Chantal Blaak has performed on the highest level for 11 years now. The former 29-year-old world champion and current Dutch champion has ridden bikes since she was just 11 years old. Over the last few years, she has competed amongst the absolute top female cyclists.
An early start
Chantal lives in Berkel en Rodenrijs, a village in the Dutch province of South Holland, with her fiancée, Lars. Berkel en Rodenrijs is located in Voorne-Putten, an area where her family comes from. Although her family and friends do not ride bikes, the cycling community in Voorne-Putten is big. When Chantal joined a bike race for kids, she won the race. The prize? A one-year membership at the local cycling club. She trained, liked it and found out she had talent. She rode more and more, won and became a professional cyclist at the age of 18.
Her career as a professional cyclist got off to a flying start, followed by a few years where she struggled. Over the last five years, it is impossible to imagine the world top female cyclists without Chantal. In 2016, she won Gent-Wevelgem, the Ronde van Drenthe and the Holland Ladies Tour. 2017 was her finest year. She became Dutch national road champion and took the rainbow jersey after an impressive solo in Norway.
The rainbow jersey
Becoming the world champion causes changes. “Everything around me remained the same. I stayed with the same team and had the same trainers. But the outside world kind of changed. Suddenly I had a certain status. When I went to a race people wanted to take a picture with me and I got more attention on and off the bike. It’s nice, it never bothered me, but I was busier than I was before.” The busier schedule did not affect her performance. In 2018, Chantal won the Amstel Gold Race and she prolonged her national title on the road.
“With that rainbow jersey on I had one goal: to be a worthy world champion.”
“My 2018 season was already successful; I was allowed to wear that rainbow jersey every race!” Chantal decided not to put extra pressure on herself. “I had one goal: to be a worthy world champion. I just wanted to race with the best cyclists and perform on the highest level.” Her performance always came above the attention and extra work she got from her world title. “I might have been busier in 2018 because of that jersey, but I only did extra activities if it didn’t affect my performance on the bike. By making my performance the number one priority, I was able to have another very good season.”
Teammate Anna van der Breggen took over the rainbow jersey in 2018. Chantal decided to give her jersey a special place in her house. “I always said: I do not want cycling things in my house. But I made an exception to my own rule. The rainbow jersey is framed and has a special place in my house now.”
Training for the 2019 season has already started. After a month’s holiday, Chantal picked up training in December. She is trying to get as fit as possible for the spring classics in March. She is spending a lot of her time in Spain to train hard. Her first goal? Performing in the spring classics. One-day races really suit Chantal. She already won Gent-Wevelgem and the Amstel Gold Race. “If I may choose, I would love to win the Tour of Flanders”, Chantal says. “But I am realistic, I am part of team with very strong cyclists. Many of my teammates can and want to win that race.”
“I would love to win the Tour of Flanders.”
In preparation for next season, Chantal not only trains in Spain, but is also spending a lot of time in rainy or even snowy Holland. To be sure she can always train, she has a Tacx NEO in her house. “I use my Tacx when the weather conditions are bad. The good thing about Tacx is that you can complete a training perfectly. Outside I have to deal with headwind, other road users and traffic lights. On the Tacx, I can perform my block training perfectly. That gives me a very good feeling.” Chantal has a few tips for Tacx users. “Make it fun. Turn on Netflix, use Zwift or turn on music. Endurance training might be a bit boring on an indoor training, so I suggest a block training to keep it challenging and fun.”
Chantal has a contract at Boels-Dolmans until 2020. She is not sure how long she will stay a professional. One goal might be the Olympics. “It has been a disappointment that I was not selected in 2016. I would still love to go.” After 2020 she will consider how long she wants to continue to race. “As long as I have fun on the bike, I’d like to go on. On the other hand, I already had such a nice and long career… I just don’t know yet, but I have to admit I think about my cycling future for the first time.”
First things first: the spring classics, followed by other races and multi-day races where she has a more supporting role in the team. She wants to perform in the Dutch championships, GP de Plouay and the Holland Ladies Tour. “And the 2019 World Championships seems to have a course that suits me . . . We’ll go there to explore the course.” Who knows? Maybe Chantal can do it again in 2019: become a world champion. It would be the dream scenario.
“The 2019 World Championships seems to have a course that suits me…”