Justine Ghekiere of AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step has been reflecting on the past season as it draws to a close. For the Belgian rider, it has been one of both adventure and growth.
“Allow me to take you on a journey through my past season, filled with unforgettable moments and challenging obstacles.
For me, there were two moments that made this season extra special. First, the victory in the overall classification of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. This triumph was a complete surprise. With modest expectations, I set out for the race, secretly hoping for the mountain jersey, but I returned as the winner of both the mountain jersey and the overall classification. It reminded me that the magic of cycling often lies in its unpredictability.
My second highlight was the World Championships, where Lotte Kopecky claimed the rainbow jersey. It was an indescribable feeling to represent my country and stand alongside such a talented leader. It was the ultimate proof that hard work and dedication pay off, and we had achieved this with the Belgian team.
In addition, I had riding a Grand Tour on my bucket list, and to my great joy, I was at the starting line for both the Giro and the Tour. Bingo!
Overcoming difficult moments
This season also brought its share of challenges. The Giro was undoubtedly one of the toughest races. Despite an intensive three-week altitude training and thorough preparation, I wasn’t 100% fit at the start due to a crash during the Belgian Time Trial Championships. This was a significant setback both mentally and physically, and it felt like a disappointment for both my team and myself.
One of the most important lessons I learned this season is finding the balance between training and rest. Sometimes, I wanted to push myself to the limit, but I discovered that this could backfire. Especially during the Giro, I realised that performing at the highest level often means daring to admit when it’s not going well and allowing yourself some rest. During that period, I was still dealing with the effects of the fall during the time trial championships and I tried to ignore it because I had ambitions for the overall classification. However, my body was telling me something else. At the highest level, you can’t perform at 80%. Having the courage to say it’s not working and granting yourself some rest is my most important lesson.
The power of teamwork
Teamwork is the backbone of my success story. No matter how strong you are individually, without a close-knit team, you can achieve very little. The team’s guidance and especially Jolien’s knowledge and experience in the car, have taught me a lot tactically.
For the upcoming season, I have ambitious goals in mind. I want to strengthen my foundation during winter training and aim to participate in at least one, if not two, Grand Tours. Of course, I remain determined to add more victories to my record.
With a season filled with adventures and personal growth behind me, I eagerly anticipate the next cycling season!”