Olympic preview with Vekemans and Hoffmann
Six Lotto Soudal Ladies will take part in the Olympic road race on Sunday: Chantal Hoffmann (Luxembourg), An-Li Kachelhoffer (South-Africa), Lotte Kopecky (Belgium), Claudia Lichtenberg (Germany), Emma Pooley (Great-Britain) and Anisha Vekemans (Belgium).
Anisha and Chantal tell what this selection means to them. We also asked them about their Olympic memories. Anisha is part of the Belgian team, together with Ann-Sophie Duyck and Lotte Kopecky. Chantal Hoffmann rides together with Christine Majerus for the national team of Luxembourg.
Anisha Vekemans: “I think it’s the dream of every athlete to go to the Olympics. I dreamt of it as well. I had never thought I would get this chance this year already. I am really happy with this selection. I had made important progress in the second part of last season and this year I continued on the same path. Being selected for the Olympics now feels really great.”
“It will definitely be a hard race. Claudia Lichtenberg already did a recon of the course last year and told us it was one of the toughest courses she had ever seen. If a climber like her says that, you know it’s going to be tough. I really hope to ride a good race, I don’t want to stay anonymously in the peloton. I really want to show myself during the race and prove I’m worthy of my selection.”
“I expect that riders will constantly get dropped and the bunch will soon be reduced. The teams are smaller than in normal races and that makes there are only about seventy riders in the peloton. That’s an advantage for me, because it’s easier to position myself. Small teams also means it will be difficult to control the race, that’s why I expect there will be attacks pretty early.”
“After the road race I’m staying in Rio for a few more days and then I can go and watch some other sports. Of the past Olympics I definitely remember the performances of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, who conquered several medals. I also like the show of Bolt. Who knows, I might bump into them in the Olympic village one of these days.”
Chantal Hoffmann: “I didn’t expect to go to the Olympics. It was never intended that there would go two riders to Rio for Luxembourg. It was only in the last three months that it became an option. Cycling is a team sport after all and in the end the decision was made to come here with two riders. At the beginning of the race there is a high risk of punctures. Now I’m here, I can give Christine a wheel. The course is way too hard for me, I’m here to help Christine as much as I can. I really hope she can set a good result. She had some bad luck the past weeks, but she’s been having a really strong season. If she’s in the same shape as in the beginning of the year a top fifteen or even top ten should be possible. Top ten would be amazing.”
“Taking part in the Olympics is really a highlight in my career, no doubt about it. As a child I watched the Olympics a lot. I never thought I would ever be an Olympic athlete. It is an amazing present I got, it’s so nice to be here. The Olympic village is really big and impressive. It’s only since I’ve arrived here that I’ve started realizing that I am selected for the Olympics.”
“One of my memories of the Olympics is the fifth place of Andy Schleck in Beijing in 2008. That was an amazing performance for our country. The Olympics of London 2012 were special because by then I knew several people who were riding there and if you have a bond with someone it’s even more special to follow the race. You really feel with them. I’ve decided to enjoy my time here. First I’m going to do my best in the road race and next week I’d like to go to the time trials and track races to cheer on the riders, like Jasper De Buyst for example.”