Zonneveld (43) continues to be a racer, combining family and work: "Sometimes I think: what the f*ck am I doing?" Cycling

Zonneveld (43) continues to be a racer, combining family and work: "Sometimes I think: what the f*ck am I doing?"

Zonneveld (43) continues to be a racer, combining family and work: "Sometimes I think: what the f*ck am I doing?"

He turns 44 this year and is busy enough with his columns in the AD, podcasts of In het Wiel, and a young family. Despite this, we still see Thijs Zonneveld riding among the well-paid WorldTour pros every now and then in recent weeks, and also competing again on the beach and gravel. On Saturday, he started his road season in the Volta NXT Classic. IDLProCycling.com was curious about the motivations that keep Zonneveld cycling.

An interesting little statistic from the X-account StatsOnCycling emerged before the one-day race in South Limburg, eventually won by Timo Kielich (Alpecin-Deceuninck): "With his 43 years and 148 days, Thijs will be the second oldest participant in a professional race in 2022," they noted. The Spaniard Óscar Sevilla (47), who mainly races in Colombia these days, had an even longer career, having placed second in the Vuelta in 2001 and seventh in the Tour. He remained well ahead of Zonneveld. "And I won't overtake him anymore either," laughed the AD journalist before the start.

Zonneveld, who rides for BEAT Cycling, recognizes the synergistic benefits of his dual roles as a journalist and cyclist. "Of course, it can be combined," he reflects, "because it's interesting to mention in the podcast or to write pieces about it. So to some extent, it does go together, but there are also weeks when I think: what the fuck am I doing?"

"Explain yourself, Thijs," he's asked. "I also have three young children," he explains, "and then I train with a couple of guys and we get home at about five to three. I then have five minutes to eat a peanut butter sandwich while I have to pick up my kids' showering legs, while the other boys lie on the couch," he says with a smile. Consequently, his rides are adjusted to accommodate his family and work life. "So I also notice that I'm not as resilient as I used to be or as the younger guys, but I actually try to train very consistently."

Zonneveld can now oversee his cycling performance with helicopter view

"If all you have to do is cycle, you have the luxury of having all day. Sometimes I just have to fit my training into one hour. That goes fine, and I'm quite surprised by the level I can achieve, but of course, there is a limit somewhere," said Zonneveld, who joined BEAT last year after a brief stint at Parkhotel Valkenburg in 2016. Between 2002 and 2007, he rode at the club and continental level. "As a result, you approach races differently now: previously, I would enter a race like Volta with the ambition to win. Of course, it's still very satisfying if we perform well as a team and I achieve a good result individually, but if I don't do well, it's not the end of the world.

Saturday did not go smoothly. In his podcast after the race, Zonneveld mentioned that he had thrown up several times on the bike, something he had not anticipated before the race. However, he did realize that he can now cope well with such tough moments. "You still feel bad about it, but I can distance myself from it more. I also notice that in the finals. Ultimately, that's more crucial, which definitely gives me an advantage in the finals. Especially on the beach and gravel, I compete against riders who are solely focused on the race, whereas I have other things on my mind. If they urge me to ride with them, I think: figure it out yourself. So sometimes having that distance is an advantage; it allows me to make better tactical decisions than before. But overall, it remains a challenge to juggle everything, although so far, it's going well," reflects Zonneveld with a helicopter view.

Zonneveld sees how Van Aert and Van der Poel move through the peloton

This year, the Dutchman is focusing on Unbound, while also encountering the current global cycling elite in several well-known beach races and larger gravel races. As a journalist, this also brings advantages, he explains. "You hear and see a lot more during racing; it's a completely different way of communicating with those guys. Previously, I would stand on the sidelines with a microphone, camera, or notepad, but now I'm in the midst of it, training with those guys. This changes the dynamic and you become much more involved with the riders."

Read more below the photo.

zonneveld merlier

So Zonneveld is pleased to have returned to racing. Surely, there are advantages to that. "When you race against or with riders like De Merlier, Lampaert, and Declercq, you end up talking about other things after a beach race like that. So, I can see the advantages, which is also one of the reasons I do this. A few years ago, I noticed that I was reporting on a generation I never rode with. That was always a huge advantage before," he explains. "I come from the era of Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema; I rode with those guys. But the generation after that, I never actually raced with, so I do find it a huge advantage that I'm competing in races with all those guys again, and I see things differently in those races. You can't compare that to what you see from the sidelines."

The advantages immediately come to his mind. "Last year, I rode the Scheldeprijs with Mathieu van der Poel and the World Gravel Championship with Wout van Aert, which is just really completely different than watching on TV. Then you see what they do in those races and how others react to them, how intimidating someone like Van der Poel actually is in a peloton. I find it intimidating when he's training during the Scheldeprijs, while everyone else is just hanging off the side. He rode back and forth a bit and did his blocks like that," he recalls. "But it's not just him; it's also with guys from, say, Lotto-Soudal or Jumbo-Visma Development Team. That's very interesting."

Place comments



More comments

You are currently seeing only the comments you are notified about, if you want to see all comments from this post, click the button below.

Show all comments

More Cycling News