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07-09-2022 | Eveline van der Hek

Chicked: Nicolien Luijsterburg

In our new section Chicked we center cycling women. No, not Marianne Vos, Chantal Blaak or Demi Vollering. We're talking about ordinary but of course special cyclists, like you and me. What drives them? What motivates them? What do they do on their bikes? Today: Nicolien Luijsterburg.

Please introduce yourself!

"I am Nicolien Luijsterburg, 41 years old, and this summer I moved from Oosterbeek (Gelderland) to Girona (Spain) together with my boyfriend Pieter, our camper van, 2 bags each and of course our road bikes! The plan is to stay here for at least a year. Girona is a wonderful city in an environment where riding is just awesome. When we first came here to train a few years ago, I jokingly said "I could live here!" That we are actually doing this now is a dream come true!"

What do you do in daily life?

"Before I left the Netherlands, I worked as a tax consultant. I quit my job and now have a temporary break. A lot of cycling, a lot of gran fondos, learning Spanish and enjoying life and discovering what comes on your path when suddenly there are no obligations anymore. At the moment I'm training hard for the UCI Granfondo World Cup in Trento, Italy. Now I really have the time for that so I think that's cool. See if I can be at my best ever, why not? For now, it's just a matter of enjoying ourselves, but who knows, we might organize a cycling trip or training camp in Girona or the Pyrenees. All options are open to us.

What type of bike(s) do you ride? And which is your most favorite?"

"I ride road bike, gravel bike and MTB. The road bike is number 1. Although I can really enjoy a lap off road on the gravel bike or MTB, the road bike is my favorite. I love long distances and discovering new roads and areas. I also love climbing. On the road bike you get further and you see more. I am quite a "route-nerd" and like to have cycled as many roads as possible, to expand my heatmap and to connect cycling areas. Through our camper van I have been to many different places, from Macedonia to Denmark. So things are going in the right direction with the heatmap."

How much do you spend on your bike, roughly?

I ride at least 4-5 times a week anyway, ranging from 8 to 14 hours a week. Although... Since I live in Girona it's also regularly 6 times a week and there are many outliers to the 18 - 20 hours. I don't think Girona will result in less hours on the bike, haha.

Who do you like to ride with?

I often ride together with Pieter, my boyfriend. We have a lot of the same ideas about cycling, routes and vacations so that works out well. But I also love going out on my own and clearing my head or doing my intervals solo, catching up with someone on the bike or, on the contrary, going off on a huge ride with the guys from my cycling club RETO on Sunday mornings. That's the beauty of cycling, it can be done in so many ways and therefore it's never boring.

Amacx sportvoeding

Which gran fondo or sportive should everyone have ridden once?

"There are so many special gran fondos and sportives. In my opinion everyone should do a lesser known or smaller gran fondo. Sure, Les 3 Ballons, La Marmotte and the Maratona are great events. But a small gran fondo through a lesser known area is often just as beautiful (and sometimes even nicer). For example, last year we were in Saint Flour in the Auvergne and I participated in the L'Etape Sanfloraine gran fondo. Awesome. Well organized, very beautiful and special cycling area, super atmosphere! We'll be returning this year.

What is your most beautiful cycling experience/result/memory?

"This is really an impossible question! From special vacation trips or destinations to memorable sporting achievements, I have lots of great cycling memories. But more important than a specific memory or experience, in a general sense, cycling just brings me a lot. Cycling actually always makes me happy (and if I'm not, I will be while cycling). It gives you freedom. You're outside, you get to see beautiful places, you meet nice people, you push your limits, you can eat pancakes or apple pie and so on. I also like the fact that training really makes you better. I've been training with a coach for a year now and I think it's cool to see that I'm still getting stronger. But cycling is also important for me when it's not going well. Two years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the period that followed was tough. Cycling has pulled me through in many ways. I personally find the positive impact of cycling on body and mind indescribable!"

What's at the top of your bucket list?

"I recently became the editor for Spain for and I think it's really cool to use this year to ride as many Spanish gran fondos as possible and to get to know this beautiful country better."

A day in the shoes of a cyclist?

"I have enormous admiration for Chantal van den Broek-Blaak! An all-rounder, hard worker, not too shy to help out, but also with the potential to win. If I could pick a day to be in her shoes, then of course the victory in the Tour of Flanders in 2020."

Your dream bike?

"The bike I ride now: an S-works, Tarmac SL7. A good year after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had an important check-up in the hospital. This was very stressful and a few days before I got the results I thought... whatever the outcome will be, I have earned this bike and I give it to myself! If I may generalize: I think this is something many women are not very good at, giving themselves something or giving something expensive as a present. That's okay!"

What's the best advice you've ever received?

"Eat (and drink) enough (and well)! Healthy nutritious food is so important to cycling well (and a lot). This is true both on the bike and for the recovery meal after a workout or race. I really notice a big difference from a few years back now that I pay better attention to my nutrition. I recover more easily and have more energy on the bike."

Final question, why don't more women participate in gran fondos?

"Good question, I don't know. The ratio of men to women participating in a GF is still very skewed and also seems to lag behind the growth you see in races and cycling clubs where more and more women get on their bikes. Too bad, because it is a fantastic challenge. And that applies to everyone, whether you just want to finish or go for a good time, you will in any case push your limits. It would be nice if we could get a bit more of a "real" women's race in a gran fondo. (And then also without the private male hares that unfortunately sometimes interfere with the ladies podium results)."

If you want to follow Nicolien's adventures in Girona or the World Cup Granfondo, you can do so on Instagram:

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