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Katarzyna Niewiadoma is one of the most exciting and aggressive riders in the women’s WorldTour, and two weeks ago she stunned the peloton with a thrilling victory at Amstel Gold Race. Niewiadoma recently came on the VeloNews Podcast to replay her epic win. We also discussed the major storylines of the 2019 season, including the unpredictability of the races, the challenge of the long season, and why women’s racing needs more live TV coverage.
VeloNews: We’ve been following the unpredictability of women’s WorldTour racing this year. After nine races we have six different winners. Aside from the outcomes, do the races feel any different?
Kasia Niewiadoma: Yeah, I feel like there are maybe four or five teams that can control the race. They can make the race hard, and they don’t wait for the final. They open the race after 30km, which is what happened at Amstel Gold Race. It’s nice. You have a few teams that compete with each other, and that means the other [teams] can exploit that and take advantage and sneak through and win the races too. You see this was the case with team [Parkhotel Valkenberg] with their sprinter [Lorena Wiebes] who won at Yorkshire. She’s an extremely good sprinter— who would think that this team would already have four victories?
VN: The season is now similar to men’s racing, with blocks of racing that center on specific types of races: cobbled races, hilly classics, stage races. Do you see riders specializing more on these types of races?
KN: Yes, but it’s still weird with women’s cycling because I feel like everyone is still targeting every race. The riders who want to win in the Ardennes classics and Giro are also trying to win at worlds. You have a few of these really important races, and it feels like everyone is targeting them, no matter if you are a climber, time trial rider, or sprinter.
VN: That must make it extremely difficult to stay fit and motivated all season.
KN: To be honest, I feel like I learned one very important lesson, and that is not to start my preparation too early. Last fall I started to train professionally in November, and I had December, January and February of pure training. Now, once I’m done with the spring classics, I feel like my body and mind are very tired. I need a break, and to not be thinking about racing and riding, and putting my body in this pain cave all the time. I’m really happy to race the Tour of California soon, and then have this little break to rest. We train so much and so hard. At the end of the day your body is falling apart.
VN: While the women’s racing season is expanding, teams rosters are not. Do you think that teams need to increase to keep up with the growth in racing?
KN: Maybe. It’s a strange situation. For example, I was targeting Ardennes classics, but once I started the season I had Strade Bianche, and I wanted to perform well. Then, there was Tour of Flanders, and I wanted to be good at it too. I was all the time thinking about being in my top shape at the end of April, but I wanted to win big races beforehand as well. Because of the race schedule, its hard to just focus on one event, because you have so many great races. You feel obligated to be good at every single event, and to be in the final and to be there and help your team.
VN: Where do you think there’s the most room for improvement in women’s racing?
KN: People were able to watch Amstel Gold Race, and this was a big opportunity to see us racing. And we don’t’ have all of these races shown week to week on television, and that is the biggest thing that needs to be improved. I feel like our race style is really interesting, and a lot of people will enjoy watching it. But you have to be able to see it to appreciate it. We race and sometimes nobody knows about it. They cannot follow us if they cannot see us.
VN: Amstel was awesome.
KN: Yes! But why couldn’t you watch [La Fleche Wallonne] or [Liège-Bastogne-Liège]? Liège was this super interesting race. I was suffering so hard.
VN: We didn’t get to see Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Take us through the race.
KN: The weather conditions were absolutely terrible. It was cold and raining and everyone was struggling to stay on the bike. And we were racing for 140km and they went by in a second. I felt like all the time something was happening. And Liège is this beautiful race. Annemiek [van Vleuten] attacked several times. We did this little descent and everyone was frozen on the descent, and suddently we hit La Redoute and Annemiek went full gas.
Your body was just exploding at the moment from being cold to going all-out. Everyone was fighting to be in the first group. We would get together and approach another climb, and Annemiek would attack again and an explosion would happen. Everyone was just miserable and looking so bad! And I feel like every single rider turned into an animal who was just fighting for survival. At certain moments you felt you were teammates with riders who were not on your team. You had to support people to try and get into the front group. It was just a really nice racing atmosphere.