Season Analysis With Champion Ilse

Ilse Pluimers has been a member of the AG Insurance – Soudal Quick-Step team since January 2019. Here, the 21-year-old European Champion from the Netherlands, reflects on her highlights, challenges, and moments of growth over the past season.

“The highlight of my year came at the European Championships. I recently won it and I consider it one of my best achievements, because I had a strong performance from start to finish, maintaining a high level of focus throughout the entire race. It was an unforgettable and beautiful moment and everyone, including myself, was thrilled.

What makes it even more remarkable is that, leading up to the European Championship, I wasn’t feeling mentally strong during the Simac Ladies Tour. I was going through a challenging period, but the European Championships turned everything into something truly beautiful. Additionally, the Dutch National Championships in time trial and road racing were also highlights, as I finished in the top 10 among world-class competitors at the Dutch National Championship on the road.

At the beginning of the season, I had set several goals, including Paris-Roubaix, which I had to miss due to a wrist injury. This was especially tough for me because the spring season is my favourite and this injury became my biggest challenge. I also had the Dutch National Championships on my list of goals and I achieved a second-place finish in the time trial. Furthermore, I exceeded my expectations by winning a gold medal in the road race at the European Championship. These accomplishments marked significant highlights in my season, and I’m particularly proud of them.

The Giro, on the other hand, was the toughest race of the year due to the challenging climbs, which are not my specialty. I had to push myself through it, but looking back, I realised that the Giro made me physically stronger and provided me with motivation for the rest of the year.

Mentally, I learned a lot during this season, especially about how to handle doubts and stress. I often used to think that others were better than me, which caused stress. I came to realise that this pressure was sometimes unnecessary, so I’ve learned to manage it better. I also gained valuable experience in supporting Ashleigh in Scandinavia, which I found very rewarding. This season, I believe I’ve improved in all aspects, including training, performance, teamwork, and communication.

Teamwork and collaboration were essential. I’m proud of our strong team spirit and the fact that we’re close-knit; willing to give our all for each other. I spent much of the season working in support of the team, which I enjoyed immensely. I’m content with my role and have noticed that I’m gradually given more freedom to attack and create my opportunities, especially towards the end of the season. In terms of communication during races, I’ve also learned and improved a lot. This year, I primarily supported the team, which was understandable and something I truly enjoyed doing.

For next year, I hope to continue to excel in my role as a supporting rider, but I also hope to have more opportunities to showcase my own abilities. I want to keep learning and improving in all aspects, including training, communication, teamwork, and more. Additionally, I’ve enjoyed the role of a lead-out and contributing to the team’s success, which I find highly gratifying. It’s a great feeling when I can contribute and I see someone else finishing our work. Overall, I had a fantastic season, and I look forward to continuing to ride for and with my teammates!”

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