Flying Dutchwoman: Lorena Wiebes on pressure, winning at the Tour de France, and leaving DSM

The SD Worx rider won 22 races in 2022, including two stages at the Tour de France Femmes and a clean sweep at the RideLondon Classique. She told Adam Becket how she did it

Lorena Wiebes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Few sprinters can claim to have truly dominant seasons. Of course, someone always tops the pile of most wins, but in the vagaries of bunch finishes, it is rare for one rider to pile up great seasons. If we take the measure of 20 wins in one season, in the last decade only Alexander Kristoff in 2015 (20) and Peter Sagan in 2013 (22) have managed to clear this hurdle in men’s cycling. Only one woman has managed to do it in that time period: Marianne Vos, in 2013 (22) and 2014 (21). That was until her compatriot Lorena Wiebes came along in 2022. 

Of course, the pair are very different riders at opposite ends of their careers – there are 12 years between them – but these two Dutch riders are the two most dominant riders in the modern era. 

Sure, Annemiek van Vleuten, Anna van der Breggen and Lizzie Deignan might claim to be more the all-round riders of the last decade, and with good reason, but none of these have had such an authoritative season, numerically speaking, as Wiebes did last year. At just 23, in her second full year at WorldTour level, every time Wiebes lined up for a bunch sprint she was expected to win. How she handled that was never more evident than at the RideLondon Classique last May, where on three consecutive days she blasted away the opposition, making world champion Elisa Balsamo and rival Emma Norsgaard mere bystanders. 

It must have become repetitive, this constant winning. “For me as a person, I’m never really excited after I win, that has never been it,” Wiebes explains to CW in late October. “I think I’m more introverted. Any time I’m happy with a win and the help of the team. It gets a bit more normal, though. It sounds a bit strange, but at one point this season I felt the pressure was on, because for a long time I hadn’t lost a sprint, so I thought I had to win… 

“I think I can cope with the pressure naturally. If I lose, I’m already looking to the next race. I don’t feel it during the race, but maybe a bit before. I think this year the most pressure was during the Tour de France, but I think it mostly came from myself because I wanted to get the yellow jersey there. 

“This year [2022] went way better than I expected. I achieved almost all my goals we were talking about before we started. It was a great season, and I’m already motivated for next year. To race more, to be stronger.”

Tour immortality

Lorena Wiebes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The bonus to her monumental year was becoming the first stage winner at the inaugural Tour de France Femmes, therefore being the first rider to don the new yellow jersey, and immortalising herself in the process. It was an odd sight, with Wiebes being joined on the podium by a friend’s baby, but it was historic. However, it was, she says, hard to appreciate at the time. 

“At the moment [you win] you don’t realise that it is so special and important for women’s cycling, because the next day you just have to race,” she says. “Then I had the crash, and I was disappointed I didn’t finish the race, but afterwards I realised what a nice experience it was, with so many spectators at the side of the road. I’m already looking forward to this year; I don’t know if I will ride it, but to see it, follow it. 

“It was a bit hard to enjoy my day in yellow because it was so chaotic in the race, but it was a really good experience, and at the end Juliette [Labous] did a really good GC. So it was a good race for the whole team.” 

There was another stage win, in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, on stage five, but it was to be her last act in the race as she crashed out on stage seven. By that point her dream of winning green had also gone, to the woman who preceded her dominance, Vos. 

However, 2023 is a fresh year, and if she gets there, she wants to target the green jersey, as well as stage wins. It is not hard to see her becoming the record holder for stages, as Vos is at the Giro Donne, before her career is over in well over a decade’s time. 

“Everyone wants to finish the race, and I also want to be on the podium with the green jersey… it would be really nice to ride there again,” she says. 

“I think there are some chances for me this year. [We know] already that it won’t be starting or finishing in Paris, which I was a little disappointed about, but I hope there are as many spectators as last year.”

New start

Lorena Wiebes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2023 is a big year for Wiebes. After two and a half years at DSM she is moving on, having signed a three-year deal with SD Worx, the preeminent squad in women’s cycling. She will no long be the unchallenged team leader, but instead one of several leaders. 

The Dutch squad might not have won as many races as she did last year (19, to her 22), but the collection of stars they have is envied across the peloton. She will no longer be the protected rider in most races, something she is willing to concede, but will be another card to play alongside Demi Vollering, Lotte Kopecky and Marlen Reusser.

However, joining the team has been a long-term goal for her: “From the moment I thought I could be a professional, I wanted to be at that team, even when it was Boels Dolmans,” she says. 

“It’s a smaller team [than DSM, with its men’s team], but it is big, and there are more top riders. It will be different for me, and we can’t ride for a sprint every time. Th at’s fine, because I think I can develop myself in a new way. 

“Looking from the outside, the last couple of years, the team has seemed like a family. They have a lot of fun with each other. It gives me a lot of motivation to see how Demi and Lotte are riding there. I want to help them also in the harder races.” 

Her first meeting with the team came in California, where the 2023 squad assembled to train, visit Specialized’s headquarters and watch an ice hockey match. It certainly does seem like that family Wiebes wants, something she experienced at Parkhotel Valkenburg too, her first squad. They also seem to work for each other very well, despite the evident talent and egos. 

“Lotte and I will race for victories, but we have to work for each other too, which is fine,” she explains. “In harder races, I know she can fi nish it off , and I hope she believes in my ability to finish it off too. With [Barbara] Guarischi coming in for the sprint train, you can also see that they’re thinking of me. She’s really good as the last lead-out person as she’s not afraid.” 

There are some who worry that Wiebes and Kopecky will be looking for the same opportunities, but they are varied enough that they should have differing objectives; the former could not win Strade Bianche or the Tour of Flanders in the mould of the latter, and the latter could not win the first stage of the Tour de France Femmes like the former. 

“I don’t know Lotte, so we will see at the first team camps, but I think it will be fi ne,” she says. “I’ve never heard anything bad about her. I think all the riders fi t in the team, and that’s what they look at.” 

As for the future, Wiebes is not the finished article yet: “I know I can still grow, and I think that’s the most important thing. Just like Annemiek [van Vleuten], who is still saying she is better every year. I want to grow in hillier races, and I think I have found a good team for it.”

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.