It’s good that these young riders have the knowledge, have more access and also have a better or opportunities, better coaching opportunities fostered that they can really step into their sports as a professional so that will contribute. 

The Structure of Women’s Races

Dr. Stephen Seiler  28:59 

That’s great. Well if we let’s play this comparison game, I think women’s cycling needs to live on its own but it’s hard not to compare and one of the differences right now in the World Tour is that on average the women’s races are shorter than the men’s races. If I did a bit of math and looked at it, typical women’s race would be three to four and a half hours, I think is a reasonable. The classics would be four plus, some of the stage maybe three, three and a half. The typical men’s races are more, let’s say four to six and a half hours, if we go all the way out to the classic. So there’s a there’s a duration difference. Is maybe what I see primarily, the women’s races have been more intense. Traditionally, I think that’s fair to say. Shorter and more intense. I don’t know why that historically developed. Maybe you guys, do? Why because there’s physiologically there’s not a good argument that the women’s races need to be shorter because of physiological differences. There’s no support for that at all. So I suppose the question meld comes down to, as you move forward in women’s professional cycling, what do you think is the right path? Should the races get longer? Should the men’s races get shorter? Well, we’ve talked about ultimately, it’s entertainment value that besides a lot of this stuff. Where do you see all this going? 

Marieke van Wanroij  30:42 

I remember we talked last time about it, but I think still the same for me. I think for me, it doesn’t have to be longer. Also what we talked about, like with the level and the development of the young riders and coming from the juniors into the elite sports. Yeah, they need to make a big step. So I think it’s also important to organize it then at in a good way and I think you’ll see in three, four hours really nice races and sometimes in men cycling, had they waiting till the last one and a half hours and then racing starting. So I think, doesn’t have to be that long, in my opinion. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  31:31 

Although, some would argue the men’s races are no longer they’re not playing by the rules that they used to play by. There does seem to be more aggressive riding, maybe on both sides. If we think physiology and you’ve talked about this training gap. When it comes to if we the physiology, we often talk about the VO2max, we talked about the lactate threshold and we talked about something about economy efficiency of riding and in our experiences whether it’s men or women, the VO2max maxes out pretty early. So your 19 year old talents who may have 7 DMLS per/kg VO2 if they’re really a GC candidate. They’re already there, but they’re not ready necessarily to race for four or five hours. They’re very good for one or two. So there seems to be a duration issue that athletes have to build that engine out over. It’s the duration that becomes a big challenge. Everyone’s got a pretty darn big VO2max to get into the game. I mean, that develops pretty fast, but there’s a separation related to who can be there at the end and how is that developing for the women? Do you use very specific progression on ride duration, training ride duration and things like that to build out that repeatability and durability? 

Lieselot Decroix  33:09 

I mean for sure. You can just say hey, this is the amount of hours to call someone out on [inaudible] is doing so we’re gonna take you there, right away. No, I mean, that’s just still some rules that we have to accept in physiology and in training that you just do a progression based on what they can do and how loadable they are and I do think that also this is still something maybe a growing opportunity or a growth opportunity in women’s cycling that we see athletes who are maybe not coming from an endurance sports or maybe they are coming from an endurance sports, but at the age of like, Marieke 24. They’re like, hey, but we’re going to invest in being a cyclist and they have this good engine, they maybe have a good VO2max because they come from another endurance sports, but they still need to learn a lot of skills. They need to still learn also build that longer endurance. There’s a lot of different levels and different ages and different approaches for what they actually need and when it comes to coaching that we see everyone’s personal development, what is actually needed to make the next step and for someone that will be maybe increasing the VO2max because they come from, let’s say, horse riding or something else. It’s more working on skills in efficiency or threshold. So I think that’s really personal, on a personal level. 

Multi-Discipline Riders

Dr. Stephen Seiler  34:47 

Well, you’ve touched on the physiology side and Marieke, I remember you were telling me that you came in late and so you did quite a bit of cycling on the track and a bit of other venues to get the technical to catch up, technically, as I recall and I’ve been really fascinated both on the women’s side and the men’s side of this. The interactions between track cycling, mountain bike, cyclocross road cycling. We have athletes that are doing all of those, all four. At least three or four and it seems to be beneficial. What do you see there? Is it something that you look for in your young athletes, that you want them to have that kind of multi-discipline background? Is it a really big advantage? 

Marieke van Wanroij  35:42 

Yeah, I think for the athletes what I seen, it’s an advantage. You see the riders who had a cross brand or maybe a track background have an advantage in their cycling career. I think it’s something good and when I talk for myself, when I started as a cyclist, it was very difficult and I really need to look for that challenges to become a better rider in that skills and I think maybe I need, yeah three or five years to develop that skill. So I think it’s really an advantage when you have that already in your pocket and I think we see it also in our group of athletes who have that already and who needs to train on that or develop that that part? 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  36:32 

Do the athletes have blocks where you’ll actually encourage them, the young athletes perhaps to do track work or to do the cross season or is that just kind of, we’d say ‘ad hoc,’ you say it’s positive, you don’t you don’t discourage it, but are you planning it? Are you trying to interject some of that it purposefully, as a team? 

Lieselot Decroix  36:59 

For some riders we do, it’s all based on goals. What is it that you want to achieve and how are we going to get there and is that an added value or maybe not? Yeah, for sure. It’s something that we look after individually. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  37:17 

Well, another thing I see and I’m interested because you both represent this organizational aspect and how it all gets put together for long term development and what I am seeing in the cycling is that, number one, as you alluded to, you have Jumbo-Visma and several other teams, a number of other teams have both a Women’s World Tour team and a Men’s World Tour team. So they are committed to both sides and they also have often a developmental team. It’s operating one or two levels below the world tour. We mentioned this term shared mental models in an organizational kind of culture. How is Jumbo-Visma bringing together these different teams? Is there a culture, a plan, a goal that you’re all going to have kind of the same ideas about, for example, training, intensity, distribution, all these different things? How do you how do you put all that together? 

Longer Athlete Contracts

Marieke van Wanroij  38:29 

Yeah, what I said before, I think how we do that is really good that we have that performance meeting and philosophy. I think Mr. Seamon, Director, also from the team is really guiding and coordinating that process from the different teams. We try to operate on the same level and I think still had their space. Like, when there are some difference between the young athletes or had the development team and the women’s team and the men’s team, yeah that is okay, but we can talk and communicate about it and yeah, discuss some things and training, nutrition, et cetera. I think the main thing is that we operate in the same philosophy and same process of the team. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  39:24 

Well, it’s gotta be such a huge advantage for athletes if they can come into a team with this kind of continuity because let’s face it, traditionally, cycling has not been a sport where athletes knew what they could expect for three years down the road or five years down the road. There were no such thing as three or four or five year contracts and it was year to year. So that has to be a tremendous change from your own careers. I would think that you must be a little bit jealous about that development. 

Marieke van Wanroij  40:02 

Some sometimes we are joking that to get like, oh, maybe we should go on the bike again, but uh no. I think it’s also nice that we can be a coach at this way like, this is also part of the development of women’s cycling and I think we really enjoying our job and use our experience and knowledge and bring it to the athlete. So yeah, for me, I am not jealous. I think we really learn a lot in the past and we can bring it to the riders and that’s really nice. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  40:38 

Yeah, you guys have been pioneers. Although, I have to say because of first cycling and other databases, Marieke I found that you are listed as having competed in 2022 or three. Can that be right in a domestic race or was that just an error? 

Marieke van Wanroij  40:59 

No, I don’t think so. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  41:06 

Oh, she’s making a comeback. 

Marieke van Wanroij  41:09 

I don’t know where that is coming from. 

Male vs. Female Coaches

Dr. Stephen Seiler  41:11 

Well, I was really impressed. She just jumped in a race. No. Well, I do want to round off with this. I told you previously, my daughter was on a team, a running team in Oslo and as a female athlete, a lot of great female athletes from Norway, were on that team, but there wasn’t a single female coach and she viewed that as a problem and she wanted to become, now she’s a coach herself and you’re both coaches and so we’ve talked a little bit about male coaches versus female coaches. How can male coaches do a good job with female athletes? Is it better to have a female coach coaching a female athlete, you know, these issues and so I guess I would take all of that and just ask it to you in this way and I’ll start with Marieke and say, what is the right if you’re going to build an organization, with coaches, with just all the expertise, how do you build it with a thought around gender? Does gender matter at all or how do you deal with all that because there are more male coaches than female coaches right now? Where do you see this going? What’s the right way to put together a coaching organization or staff? What’s the best, if you could look around the table in five years, what would it look like? Would it be all women coaching the women or would it be a mix or how’s it gonna look? Or does it matter? 

Marieke van Wanroij  42:54 

I think I prefer a mix because I think we could learn from each other as coaches.  I think men coaches should also be able to coach women and the opposite way around. So yeah, in my opinion, I think we can work together and maybe we should do it even more like I think it doesn’t have to be specific. We have men athletes guided by men coaches and we have women athletes guided by women coaches, but I think a mix would be nice and for myself, it’s always important to know yourself as a coach, like, where are you good and what is your strengths? Share it with your colleagues and I think then also athletes know, like, ‘yeah, I can get that information or I need to talk with that coach because that is good for me’ or the opposite way around. So I think knowing yourself, where you’re good in and share that with your colleagues. That is important and empower your organization at that way. 

Lieselot Decroix  44:01 

Yeah, for sure. It’s still a male dominant sport, but I do think that female coaches sometimes look at this situation a bit different, but that’s the same like Marieke and I. From our different backgrounds and different personalities also look sometimes at the same problem in a different way. So I think it’s about really working together as a coaching staff and not being limited by gender and I think the most important I think what is if you have a male coach, coaching females that you also dare to talk about some things that are maybe yeah, seen or that were previously seen as taboos that you make things possible to talk about that you also just create a safe environment to be able to talk about some things that are maybe a little bit more difficult and if you feel like as a male coach that it’s difficult to talk about, that you include maybe a female colleague or a female coach to also talk about some things that are maybe a little bit more intimidating, but I think in the ideal world that we should move along and that there shouldn’t be any things that you can’t discuss with a male coach or a female coach, just because he’s a male or a female. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  45:28 

So surprise, surprise. Women have a menstrual cycle. I mean, good grief. It’s not that secret, it’s not a secret anymore. We’ve talked about some of this and we’re getting better. I think we’re getting better at dealing with this and the research side we discussed earlier, we’ve run away from. Lieselot, you even told me that you even ran away from it. You said, “It’s easier to just study males in this case.” So we all have that on our conscious, but we’re trying to do a better job of collecting more data on female athletes and maybe instead of saying we’re going to try to get a mix of males and females in every study, that we need more studies where it’s just females, but it’s a challenge and so I’m inspired by you guys and your work and I’m just thrilled that you have shared your time with me today and I think the reason I want you to share your time with me is because hopefully, you ended up sharing your time with a lot of young athletes. A lot of young female athletes that are going to be inspired and they’re going to take wisdom from you and be able to perhaps learn and perhaps avoid certain mistakes. So I think you’re doing a great service to women’s cycling and probably there’s going to be young athletes that will listen to this. Who knows, maybe you’ll be their coach in the future, but I appreciate your time and I wish you success in the next half of the season.  

Lieselot Decroix  47:11 

Well, I think it was a great talk. Great crossover between academics and the fields with actual athletes, so I think we should do more of this. 

Dr. Stephen Seiler  47:26 

Actual athletes. That’s a good term, not silly gray haired old man like Dr. Seiler, but actual athletes.