News - January 20, 2010

'Cross biking is about perseverance, guts and going for it'

Sanne van Paassen didn't get further than bronze in the Dutch Cyclo-cross Biking Championship. But she is getting better at going all out in the mud, cold and snow. Next week the 21-year-old student will be riding in her third world championship.

Sanne van Paassen (right) stays ahead of an opponent during the Dutch Cyclo-cross Biking Championship
It was icy cold when the starting signal was given for the women's competition of the Dutch Cyclo-cross Biking Championship on Saturday 9 January in Heerlen. The cold did not bother Van Paassen. In fact, she was rearing to go. Perhaps she was a little too enthusiastic. In the first round she took a bend a bit too fast and slid to the ground. She wasn't able to get back on again quickly. First she had to put her chain back on and then her gear mechanism wasn't functioning properly any more either. By the time she had struggled through the snow to the switch point and changed her bike, the riders who eventually came in first and second had long flown past. 'I wasn't able to close that gap again on my own', explains Van Paassen. 'Then I decided to ride safely to make sure I at least got the third position.'
It was her first podium position in the women's competition for the Dutch Championship. She is currently in fourth position in the UCI international ranking, which means she will keep the NOC*NSF (the Dutch Olympic Committee and Sports Federation) support for another year.
Things have gone quickly as the Management, Economics and Consumer Studies student only started competing in cycling races about five years ago. In 2006 she made the association's talent group. She rode with the DSB team for a year, transferring to ZZPR at the end of 2007. That was really a decision to do cross biking. Van Paassen: 'The atmosphere is very different to road races. Much more relaxed, nicer people and you can enjoy crossing through the woods.' What is more, it's the strongest person who wins; it's more a case of everyone for themselves than on the road. Van Paassen: 'You need to persevere, have guts, put in the effort and go for it.'
The fourth-year student is hardly behind in her studies at all. Former housemates say she learns easily and is good at planning. Even so, Van Paassen did move back to the Brabant village she came from last year to move in with her boyfriend, another cyclist. She fancied spending a bit less time living out of a suitcase.
On Wednesday next week she will be flying to the Czech Republic with the Dutch team for the World Championship. 'I'll be taking a look at the course and lounging on my bed reading. Yes, I will be taking a study book.' The team will be in action on Sunday 31 January and will be going for a Dutch victory, just like last year when she came fourth.  Van Paassen has no problems with the course. 'It is pretty hilly. That means it will be a question of strength, and I'm stronger than last year.' The cyclists can probably expect cold and snow. 'The one who's strongest and can keep going longest will win', says Van Paassen.
Incidentally, she expects to really excel only after she graduates; the combination of sport and a university study does cost a lot of energy. 'But it is still useful to have that certificate. Cross biking is sport for sport's sake.'