The Veronica puzzle
Veronica Ewers reflects on her Tour de France Femmes experience
There are two sides to Veronica Ewers. There is the side that recognizes she had an incredible Tour de France, especially given how new she is to the sport.
Then there is the side that is never satisfied.
“I want more than 9th place on GC,” Veronica says. “It definitely is motivating. I think that is part of what was going through my head going up La Super Planche des Belles Filles. First it was seeing how each stage went and then it was fighting for this top ten result. Yeah it’s just a top ten result but screw it, I’m going to get that top ten result at least. It is ever changing and it is really motivating to want more than that.”
And yet, despite her superb riding at the Tour and her remarkable consistency, she sometimes casts doubts on her abilities. This is Veronica’s first full season as a professional cyclist, having only started racing domestically in 2019 before eventually leaving her full time job at Seattle Children’s Hospital last summer with the goal of someday turning pro.
"I’m aspiring to be a top rider, for sure, but also I really want to be a really good teammate, whatever that might look like.”
“It’s tough because I still feel a bit of that imposter syndrome. Is this beginner’s luck? Is this a fluke? But I’ve shown several times that it’s not a fluke. It’s like I have two parts of my brain. There’s this sort of irrational voice that says, ‘You’re a fluke, whatever. People are going to realize you’re not as good as they think you are.’ Then there’s the rational side of my head that says, ‘No, you’re still new and look at all that you’ve accomplished so far. You have a lot of potential.’ It’s more of a cheerleader in my head,” she says.
Rather than be a hindrance, this mental back-and-forth spurs Veronica on.
“I think the irrational side is a double edged sword. It somehow motivates me. I’m never good enough for that irrational side of my brain and that’s pretty motivating at times because I want to prove what I can do. I’m constantly trying to prove that irrational brain wrong. That is what really has motivated me to keep going and to prove to that part of me that I belong and I’m showing that I belong with the top riders.”
On stage seven of the Tour de France, Veronica experienced her greatest heartbreak of the entire race when she was unable to stay with the race leaders.
“Le Petit Ballon, just climbing up that and seeing the front group roll away from me. I think that was the most disappointing moment for myself during the Tour because I really wanted to be up there with that group,” she recalls.
The next day, going into the final stage in 11th place overall, Veronica used this disappointment, what her irrational brain shouted was inevitable, as fuel to push her forward and to silence her inner critic.
“That’s a big part of the reason I kept dangling off the group and catching back on at La Super Planche des Belles Filles was knowing how I felt the previous day and not warning that to happen again because that was pretty disappointing in the moment and even afterwards," Veronica says. "Clearly it’s still not left my head.”
Despite her Tour result and the tenacity she exhibited on La Super Planche when she refused to be written off, Veronica isn’t convinced she can be called a team leader.
“I still feel that experience-wise I’m still very new so I don't necessarily feel super comfortable stating that I’m a leader. I think I’m right now more of a leader-by-example and perhaps a rider to ride for although I don’t necessarily like those terms. My hope moving forward is that I will become a leader of the team but I think I need more experience.”
There’s an undeniable humility to her words and this is not by accident. For Veronica, keeping her feet on the ground and showing respect to her teammates and the peloton in general are essential values.
“I don’t want to come across as or become this cocky rider who thinks she’s hot stuff because that’s far from what I feel about myself. That’s just not the type of person I admire or ever want to become. I’m aspiring to be a top rider, for sure, but also I really want to be a really good teammate, whatever that might look like.”
It would be so easy for a lesser rider to succumb to the irrational brain, to give too much weight to those critical thoughts and to drown in them. Fortunately, Veronica has learned to turn those thoughts into motivation. It’s true that she may be her greatest critic, but she is also her most enthusiastic cheerleader.
“When I was dangling on La Super Planche des Belles Filles, I think I audibly was saying, ‘Come on, come on!’ to myself," Veronica says. "I listened to a really good podcast with a sports psychologist where he said he basically helps all of his athletes to improve their inner voice, to the point where you think about what you’d put on a jumbotron. You wouldn’t put ‘you’re a piece of garbage’ on a jumbotron. You want to change the words to be more positive and more motivating so that’s something that I think about, how to change that inner dialogue to be more motivating and positive and less negative and harsh. It’s something I’m working on. I’m still developing and I think that I have a lot of untapped potential that I’m really hoping to see maybe next year, maybe in a few years. I’m just really excited for the future and what the future holds for me as a rider.”