Jumbo-Visma rider retires to become ambassador for anorexia charity

Aafke Soet reveals she struggled with eating disorder during her career as a cyclist

Aafke Soet
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dutch cyclist Aafke Soet has retired from cycling, revealing that she suffered from anorexia during much of her career as a pro rider.

The 25-year-old spent the last two years at Jumbo-Visma, but failed to get a proper run in the team, something she reflected on in a social media post reflecting on her reasons on leaving the sport.

Soet said that after experiencing anorexia, she wanted to help others in her situation, and that she would now become an ambassador for the (W)eetwatjedoet project, an eating disorder charity.

She said that eating disorders were "very common in cycling", and that she was saddened to see how many of her peers suffer from the conditions too.

After leaving the junior ranks, Soet began her pro racing career in 2017 with the Dutch development team Parkhotel Valkenburg. She spent three seasons with WNT-Rotor, which is now Ceratizit-WNT, before moving to Jumbo-Visma, riding on the WorldTour in 2022.

In an Instagram post on Thursday, Soet wrote: "I have suffered from anorexia. I have had an eating disorder for approximately 5 years, which went up and down, but the destructive thoughts were always there. 

"When I was finally able to ease my mind, I could see things more clear again... I was saddened by the fact how many colleagues suffer too. Suffer from having unhealthy and unhappy thoughts, desiring unhealthy body and performance ideals and having to deal with body dysmorphia. 

"Therefore, I am turning to you, look around and be aware! Dare to speak up, dare to ask questions and dare to ask for help! Above all, you never ever know where someone is silently going trough. 

"Most of the times you don’t see when somebody is struggling mentally. The biggest gift you can give is your kindness, time and love."

Soet is not the first rider to come public having suffered with an eating disorder. Earlier this year Cofidis rider Pernille Mathiesen retired from professional cycling at 24, citing an eating disorder as one of the reasons for the decision.

Previously, Italian pro Davide Cimolai opened up about eating disorders in the peloton, sharing his own experience of dealing with the issue, something that cost him "two or three years" of his career.

Soet's Instagram message continued: "I am happy that I can say now: 'I am recovered' and finally can see how beautiful life is. I sincerely wish that for everybody who is struggling. 

"Therefore, I decided to share my story, with you and with the world of cycling and elite sport."

"First, I didn’t feel the need to let you know I’ve quit cycling, because, although I had some successes, last years I wasn’t racing often," the Dutchwoman wrote. "Just one of many riders riding a bike.

"Now, I am writing this farewell, because I want to speak up. I have been too long ashamed of something that I had to deal with. Something that probably ruined my chances of having a successful career. Something, I hope, nobody has to experience, but sadly is very common in cycling and the society we live in today...

"In 2023, I will become a proud ambassador of the (W)eetwatjedoet project that battles against eating disorders in sport and fights for healthy performance. I am looking forward to put my energy, creativity and recovered positivity into joining their mission."

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