RETIRING, RECALIBRATING, REKINDLING
During this time, before deciding to once again race her bike, Jesse worked as a DS on a women’s junior team, sharing her knowledge with the next generation.
“It allowed me to share my experience with the younger girls of 16, 17 years old. One of them was Shari Bossuyt and she’s now in the Canyon SRAM team, so that’s quite cool for me to race next to her after giving her a bit of my knowledge.”
As Jesse re-kindled her love for cycling, she signed for a UCI team and in 2019 became the Belgian national champion. It’s a comeback story for sure, but it demonstrates how far the peloton has come in recent years in terms of accepting that professional riders can successfully return from maternity leave – or in Jesse’s case a retirement that turned into a form of unofficial maternity leave – and still do their job to an incredibly high standard.
She agrees that part of this success is down to her supportive partner, who previously raced but now focuses on full-time work and holding down the fort when Jesse is away training and racing. Nonetheless, being a mum and a professional cyclist is two full-time jobs, and previously stressful situations like training camps can provide much needed time away from home.
“The joke that I always have with Liesbet De Vocht, my old DS at Lotto, she’d always say to me, ‘When you are away with the team, you are on vacation’. And it is a bit like that, because I only need to ride my bike and, okay, maybe we have some other stuff to do, but I don’t need to cook, clean, or go to the shop, so it is kind of a vacation.”
Fabian is old enough now to attend races – in Belgium they start you very young – and can often be seen with his mum and dad at the Le Col – Wahoo team bus. Racing, nevertheless, provides a bit of space for Jesse, and she says she always goes home from time away even happier to see her family again.
“When we are on training camp, it’s like 70% easier than when I am at home. Of course, the training is really hard and you’re really suffering but afterwards, you can sleep and rest. So for me, the difference is really big. It’s also nice to sometimes be away from home because it’s a break mentally, but when you’re back home, you’re happier to see them.”