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It’s the off-season, when brown shorts (or lack thereof) are the talk of the town and riders are enjoying their last days of quiet time at home, getting in some base miles and time with friends and family before team camps all kick off in December. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about.
Some riders, like Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift winner Demi Vollering, are taking time away from their (just miserable-looking) off-season activities to accept award after award.
Vollering already won the Vélo d’Or 2023 award in Paris but recently added the title of Dutch “Cyclist of the Year,” alongside Mathieu van der Poel in Utrecht. Vollering was also honoured as a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau, which means she’s “rendered outstanding service of national or international importance.”
Next to Vollering, now-retired Annemiek van Vleuten received a royal distinction for the mark she’s made in women’s cycling and in the Netherlands. The four-time World Champion, who has already been named to the Order of Orange-Nassau, was promoted to Commander.
The Order of Orange-Nassau is a Dutch order of chivalry, founded in 1892 by Emma of the Netherlands who was the queen regent at the time. It’s an order that accepts anyone who has “performed acts of special merits for society” in the Netherlands and abroad. Plus, you get a fancy pin.
The six different classes include Knight Grand Cross, Grand Officer, Commander, Officer, Knight, and Member (Knight Grand Cross being the highest honour). Members of the Order of Orange-Nassau exhibit their class by the placement of their broach and by which one they have; for example the Member badge is smaller than the the rest, and a knight would wear their badge on the left of their chest while an Officer would wear their badge along with a rosette on the same side. They basically get more showy as you climb the ladder.
Every year around 4,500 people are accepted as members. Fun facts.
🎧 Wheel Talk Podcast 🎧
Last week I published a story about the long-running women’s Continental team Coop-Hitec Products, a team that has developed riders like Elisa Longo-Borghini but is struggling to keep up in the ever-changing landscape of women’s cycling.
This members-only episode includes my interviews that made the story, the first with Coop-Hitec Products’s General Manager Karl Lima and the second with Kenneth Rodriguez-Clisham, brand manager for Hunt North America, and Caitlin Bower, Hunt’s merchandise planning manager.
💬 Let’s discuss 💬
Best Marlen Reusser moments of the season.
The end of the year is always a reflective time, and off her 2023 season, I would like to use this opportunity to express to you why you should be a fan of Marlen Reusser, and for more than just her racing. The domestique turned team leader is exciting because of her rise in the sport, her style of racing, and the promise she takes with her into every time trial but she is also hilarious. Hopefully, the following examples don’t break Mailchimp.
6. Tour de Suisse – “You will see”
When asked at the start of the Tour de Suisse stage 3, while wearing the yellow leader’s jersey, what the team plan was to keep said jersey her response was perfectly coy.
5. Gent-Wevelgem win in the cold
Reusser’s shivering is far from funny, can someone please get her a proper jacket and some Swiss Miss? But that she was able to stay smiling and laughing was a testament to her upbeat attitude. (I’m kidding, the fastest way to offend her would probably be to hand her a cup of Swiss Miss).
Her Gent-Wevelgem win was her first WorldTour one-day win, and she took it solo with an impressive attack.
4. ‘Slowly I know the Dutch national anthem by heart‘
After a disappointing time trial at the World Championships in Glasgow, Reusser surprised a few days later by riding to third in the road race, but she’s had enough of the Dutch national anthem after hearing it all year.
3. “I’m happy!” with Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift ITT win
To be fair, this question for Reusser wasn’t a great one. How would you feel after winning a stage of the biggest race in the world after working all week to keep two of your teammates in the lead, and succeeding in landing first and second in the overall classification? Happy is the only right answer, but she’s a good sport about it.
2. Making sure the mixed relay at Worlds is exciting to watch
Perhaps if Reusser’s crash in the team relay at the 2023 World Championships had caused the Swiss team to lose the title she wouldn’t joke, or perhaps it wouldn’t matter as even in defeat Reusser tends to have a positive outlook, but it’s hard not to watch this clip of Reusser talking about the crash and not smile at her nature.
And 1. After the European road race when she was given a taste of how the other half lives
All-season Reusser raced with the strongest team in the peloton in SD Worx but at the European Championships (won by her trade teammate Mischa Bredewold) Reusser had to go up against the riders she’s usually celebrating with, especially Lorena Wiebes and Demi Vollering. Her response is priceless.
Reusser’s story is a great one. She joined the peloton with the World Cycling Center team in 2019 before signing for Équipe Paule Ka in 2020, Alé BTC Ljubljana in 2021, and eventually finding what seems like her forever home at SD Worx in 2022. When she joined the Dutch team it was as a helper with an eye on the time trials, but in the last two years – especially in 2023 when she won Gent-Wevelgem, a stage and the overall GC at both Itzulia Women and the Tour de Suisse, a stage of the Tour de France, and held onto the European ITT title – Reusser has gone from worker to top competitor on the best team in cycling.
Going into 2024, Reusser is the rider to watch for Olympic gold in the time trial in Paris, a result she lost to Annemiek van Vleuten in Tokyo by nearly a minute.
It’s rare you have a rider who is as fun to interact with off the bike as she is to watch the race, but Reusser is one of those. Her interviews always leave you in giggles while her performance on the bike has your jaw on the ground.
And that is why you should probably be a fan of Marlen Reusser.
🐣 The joys of social media 🐣
Do you think Thor realizes he’s standing next to an Australian Olympian and general legend of women’s cycling? I hope so.
🖼️ A picture worth a couple words 🖼️
It’s easy to look back on Vollering’s season and remember her impressive performances in the Tour de France Femmes, and her near miss at La Vuelta Femenina, but look back a little further. This year Vollering became the second rider in history (albeit a short history) to win all three Ardennes Classics in a single year. The only other person to do this was Vollering’s coach and mentor Anna van der Breggen in 2017, the first year the women had a Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
This image by the Grubers of Vollering crossing the top of the Mur de Huy and looking back to make sure she did indeed win is one of my favourite Vollering wins of the season. Liane Lippert of Movistar in second is well behind Vollering, the win was not a close one, and there’s something about the lookback that adds an element of humanity to a performance so far out of reach for so many humans.
💖 Taylor Swift trivia 💖
Taylor Swift first stepped into the music industry in 2004 and has been writing and releasing hit songs for the last 19 years. In this time a whole group of young people has grown up on Taylor’s music, like some were raised on the Beatles. Those people brought up on simple guitar progressions and killer bridges are now making music of their own. The most famous is probably Olivia Rodrigo, who in the early days didn’t shy away from her love for the pop star, but there are so many others.
My favourite by far is 22-year-old Sarah Faith Griffiths, known on the stage as Griff. The British singer/songwriter/producer hasn’t released a ton of music yet, but she’s already been recognized as a Rising Star at the 2021 Brit Awards and has been featured on Swift’s Instagram stories.
What makes the youngster so impressive isn’t just her grabby beats (which are very good), but also that she writes, performs, and produces her own music. She does it all. Hard to overstate how cool that is.
She is currently in the process of releasing music in a slow trickle that might one day be a full album, but while we wait for that I have been dancing to her 2021 EP One Foot In Front Of The Other.
👋 Until next time! 👋
Thanks so much for reading this edition of the Wheel Talk Newsletter. As always, please drop a comment or contact me on Threads or Instagram @abimickey if you have any topics you’d like me to tackle. Gracie and Loren will be back soon on the Wheel Talk Podcast for a Q&A episode so get us your questions! They don’t have to be bike-related!
Hope everyone has a good week and I will return next week for more rambling.
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