Sarah interviews… Romy Kasper on Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Qatar and 2016
You’ll usually find Romy Kasper racing her hardest as a super-domestique for top women’s team Boels-Dolmans, so it was fantastic to see her taking the chance to get results for herself in the 2016 Ladies Tour of Qatar, where her clever riding took her to second on the General Classification. But while she was happy with that result, she’s really looking forward to tomorrow, when the Omloop het Nieuwsblad starts the Spring Classics. She told me about loving riding in the wind and rain, hoping to get to race for Germany at the Rio Olympics and more.
You can listen to it here, download it directly from Soundcloud, or read the transcript below.
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ProWomensCycling: What is Omloop het Nieuwsblad like?
Romy Kasper: It’s the first important race for me in Europe, and it’s a bit like a little Tour of Flanders – cobbles and short, steep climbs, and it all depends on the weather. It could be really shitty this weekend, so let’s see. I really enjoy all the Spring Classics, so I’m praying for rain and shit weather, and all the cobbles.
PWC: The Omloop’s a strange race, because it’s got so many hills and all the horrible cobbles, but they all happen in the middle of the race.
RK: That’s true – but for me the cobbles aren’t horrible, I like them, so I’d like to add some more!
PWC: How have you been preparing for the race?
RK: I had really good training in winter, and the perfect first race in the Tour of Qatar, but Qatar isn’t good preparation for the Spring Classics! But I don’t really do a special preparation, just adding some short, steep climbs into my training. I also try to use the spring weather at home, and avoid the rollers if it’s cold and rainy. So today it was perfect weather to train for them, because there was lots of wind, and sometimes it was sunny, and the next moment it started snowing, and then it was sunny again, so it was perfect – I’m well prepared!
PWC: It looks like it’s going to be cold – but every year the Spring is so different, does that effect how you ride the races?
RK: For sure the weather effects it, it’s very different if you have sunny conditions or rain. Some of the riders are standing at the line when it’s rainy, thinking “Oh no, I have to race in this shit weather”, and it’s already a mental thing. You can win the race at the start line, if you’re prepared for shit weather in your mind.
PWC: Can you tell what other riders are thinking about it at the start?
RK: Yeah, with most of them you can see it.
PWC: Your recently raced the Ladies Tour of Qatar and were second overall. Does having that kind of result change the way you feel going into the season?
RK: No, it hasn’t really changed my feelings about the Spring Classics. It was a fantastic feeling to be on the podium, for sure, and it showed me that my preparation for the start of the Olympic season was good. I just need to continue my work, and keep that feeling, and I hope to get some more nice results, but it didn’t change so much.
PWC: What was Qatar like this year? It felt the most exciting Qatar for years, to me.
RK: For me it was as I expected – a hard race with a lot of wind, and really fighting for good position from the first metre, to be in the first echelon. But it was also like the last years – maybe a few more windy days.
PWC: I liked the day when the first break was gone by kilometre 10, and your group just dropped everyone.
RK: It’s always fighting for the first metre, until kilometre 0 and when the race starts, if you’re not there, you’re not there and you miss the first group.
PWC: I always think that to do well in Qatar, and especially in the GC, you have to have real race brains, and to be able to read the action so well.
RK: For sure. With a lot of experience you can look ahead and know what will happen in the next minute, so if you have that experience, you are a step in front of the others.
PWC: And Boels-Dolmans is such a strong team, and it was nice because of course the team has Ellen van Dijk, but it felt like you were able to go for your own win as well. Is that something you like about the team?
RK: Yes, it’s a great team, I like being here. It’s my fourth year with the team, and I really like to fight, to win, to die with this team. It’s like a second family for me.
PWC: Often you’re playing the role of domestique, and cycling’s interesting to me, because often your work, or Christine Majerus’ work isn’t seen, it’s only Lizzie Armitstead or Ellen on the podium. Do you feel like those wins are your wins as well?
RK: For sure – sometimes I’m really crying after Lizzie or Ellen win. It’s like my own win, and I really like the role of a helper, a domestique.
PWC: It’s nice that you get the chance to be on the podium – and Ellen was saying really nice things about being happy that you were second ahead of her.
RK: It was nice for me as well, nice to have the possibility to get some good results, and earn some points – and it’s really important to earn qualification points in the Olympic year, as well.
PWC: Are the Olympics on your mind a lot?
RK: Sometimes, it depends. If I’m not really motivated to go out in this weather, I remind myself “In August the Olympics are coming, and that’s why you’re doing this”.
PWC: Do you know when you’ll learn who gets to race in Rio for Germany?
RK: No, I don’t know yet – the problem is first we need to figure out how many spots we have, which we’ll know if we have three or four spots at the end of May. And then I guess after the National Championships in June, we’ll know who will be selected, and who won’t.
PWC: That must be scary. But also when you start off with Trixi Worrack winning Qatar, and you coming second, that’s a lot of nice points for Germany. Did it make you feel better about coming second, to know that it was all helping? Or did you still wish you’d beaten Trixi in Stage 2?
RK: No, it was fine for me. I didn’t go to Qatar to go for the GC, so it was fine to be second. It’s even nicer to know there’s a German in front of you, and she also takes the points for Germany.
PWC: What are your other plans for the season, and what races are you going to target?
PWC: So when it comes to the hot, sunny races like the Giro Rosa, do you still enjoy them, or are they difficult for you?
RK: I still enjoy them. I don’t have any problems with weather conditions – I can race in the cold and rain, and I don’t have problems in the heat.
PWC: That’s really lucky! So how did you become a cyclist in the first place?
RK: When I was a kid, I played different kinds of sports, like swimming and handball, and we had a track in my hometown, with three or four races on the track every year. My dad was the main reason I got into cycling, he just took me to a track race in 2000, and I was inspired, and wanted to start right away.
PWC: And when you look at your cycling career, what have been the best parts of life as a bike racer?
RK: The good results, like in 2013 when I got my first medal in the elite Road Nationals, when I came third. And another highlight was my stage win in the 2014 Thüringen Rundfahrt, because it was almost in my home area – my parents and my coach were there, so that was also a really nice one. But I also really enjoy being on the road with the girls, seeing all the different countries and different cultures, and I don’t think I’d have been in so many different parts of the world if I wasn’t a cyclist.
PWC: And Boels feels like a very international team, too.
RK: Yes, so many different nations, but it’s all fine, we all speak in English together, and it doesn’t feel that different.
PWC: Looking to the future, obviously you want to go to Rio, but what other ambitions do you have for your cycling career?
RK: It’s difficult to say, because this year my main goal is to be part of the Olympic road team for Germany. Later in the season I’ll fight for a spot in our Team Time Trial team, which is really not that easy, and try to go to Worlds in Qatar. I haven’t thought about next year – first it’s being focused to go to Rio, and after that Worlds, and then we’ll see.
PWC: Having such a good result in Qatar must be a good feeling, with Worlds! So for you, we have to hope for wind, rain, horrible weather all Spring! And it’s Lizzie’s first race in the rainbow jersey on Saturday…
RK: Oh yeah! I’m looking forward to riding next to her!
My guide to following the 2016 Omloop het Nieuwsbald is here – and earlier this week ex-pro Martine Bras previewed the race and the Classics in an interview which you can listen to and read here. I’m funded to do these interviews thanks to my wonderful Patreon supporters – thank you so much! If you want to join them from just £1.50/$2 a month, there’s more information here.