Dutch cycling talent Thalita de Jong, who has signed a two-year contract with the Belgian continental team Lotto Dstny Ladies, is setting her sights on elevating the team to Women’s WorldTour status. The 29-year-old, a former cyclo-cross world champion in 2016, faces this challenge after her former team, Liv Racing, merged into Jayco AlUla, leaving no room for her. De Jong, who will turn 30 in November 2023, will become the oldest rider on the Lotto Dstny Ladies roster.
A conversation with the Lotto Dstny management had already occurred before De Jong’s participation in the Baloise Ladies Tour, she revealed. With the merger involving Jayco-AlUla and Liv Racing Xstra leaving her without a team, De Jong decided to join Lotto Dstny willingly, valuing a two-season contract over WorldTour options. She stated that although WorldTour teams have better operational frameworks, she’s looking forward to contributing to Lotto Dstny’s growth under new CEO Stéphane Heulot.
De Jong is open to playing different roles within the team. She sees herself potentially taking on a free role in the upcoming season and expressed a willingness to lead or support younger riders like Katrijn De Clercq, depending on the team’s needs. This season, De Jong performed notably well in the Baloise Ladies Tour, describing it as her seasonal highlight. Despite not being fully prepared for the Tour de France Femmes that followed, she managed to finish 11th on the fourth day after getting caught in a 150 km breakaway. However, her performance, as well as that of her leader Mavi García, was marred by subsequent illnesses.
Reflecting on the season, De Jong acknowledged battling knee pain, poor bike position, and a fall at Nokere Koerse that caused her to miss a considerable part of the spring season. Her plans to participate in cyclo-cross races this winter were quashed due to illness, a downturn that also ended her 2023 season prematurely at the end of September.
De Jong also hinted at the possibility of gravel racing in 2024. She believes the discipline could suit her well, given that road cyclists often excel in gravel racing, and is looking to fit it into next year’s road programme.