In her final race of the season at Binche-Chimay-Binche, Gladys Verhulst of the FDJ-Suez team came close but fell short of playing a lead role, missing the key breakaway just four kilometres from the finish line. “The finale was chaotic for us,” Verhulst told DirectVelo. “Initially, the plan was to back Vittoria Guazzini, but she suffered a puncture. I was not informed but eventually realised she was not there, so we tried to be on the offensive.”
Verhulst expressed regret at missing the decisive move, believing she had the legs to make an impact. “I didn’t fully believe in myself. I thought I didn’t have the strength, but in retrospect, I probably could have done it,” she said.
Verhulst believes she could have competed for victory that day. “I wasn’t the designated leader and didn’t get into the mindset of someone who could win,” she lamented. However, she does take some satisfaction from her top 15 finish, considering it a positive end to a challenging season.
If she needed reassurance, it’s because this season has been a rollercoaster for the 26-year-old athlete. “I had ups and downs; it wasn’t easy to manage,” she admitted, calling her first season with the WorldTeam a year of learning. “I have to use this experience and draw lessons for what’s ahead. Next year, I need to build on this good end to the season and show the real Gladys.”
A stage winner at the Tour de Normandie earlier this year and victor at the Picto-Charentaise this summer, Verhulst is confident she can win beyond the lowest UCI level 1.2 or 2.2 races. “I need to make a place for myself on the team. We have a lot of climbers, but not many riders with my profile. I need to show the team that they can back me and that I can deliver strong results,” she stated.
As for now, it’s time for a break for Gladys Verhulst, but with her eyes firmly set on the future, the racer seems more determined than ever to make her mark in the next season.