If I take a step back and look at my life from a distance, I can say that the last 3 years has gone super-fast. I started cycling in 2012 through a reality show in Belgium called, “De pedaalridders” – (literally translated the knights of the pedals). In a lot of ways this was a life changing experience. The show was a Belgian reality television program broadcast on VT4 in which 2 ex-professional cyclists got assigned 2 teams of amateur bike riders. The aim for the coaches was to train both teams as good as possible, let them compete in a stage of the Tour de France and see which coach did the best job. The coaches where Ludo Diercxsens and Johan Musseeuw, and both have major results behind their names, such as Tour of Flanders, several stages of the Tour de France, Amstel Gold Race and many more. The teams of amateurs picked for the show where “real” amateurs with on one side a bunch of 8 men, typical cafe-riders who do their Sunday ride and end up in the pub drinking more calories of beer than they burned calories on their ride. On the other side there was our group of woman, all from different backgrounds but all medium sporty.
I was never really interested in cycling. When I saw it on TV, or when I saw cyclists passing on the road somewhere they always made me laugh with their funny tight pants and a sponge on their bum. It was just not a part of my world. I grew up with swimming, my parents found it very important we did sport, My older sister was a swimmer so my younger two sisters and me followed in her footsteps. I tried a few other sports but there was nothing I quite liked. I tried boxing, but that was a bit too rough; gymnastics, but that was too much jumping around. I tried running for a while but I’m just not built to run with my flat feet. When I was 23 my boyfriend at that time persuaded me to buy myself a mountain bike and join him for a ride through the Kempen woods, so I did. I bought myself a second-hand mountain bike as heavy as lead for €100. At that time my fitness was not the best but good enough to endure 20km. After the first time on that heavy mountain bike I quite liked it. After a while I was ready for a new bike. The transition from that heavy mountain bike to a lighter version with a proper suspension gave me wings and I joined a group of woman who did weekly rides through the Kempen woods. And there we were, a group of amateur woman, we gave ourselves the name “MTB Ladies”, made a website.
Very shortly after that, one Tuesday evening we got contacted by the production company asking us if we wanted to audition for the show. I never thought we would really get selected in first place, so without thinking I said yes. They asked us if we could come that weekend to one of the girl’s house to make a pre-selection. It all went so quick, before I even knew I got interviewed on the second audition round in an old cafe near the Kemmelberg for a final selection. They told us which days we had to be available and we signed a contract for our participation. After that there was no way back, I was super excited for what was to come. I had no idea what impact this adventure would have on the rest of my life. The show started filming at the end of January 2012 and would be broadcast in May 2012.
For the first day of filming we had to gather somewhere near the course of the Tour of Flanders in an old café with a road bike. I had to borrow one because I only had my mountain bike. I had never ridden a road bike, let alone ridden with cycling shoes and those special pedals. If I watch the series again now it always makes me laugh and reminds me of how brave I was, I was so scared to fall. After a few hours on click pedals I started to adapt to the new position and soon enough I was climbing the steep hills of Flanders with an oversized road bike and a pocket full of courage. That day we met our coach. We got Ludo Dierckxsens to train us and give us his tips and support. He was a very friendly bald head with a constant smile. That day was the first day I rode a road bike and the first day that changed my life forever.
Pia is a full time professional cyclist riding for team WNT. In 2016 she will be riding for Lares-Waowdeals Women Cycling Team.
Words: Pia De Quint @PiaDeQuint