Meet Christine Majerus: Proud domestique, perpetual national champ

Ahead of her third Olympics, Christine Majerus reflects on her work as a domestique and her personal successes over the years.

Photo: James Startt

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Christine Majerus has been Luxembourg’s national road, time trial, and cyclocross champion for over 10 years. That’s right – more than a decade without losing a national title, in any of those three disciplines. She can often be found at the front of the peloton working selflessly for her SD Worx teammates Anna van der Breggen, Demi Vollering, or Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio but she also has a nice palmares herself with wins in her home race of Festival Elsy Jacobs and the Boels Ladies Tour. 

Majerus is both a proud domestique and a proven winner in her own right. But that’s not the full story.

“Those are the results people see but I am also very proud of the fact I was once ninth in the UCI individual ranking or that we won a gold medal at the team time trial in Qatar,” she says the day before leaving for the Tokyo Olympics. “People often remember the wins and they are great but I am also proud of my consistency. There haven’t been any bad moments or big mistakes in my career.” 

Her first national time trial title came in 2007 when Majerus was 20. She has remained unbeaten ever since, winning her 15th straight title in 2021. Her first road race title followed in 2010 after getting two second places in 2008 and 2009. She has worn the Luxembourg road champion’s jersey 12 years in a row now.

Even with such success, she doesn’t take these titles for granted. 

“National championships are still special and I take them very seriously,” she says. “Everyone expects me to win them but there will be a time I will not anymore. It doesn’t necessarily mean I did a bad race but others will be better.

“The national championship is always one of the hardest races of the year because I am always on my own and do long solos. I think you only deserve to win if you give 100% and give the people who came out to watch a nice race.”

Majerus at the 2021 Dwars door het Hageland.

The fact that Majerus has been unbeaten for many years doesn’t mean there isn’t any female cycling talent in Luxembourg.

“I see young girls who are very talented but they have to get past those difficult first three to four years [from junior-women] in the elite category,” she says. “That’s a hard but pivotal moment. Luxembourg needs to create the opportunities for them to keep going because I see that talents quit. The Andy Schleck women’s team has a great program but I feel there aren’t enough Luxembourg women on that team. I show what is possible but others have to do it their way.”

Majerus in the 2016 Olympic time trial in Rio.

Majerus herself collected enough UCI points for Luxembourg to get a place in the super-small Olympic peloton of 67 women this coming weekend. It will be her third Games but she is not looking forward to it like she did in other years. 

“In London [2012] I left straight after the race to do other races which I regretted in hindsight,” she says. “In Rio [2016] I savored the atmosphere more. I watched the beach volleyball which was amazing in Brazil. I also watched the track cycling and the tennis where we had a Luxembourg player. Tokyo will be very different and I am not necessarily looking forward to it.

“There will be a lot of waiting involved. I also feel for the riders who only get to experience these Olympics because they will miss out on something unique. It’s not only the race but also all the other athletes and sports together.” 

The Olympics have an important place on the women’s calendar, Majerus says. It’s different than for the men where the Tour de France is the biggest race for most riders and the one to win. 

“It’s cool to be part of the Olympic race because everyone wants to race it,” she says. “It shows you are among the best riders in the world. Qualifying is already a proud moment. The biggest problem with the Olympic road race is that the course needs to suit you as a rider. I haven’t seen the Tokyo course myself but it looks like a climber’s race for the second time in a row.

“Maybe it’s not as terrible as I expect it to be. In any case I need to play it smart because I am alone. I need to keep my cards close to my chest and be lucky.” 

Majerus leading the peloton over the Holleweg cobbles during the 2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

At age 34 Majerus has seen the development of women’s cycling first hand. She started with a small UCI team called GSD Gestion before joining Boels Cycling Team in 2014. This year is her eighth on the team now called SD Worx, with a contract that runs through 2022 as well. 

“The biggest change in these years has been the professionalization of the sport,” she explains. “It’s becoming more and more like men’s pro teams in terms of training and staff. There were only one or two really professional women’s teams [a few years ago] but now we have 10 to 15 teams. You also see it in the racing. The level has really gone up and we go faster. It shows that when women can focus 100% on the sport, women’s cycling grows really fast.” 

An important step forward is the Tour de France Femmes next year. Majerus can’t wait to line up for the inaugural event. 

“I hope we get a bit of everything in the course design with sprints, breakaways, and mountains,” she says. “I have shown in stage races that I do well with more race days. In the Thüringen Rundfahrt this year I felt after six days that I could do some more. I recover well in these races and hope to make the team next year.” 

The Tour de France Femmes will be without the current world champion and four-time Giro Donne winner Anna van der Breggen who will retire and assume the role of sports director on SD Worx. Majerus is confident her Dutch teammate will slot into the role nicely.

“I think Anna will be a great sports director,” she says. “She has all the experience and is interested in people. That’s what a good DS needs, I think. Her husband does the same job and I am very confident she will do really well.

“I don’t have these ambitions. At the moment I focus on my career whether that’s one more year or two. I feel that it might be good for me to step away for a while and do something else. But who knows, maybe I will have different thoughts and come back.”

Majerus at the 2021 UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships.

This season is a bit different for the Luxembourg champion because there are important goals in autumn, most notably Paris-Roubaix. With her background in cyclocross – she has won all 11 national titles since the 2009-2010 season! – she feels right at home on the difficult and technical terrain of northern France. 

“I have a different schedule this year and can’t spend all my energy in the summer months when October will be so important,” Majerus explains. “It’s a choice I made and I stand by that. I expect Roubaix to be like everyone else expects it to be: very hard. I won’t say it’s going to be war because that’s a very negative word but it’s going to be a challenge.

“Technically I can handle this course so I need to make sure I am physically ready as well. Finishing the race will make everyone a winner but that doesn’t mean finishing is my only goal,” she quickly adds. “It’s the hardest race you can do and I hope to do well there.” 

Though Majerus has won races herself she is most known for her tireless team work. She can often be seen at the front of the peloton and strongly feels the women’s peloton needs more selfless riders; that the focus is only on winning and helpers are undervalued.

“Winning is nice but helping someone win is equally nice,” she says. “I like being part of a team and won’t hesitate to help someone else win. In men’s racing the domestique is a valued member of the peloton. In women’s cycling there aren’t a lot of selfless riders because the focus is always on winning which can be frustrating at times. It’s also part of the professionalization of the sport to value domestiques like they do in the men’s peloton.

“On SD Worx I feel very valued but I hope more women feel there is a career in helping others, that being a valued domestique is a choice you can actually make too.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.