Lotto Soudal likes to give youngsters the opportunity to develop themselves and to grow within the team. Belgian rider Elise Vander Sande (almost 23) and Dutch rider Silke Smulders (19) both get this chance next year. Together with Anna Plichta and Hanna Nilsson they are the newcomers in our women’s team.
Elise Vander Sande became fourth at the Belgian Championship in Anzegem in September, a very nice result. She beat Annelies Dom, who will become sports director at Lotto Soudal Ladies, in a group sprint for that fourth place. Elise conquered the Belgian jersey for club riders. The past five seasons she rode for Keukens Redant.
“I combined cycling with my studies Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy”, tells Elise Vander Sande. “I graduated at the end of June. It was a choice to first finish my studies. Now, I want to see what I can achieve in cycling. I am also working halftime as a physio in a group practice in my neighbourhood.”
“I had five beautiful years at Keukens Redant and the team supported me during my studies, but to be able to take my cycling career to the next level I chose for Lotto Soudal. I am good at riding uphill. I prefer longer climbs. But I don’t have any experience yet with races abroad and therefore I decided to join Lotto Soudal. The team always rides a nice programme. I want to discover what I am capable of. I am also explosive. I can stand my ground in a sprint with a small group and I dare to position myself in the peloton. I am looking forward to learning at Lotto Soudal, to further developing myself as a rider and to being a support for my teammates.”
19-year-old Silke Smulders is a first-year in the U23 category and she still studies. She is now in the second year of her bachelor in Sustainable Innovation at the University of Eindhoven. This year she was part of the Dutch U23 selection at the European Championships in Plouay. They won the silver medal with Lonneke Uneken, while Silke got eighth herself. In September she finished 19th at Trophée des Grimpeuses, a Belgian climbing race.
“I am good at hilly courses, like in the province of Limburg in the Netherlands or the Ardennes in Belgium”, says Silke Smulders. “I am looking forward to discovering what I can do in the mountains. I am still young and I still have exciting things ahead of me. I was very happy that I could go to the European Championships as a first-year U23 rider. Everyone was satisfied with my work for the team. I dropped off Lonneke Uneken for the sprint and could still get a nice result myself. It felt good to be able to perform well at such an important moment.”
“I am competing in races since I was twelve. Before I started cycling, I ice skated. In summer we cycled and I was good at it. I joined a cycling club and after a while, I quit ice skating. Gradually, cycling became more serious. As a junior, I got selected for the Worlds twice and that was a boost for my confidence. And now that beautiful European Championship as a first-year U23 rider. I want to see how far I can get in cycling. The step to Lotto Soudal Ladies is a step to become better.”