European Keirin champion

2014 must have been my best cycling year so far. I left for Euros with an ambition to win gold medals. My first race was the 200m tt for my sprint qualification which ended with a 4th place. I was not happy but I qualified and that was good. The further we got in the tournament, the harder it got.

Starting semifinals against the Russian Tatyana Kiseleva was a challenge. A challenge I lost. I had to ride for Bronze (and that was a MAJOR disappointment for me!!). I eventually ended up with a bronze medal on the first discipline, Sprint. Knowing everything could still happen.

The last day started at 6 AM. On that day I only had one more chance to win a Gold medal.
I got on the rollers and my legs felt bad. So bad, I thought I wouldn’t even qualify but I moved on and tried to think about anything but my legs.

Round 1 went very smooth ending with a 2nd place. I only had to survive 1 more round to get into finals and I did. I survived round 2 with a 1st place.

There and then I set my hopes up again for a gold medal because I was riding my last junior european championships ride for gold.

On my own, listening to The Foo Fighters and pedalling easy I rode back to the track. Until that moment, the start shot fired, I had no nerves. Until that moment I was too much in the zone of thinking about spinning my legs around.

The shot was given and we left. Nerves all over my body (and while I’m writing this, I get that exact same feeling). 6 girls, 6 possible European Keirin champions. The speed of the motorbike got faster and so did we. 2 and a half laps before the end, the motorbike left. Everybody was looking at each other to see who was going first. They started putting on a hard pace at 2 laps from the end but the only thing I was doing was singing a song in my head: ‘we own this’. The themesong from Fast and Furious movie 6. Telling myself that I could own this moment and I went for it. Pushing all the power out of my legs  as hard and as fast as I could!

Before I knew I was over the finish line. I won. I was European champion and I could not believe it!

I had never been more proud of myself not knowing what was still to come 1month later.

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Championships as a first years junior.

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.

The beginning of my cycling journey.

Welcome,

My name is Nicky, I’m a 19 year old cyclist.
I’ve been doing track cycling since January 2012.

Before I started my cycling journey I was really into gymnastics (and still am). I had been doing it for over 6 years but due to back problems I had to quit. that’s when I asked my dad for a bike. Pretty soon it was clear that road races weren’t my thing, but track was.

I started doing races and in February 2012 I became Belgian champion in Sprint. Big surprise for not only myself but also for many others!

From that moment on, I started to train and do competitions with my coach, Stéphane. In September, that same year, I started my 1st schoolyear in the Topsportschool in Ghent. Training got serious and so did my career. I was training for big, international competitions like European and World championships.

Going to school, being on boarding school and having to train wasn’t very easy. I’m a real house mouse and I missed being home with my parents. Every week, starting on Monday, I longed for friday evening, for my own bed, for my mum’s food (she’s an amazing cook), to spend time with dad, to see my boyfriend (back in the time I had a boyfriend), even if it was just for 5 minutes. Doing and missing all the things, a normal teen hates. But training and studying sometimes made the weeks go faster. Before I knew, the school year was over and it was finally time for holidays.

Holidays have always been great. Normally I would’ve spend weeks at my grandma’s appartement and while she was out, working, I went to the beach with my cousin but that all changed. Suddenly my time was filled with training and resting, even in holidays.

This is just the beginning of the story.

XOXO Nicky