Former World Champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak joined her SD Worx-Protime teammates for their team presentation in Mechelen, Belgium marking the end of her maternity leave.
“It’s really nice to be back,” Van den Broek-Blaak said in the presentation. “It feels like everything is still the same. I was one year out and then you jump back in a group and it feels the same – but at the same time, everything has changed for me. So it’s a nice challenge.”
Van den Broek-Blaak announced her pregnancy at last year’s team presentation before sitting out the season to welcome her daughter into the world in May. She had considered retiring in 2022 but changed her mind when the maternity leave policy allowed her to combine starting a family with another season of racing in 2024.
“I have different priorities now – it doesn’t mean I’m not focused on cycling because it’s still super important for me. But when you become a mom, there’s one thing more important – my life is just totally different now because I’m not only an athlete, I am also a full time mom.”
The 34-year-old may have different priorities but she has the same ambitions as before her leave, and her main goal comes in August when the Tour de France Femmes starts in the Netherlands.
“It starts in Rotterdam – that’s where I come from, and that’s very special for me,” she said, adding that she hopes to be there to impart her knowledge and experience to the team’s younger riders, “then if it’s going well, I also want to be a part in the game.”
Van den Broek-Blaak won the world title in 2017 and has five major Classics wins on her palmares – Tour of Flanders in 2020, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2019, Amstel Gold Race in 2018, and Gent-Wevelgem and Ronde van Drenthe in 2016, and is aiming to get back to that level.
“Of course I have expectations, I have goals because otherwise what am I doing here? But my biggest goal is to come back to my old level. I also need to be honest, I’m not there yet. And that still needs some time but we’ll see how it’s going. Maybe I’m there already in the beginning, and maybe I need a few more months. I’ll take it step by step.
“It’s getting better. I’m not there where I want to be. I was able to train with the girls in December for the first time and it was hard. But I was actually already able to follow the training and now the last camp went even better. So it’s hard but I believe I can make it back.”
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