Last May, Puck Pieterse burst onto the elite mountain bike scene with a marvellous victory in her first-ever elite UCI Mountain Bike World Cup race.
The day after her 21st birthday, Pieterse staged an attack in the final lap of the cross-country Olympic (XCO) race in Nové Město na Moravě which saw her take her first elite mountain bike gold medal, ahead of World Champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot.
She was crowned XCO European Champion in June before going on to take silver and bronze at the World Championships in August in the cross-country short track (XCC) and XCO disciplines respectively.
Fast forward to the end of the mountain bike season, and she’s decimated the overall standings in both the UCI XCO World Cup and UCI XCC World Cup with four victories and a further six top-three finishes.
What came next for the burgeoning mountain bike star? Cyclocross, of course. The discipline in which she has already previously achieved elite National and U23 European and World titles.
After such an impressive 2023 mountain bike season, Pieterse felt it was important to have differentiation between the two disciplines before she started her cyclocross account, which resulted in her taking a few weeks to reset before her first race of the season.
“Before the mountain bike season, I didn’t really know where I would stand. I was really happy about how it went, it almost couldn’t have gone any better. It really put things into perspective that I can be up there with the level that the others have,” Pieterse told Cyclingnews.
“It was good to have a clear separation between the two seasons because otherwise, it’s a bit like you’re just going on and on. My form was still quite good, it wasn’t that I was too tired to still race or train but I think it was good to have some separation between the two and load up the batteries a bit mentally to continue racing and it came in quite handy.”
Towards the end of 2023, Fenix-Deceuninck named Pieterse as the leader of their women’s team competing across cyclocross and mountain biking, in a step towards a ‘multidisciplinary philosophy’ for the team.
Pieterse’s personal ambitions in the different disciplines remain at the centre of the scheduling of her calendar for the year, and the team allow her to have autonomy in choosing a path that best suits her.
“We discuss at the beginning of each season what the goals are, what I want, what they want, and then we see…