Mischa Prepares For A Dream Grand Départ

Mischa Bredewold often reminisces about watching the 2015 Grand Départ live in Utrecht, about 20 km from her home in Amersfoort. Nine years on and at the age of 24, it will be Mischa’s turn to push the pedals on home roads when the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift rolls out of Rotterdam on 12th August. Dutch fans will have no trouble locating the SD Worx–Protime rider, as she will be clad in her European champion’s jersey. Claiming the blue-and-white garment on the VAM-berg, in the Netherlands on 23rd September took the young rider to a whole new level and fills her with “motivation and pride” every day. “I’m very excited about starting in my own country with this beautiful jersey on my back,” chirps Demi Vollering’s teammate. She will be joining Demi in the Alps for her first ever high-altitude training camp ahead of the third Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.

Mischa Bredewold (Netherlands)

Born in Amersfoort on 20 June 2000

2021: Stage win in the Baloise Ladies Tour

2022: Stage win in the Simac Ladies Tour and 21st in the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift

2023: European Road Championships and Classic Lorient Agglomération

2024: Two stage wins (and second place overall) in the Itzulia Women and second place in the Dutch championships

Paint us a picture of what it is like to grow up as a young cyclist in a country such as yours, where so many champions have shone generation after generation?

All these Dutch champions inspire us from our earliest childhood. Cycling is a big deal here. There’s always racing on TV and everyone rides bikes. It’s only natural for cycling to be a huge part of your life… On the flip side, competition is fierce in the Netherlands! Landing a world championship slot is hard, but it’s a source of motivation to get stronger. Last year, bagging my first worlds “qualification” was a proper pinch-me moment. Because I know, and everyone knows, just how tough it is to make the cut for the Dutch squad. The bar is sky-high. But it’s a good thing, in the end, because you end up working even harder.

Who were your big cycling heroes growing up? 

Marianne Vos was my role model. She was the queen of women’s cycling. Then when I was a junior, Anna van der Breggen was always an inspiration. She was so dominant. I reckon every rider wanted to be in her shoes! Now she’s my sports director, which is super cool! She brings a huge amount of experience to the table.

Does she coach you too, like she does with your teammate Demi Vollering?

No, but having her as sports director means I’ve really got to know Anna as a person too. Same goes for Marianne Vos. I actually know her now. When we chat during races, it’s no longer just Marianne Vos the champion, but also just Marianne, you know? It’s great to get to know the women you’ve always admired.

You entered the circle of great riders yourself by becoming European champion last autumn. Just two years ago, you were still a total unknown at Parkhotel Valkenburg. It seems people now sometimes recognise you in the street, like in that flower shop in Limburg last winter. Do you think that has more to do with winning the European championship or with racing for the best team on Earth, SD Worx–Protime?

The European championship, definitely! Sure, people got to know me more when I joined the team last year. But on the other hand, it also pushed me into the shadows. You know, when you’re on the best team, you’re always going to be in the shadow of the big guns, which is actually something I appreciate because you can develop better away from the spotlight. But I think becoming European champion was a game-changer!

It must have been a big confidence booster too…

For sure. I’m still the same person and the same rider, but it gives me a lot of confidence, motivation and pride because it’s always so nice to wear this jersey every day.

You will be wearing it in the next Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, if you are selected by your team, of course.

Yes, the plan is for me to do the Tour! I’m very excited about starting in my own country with this beautiful jersey on my back. It’s a dream come true!

What would a successful Tour look like for you?

Winning again with Demi [Vollering, the reigning champion], of course. If I can play my part in getting her on that top step, I’ll be over the moon. And if a chance comes my way to get a great result myself, even better! But the primary goal is to win the general classification, together. I want to work hard to make it happen.

You discovered the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift from its inaugural edition in 2022, with a 21st place overall and second in the best young rider classification. How unexpected were these results for you?

It was a big surprise! We had GC ambitions, sure, but for another rider. I wasn’t thinking about it at all, which is a shame because I lost a lot of time by sitting up in stage 3 [2′49″ behind the future winner of the best young rider classification, Shirin van Anrooij]! I’m not saying I could have won the white jersey, but I’d have been closer [her final deficit to Van Anrooij was 5′41″]! Either way, it was a big surprise. I sort of stumbled into being a decent climber. I discovered that I wasn’t so bad on long climbs! I have fond memories of that Tour. We held the polka-dot jersey for six days [first with Femke Markus and then with Femke Gerritse] despite being one of the minnows of the peloton and no-one giving us a second glance.

Fast forward a year, and you were back at the Tour, but now with SD Worx — home to the two best riders on the planet, Lotte Kopecky and Demi Vollering. We can imagine it was worlds apart from your previous experience in the Tour.

Yes, it was really different… and much tougher! I had to work so hard. Staying in the wheels or riding at the front of the peloton is like night and day. The pressure was immens, on Demi, obviously, but the whole squad felt it too. It was new for me to have this kind of pressure for a whole week. It was very intense.

Do you feel comfortable in this role as a domestique? Do you aspire to be a leader in the Tour some day?

For now, winning the Tour feels like a bit of a stretch for me, so I’m happy riding in support of someone who’s got a real shot at it. You need to strike the right balance, though. You want some races where you can go for the win yourself, and others where you’re all in for the team, helping Demi bag another victory, for example. That’s the sweet spot.

How would you describe yourself as a rider?

I think I’m more of a puncher. My teammate Marlen Reusser is an inspiration! Her skills, the way she soars up the climbs… In the future, if I continue to progress, I also hope to be comfortable on long climbs and match her level one day. But for now, I think I’m quite punchy.

We saw with Lotte Kopecky last year that punchy riders can morph into first-class climbers…

Yes, I believe climbing’s one of those things that just gets better with age. It’s not my main focus right now. But, if I get stronger, I’m sure it’ll come naturally.

So, how did you get into cycling in the first place? 

It was all down to my brother! I come from a very sporty family. My father’s always been big on cycling, even racing. He inspired my brother and me. He started when he was eight or nine. He was my absolute hero —whatever he did, I wanted in! So I also took up cycling when I was seven.

You come from Amersfoort, about 20 km from Utrecht. Did you make it to the Grand Départ there in 2015?

Of course! It was a time trial, right? [indeed] I also remember the start of the Giro d’Italia in 2010. I rode 45 or 50 km to see it. It was the longest ride of my life up to that point!

Are you still studying Biomedical Science in Utrecht?

Yes! Just one year to go. If I’d known how hard it would be to juggle that with cycling, I wouldn’t have chosen it, though! Don’t get me wrong, I love all that physiology stuff, how the body ticks. But over time, I’ve developed an interest in… philosophy. I’m studying that now [as a minor]. Actually, it’s the bit I’ve still got to wrap up. I’ve already completed the biomedical sciences part.

That is quite an odd combination!

Yeah, but that’s not too far out here in the Netherlands! You pick your course at 18, but by 20 you’re a whole different person. That’s what’s great about university: you can pick and mix.

Who is your philosophical go-to?

Good question! I’ve got a soft spot for Nietzsche. Well, reading him at least. He’s very aggressive… Not that I agree with him on everything, but I like his way of opposing conventions, of defending unpopular ideas… Actually, I always try to do that myself!

You would have plenty to discuss with Guillaume Martin, who has a master’s degree in philosophy and is particularly interested in Nietzsche.

That’s right, he wrote a book, didn’t he?

Yes. Socrate à vélo (“Socrates on a Bike”) a fiction where famous philosophers, including Nietzsche, find themselves racing in the Tour de France. 

I’ll add it to my reading list!

Going back to your studies, you had to delay your university entry by a year due to a serious road accident during training [she was hit by a truck in 2018 and suffered brain injuries, fractures to the ribs (6), vertebrae (3) and hip]. During that long road to recovery, where did cycling fit in your head? Was it a source of motivation or something completely secondary?

For the first few months, it was the last thing on my mind. I was totally cool with the idea of never riding again. I was just thinking about walking again. My priorities lied elsewhere! I spent two weeks in the hospital, two months in a rehabilitation centre… After that, I could finally sleep in my own bed, but still had to drag myself back to the centre every day. Then, when things started to go back to normal and I was able to walk again and use my brain in a normal way, I felt this deep desire to get back on a bike. For some reason, I knew then that this was what I wanted to do. It was after the accident that I knew for certain that I wanted to become a cyclist.

Just two years later, you managed to land a spot on a pro team, Parkhotel Valkenburg.

It’s quite a story! I was with a club but was really struggling to get into a team. It was 2020, the year of COVID, so racing was off the table. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from the sports director at Parkhotel Valkenburg! As it turns out, someone from a cycling club I’d been part of when I was younger had put in a good word for me. They told him I was a real fighter, and just like that, during our chat, the director said he wanted me on the team. I jumped at the chance. It was the best move of my career! I owe so much to that team… It shaped me as a rider.

And what a rider she has become. Taking to the line for the Grand Départ will be a proud moment for Mischa Bredewold and another achievement in her inspirational cycling journey.

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