Little jealousy towards Demi Vollering & co during Amstel Gold Race meeting

Little jealousy towards Demi Vollering & co during Amstel Gold Race meeting

Interview

Jealous. She was straightforward about it. Keetie van Oosten-Hage belonged to the world top in women’s cycling on track and road in the sixties and seventies. She was a two-time world champion on the road and the world’s best in the track pursuit four times. “But when I see where women’s cycling is now, I’m secretly quite jealous of that,” she said with a wink to Demi Vollering.

Four generations of cycling women met at the press conference of the Amstel Gold Race that was organized in the Shimano Experience in Valkenburg. Keetie van Oosten-Hage, Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel, Anna van der Breggen and Demi Vollering represent four different generations, who have gradually seen women’s cycling evolve. “Over the past five years you can see that progress is being made very quickly”, says Vollering with satisfaction.

At the meeting of the Amstel Gold Race it was announced that main sponsor Amstel Bier will equate the prize money of the women with that of the men. This means that both winners will earn 16,000 euros on Sunday (last year only 2500 euros for winner Marianne Vos) and that the total prize money for the women will go to 40,000 euros. That is 30,000 euros more than last year.

photo: Raymond Kerckhoffs

Keetie van Oosten-Hage, now 72 years old, thinks the developments are beautiful and good for the sport. “When I compare it to my time, I’m a little jealous. But of course I give it all to these girls. They now also drive an enormous amount of kilometers and the level is unprecedented. I think that the attention for women’s cycling is also a social development. Look at the leap forward in women’s football over the past ten years.”

Garage
The six-time world champion told passionately about her period as a cyclist. At the time, they all had to change in a garage along the course and a tub of water went from rider to rider to wash themselves. “I would also have liked to ride those big races like the Giro Donne and Tour de France for women. Too bad it wasn’t there then. It was just a completely different era. If we didn’t wash ourselves in such a garage, you were fined or even disqualified. You weren’t even allowed to cross the finish line with your hands off the handlebars at the time.”

Van Oosten-Hage considers the linking of women’s competitions to the major races of the men to be an enormous progress. “I liked to race in Belgium, but those were really separate women’s races. An hour before the game you didn’t see a chicken in such a village where a game was taking place. Half an hour before the race there were a few men in a cafe where you could get the bib number and a finish line was drawn on the street with a piece of chalk. Then you started.”

Demi Vollering during reconnaissance Tour of Flanders – photo: Raymond Kerckhoffs

Over the past 40 years, the Zeelander has seen women’s cycling evolve step by step. “In my last years, at the end of the seventies, we got training schedules for the first time. But they were far from being adapted to women. That meant that some of them broke down on those schemes because they were purely aimed at the men. Please note that we did not have races of 150 or 160 kilometers, as is the case today. No, the main races we rode at the time were about 65 at most 70 kilometers long. A few hours of training in the evening was therefore sufficient for us.”

“Nowadays, the junior women already participate in races of 80 kilometers”, Demi Vollering points out one of the many differences. The rider of Team SD Worx had never met Keetie van Oosten-Hage, but of course knew her by name and from her results.

“When I see how things were still with us in the youth categories a few years ago, I can imagine that it was very different 40 years ago,” Vollering continues. “I have also washed in a sports hall or with people along the course. Although not with a whole platoon. In fact, I have only seen a mega evolution in the last five years. It is now unprecedented how quickly things change. I can imagine that Mrs. Van Oosten-Hage looks a bit jealous at us. In that respect, I am lucky to be a cyclist in this era.”