Jumping into the WorldTour
Femke Beuling discusses the ups and downs of her first month as a professional cyclist
Just a few weeks ago, Femke Beuling wasn’t sure if she could call herself a professional cyclist.
Sure, she had signed her contract. She had her kit and her bike. She was training and working closely with her coach. But she hadn’t raced yet.
That all changed on May 1 when Femke lined up with her teammates to roll down the start ramp at the Vuelta a España. As if making your pro debut mid-season at a seven-day WorldTour race wasn’t daunting enough, the opening stage was a team time trial.
“Two days before the first stage was the first time I had ever ridden on a TT bike,” Femke says.
While most riders would have been intimidated, Femke felt comforted by this.
“But it was very exciting. We don’t have a lot of time trials or team time trials on the calendar so it was something different for all of us. We were all a little nervous because nobody does a TT very often. We could all just help each other and make the best of it together.”
Femke quickly discovered that this was how her new teammates generally approached everything – helping each other and making the best of it. This atmosphere put the 23-year-old at ease.
“I felt really welcome, which was great because I had a lot of questions – a lot! I was rooming with Sara. She has lots of experience and is very kind and relaxed. I could ask her and my teammates all my questions. What should I bring to the race? What should I not forget? How do I know tomorrow’s schedule? I can’t even remember all of the questions now.”
Fitting in with the team was only part of the equation. There was still racing to be done.
“The two stages after the time trial would be pretty flat and the hope was they would suit me. The plan was to see what I could do in the sprint but the flats in Spain are not my definition of flat,” she says with a laugh. “It was hard. It was a really hard race to start with but it was really nice to be there and to be part of the team.”
Despite the support she received, Femke still had to confront some tough moments.
“It was the sixth stage of the Vuelta where I got dropped pretty early in the race. I was in a really small group and I was not really sure that we would make it to the finish ahead of the time cut so I wasn’t sure it made any sense to keep going. But at the Vuelta, we were allowed two race cars which doesn’t happen at most races. Daniel, one of our sport directors, was in the second car and he said to me, ‘I’m going to tell you when it doesn’t make sense to ride. Until then, just keep riding.’ So I did. I rode on with the small group and in the end we made it inside the cut so I was really happy that Daniel motivated me to just go for it. In the end, I finished the Vuelta which was a great feeling.”
Femke had a week at home before it was time for her next race, the Vuelta a Burgos. She spent that time with her family, doing some easy rides, and refueling ahead of her next stage race. She also reflected on what she had learned at the Vuelta.
“There are a lot of steps to being a professional racer and our sport directors told me to take it step by step,” Femke says. “Learning all of the tactics, improving physically. I know I have to be patient but that’s sometimes difficult.”
For an accomplished athlete like Femke, a former junior world champion speed skater, patience can be hard to master, but she knows it will come with time.
“You want to do better, you want to do more, you want to help your teammates more.
But I feel confident that I will be able to help them out more and to achieve more results in the future.
Next up for Femke is tomorrow’s Dwars door de Westhoek. After racing two WorldTour stage races on the wide roads of Spain, it will be a change to do a one-day race in Belgium, but Femke knows she is up for it. In fact, she loves the challenge.
“I’m really happy that I’ve become a pro cyclist. I really like it and I think it’s only going to be more fun as I improve and learn. I’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks and I’m sure this is what I want. I can’t wait for the rest of the season.”