My first time going to a big competition was to European Championships in July 2013. It wasn’t my first time racing on the track in Anadia (Portugal) because a couple of months before, I went there (with topsportschool) to get to know the track and to prepare for Euros.
Going to Euros was a great experience. I had no idea how it would go because I only raced against German and Dutch girls. So we started with Sprint. I can’t remember the process of the racing because I was very excited and scared at the same time and I kind of blocked all of my thoughts out. But I know, the moment I went into the ride for gold was very stressful. I didn’t have the power that my opponent had. She was already a 2nd year junior and she pushed way bigger gears than me. So, we raced and I used all the leg speed that I had and I came a few centimeters short to win in both first and second heat. So I ended up at a 2nd place.
I could’ve never imagined to win a 2nd place on my very first European championships. I had nothing to worry about the rest of the week. I just had to chill when I wasn’t racing and I had to kill when I was.
The following event was 500m tt which was really bad. After that I still had 2 events to look forward to: Teamsprint and Keirin.
Teamsprint was good. We qualified 3rd so that same day we had to ride for bronze. And against all expectations, we ended up 3rd.
My biggest fear, I guess, was for Keirin. Keirin was so dangerous. People pushed and bumped into each other but with my head held high, I went to race. I ended up 1st in my 1st heat, 2nd in my 2nd heat and after that, I had to ride finals. Another ride for gold. Trying not to put my mind on that gold medal, I started. In the wheel of my biggest opponent, the French girl, Mélissandre Pain. I was focused, focused on her wheel and focused to get myself a spot on the podium. I was next to her going into the last bend, but as we got closer to the finish line, I got slower. I got 2nd (again) with just 5 centimeters and I was so angry and disappointed. I believed I could win but I didn’t.
It was a great experience going there and racing. It made me realize bit more that I had a future ahead in sprinting or at least, that’s what I hoped for!
So after Euros, I took a little break and went to Disneyland Paris with my boyfriend (bf from when we were still together). I’m absolutely in L O V E with Disney and those 3 days would be good enough to get me back on the saddle, preparing for the most important race of the year, World Championships.
As cycling got much better, my relationships with my friends and my boyfriend went worse. I was 16 years old, I had no time to give attention to anyone or anything except for my bike because thats what I really wanted. I wanted to get somewhere with my bike and in those weeks I became a vice World champion in Sprint.
Before sprintfinals I was really happy that I, Nicky Degrendele, even made it to the ride for gold on a World championship. I was amazed by myself and at the same time I was aware that that moment could change my life.
Stepping onto my bike in the first run gave me courage, saying to myself: ‘Nicky, you’re not a loser. You made it to the GOLD ride. Just go and try your best’. I wasn’t even thinking about second place. I had to be 1st, to prove myself but also to prove many others. Some people, thought so low of me. ‘She’s just a silly girl who thinks she can ride a bike’, ‘She’s not serious enough’, ‘she’s to fat, she won’t make it anywhere’, and the list goes on.
So on that moment I wanted to prove myself and others and I just stopped thinking about the race. For a few seconds I stopped thinking about having fun and pushing and in that moment I lost the second heat after a win in the first heat. So the upcoming heat was very important, if I’d win this one, I would be a world champion. With all the stress hung around my head, I needed to calm down. I called my Australian friend , Kaarle, for advice and she told me what to do. She and Kenny kept motivating me in my last few minutes before racing.
As I went back in, all I could think of was winning that amazing jersey. But was I capable enough?? Oh well, I just went in, got on my bike and did the best I could. I ended up with a 2nd place and A LOT of tears. Tears that I didn’t win, tears for disappointing myself with ‘just’ a 2nd place. But after all, with the experience that I had, a 2nd place was more than enough. It was good.