by Santy Rey
A growing formation
Thalita de Jong (Bergen op Zoom 1993) is being one of the sensations at this start of the year, after debuting in a Setmana Ciclista in which she did not drop below the top-15 in the four days. Her best moment came in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, losing contact with the leading group while passing through Kapelmuur but beating Vollering within the second one. “It was incredible to finish 5th. It’s what I dreamed of. I have prepared well this winter and I also moved to Belgium. I just need my health to respect me“
Two days after the lunch with her fan club, her arrival to Lotto Dstny 2024 continental team is made official. The Dutchwoman becomes managed by an entire institution of this sport. Grace Verbeke, the first Belgian to win Ronde van Vlaanderen (2010), who served as main DS in the last ZLM Omloop Der Kempen.
Thalita finished her year and a half journey into Liv Racing Teqfind in the Tour de Romandie (2.WWT). After completing her 2nd Tour de France, she focused all her efforts on the GP Oetingen (UCI 1.1), a race that had to be postponed in spring due to snowfall. “Last week I did a reconnaissance of the route. It will be a hard day with the climbs and cobblestones. And also open. Therefore we will have to be attentive in case an important breakaway forms. After the Tour de France I ran some criteriums and won the Zevenbergen. I feel ready to do well at GP Oetingen.” Finally 19th place for the eldest de Jong.
Her year can be described as an up-and-down. An acceptable performance in The Tour de France or the bad luck that deprived her a few days before of a great result in Belgium. A fall on the third day of the Baloise Ladies Tour caused her to lose 4 minutes and all her options for the CG.
All of this in 2023 in which her contract ended and in which her current structure will be absorbed by Jayco Alula, so several of her current colleagues will have to look for a new destination. And the task is not easy at all.
2022 left us Thalita de Jong (Liv Racing Teqfind) wearing 3 different jerseys. She started her 3rd season with Bingoal Casino Chevalmeire in which she shared squad with her little sister Demi. “Bingoal was a small team, which started for me in 2018. I was very close to a member of the team staff and they were always behind me, helping me. We couldn’t compete in all the races we wanted. Compared to other big teams World Tour, the level of the team was not that high but we always gave our best, with a positive attitude and looking forward.”
But differences within the Belgian continental structure made the Dutch soon take a new destiny. The incorporation window was closed and as an intermediate step in order to maintain her competitive level, Thalita ended up at the modest JEGG DJR Academy.
During June 2022, De Jong returned to the WTW LIV Racing Xstra discipline. “I jumped on a moving train in June and immediately got to go to the Women’s Tour in England. And yes, that was quite a challenge. I still had to find my place in the team, as a newcomer I stepped into a group that had been together for some time. I’m not the type that quickly comes to the forefront anyway. In addition, I was not used anymore to operating as a team in a race, because in previous seasons I could often make my own plan. I had to learn that again”
Those few months, allowed her to take part in Giro d’Italia, Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. She has also been an important piece in the European IRR that led to the victory of her teammate Lorena Wiebes.
On the way back:
Thalita de Jong returned to the structure in which she raced a decade ago at the highest level, and where several of the best cyclists of all time coincided. “In 2012 I made the jump directly to the UCI WE Rabobank LIV Team. It was a year in which I learned a lot. I was racing with Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten, Pauline Ferrand Prevot, Liesbeth de Vocht, etcetera, in my first year. I learned so much from then, so for me it was that year a learning school”
Oh, and finally: every rider in this photo (from 2014) got her rainbow jersey now (no need to include TTT titles). Surprised @Babelia1 didn't mention it yet. #RaboLiv #DreamTeam #Oostende2021 pic.twitter.com/7krDwXm0iS
— Saul Miguel (@kapelmuur29) January 30, 2021
“During 5 years I learned a lot from them, from the team and myself. I did so many big races, even the Worlds TTT a few times. You learn how to train, how to race, tactics, food stuff, the life as a pro cyclist. Like: eat – train – sleep – repeat”
“I started cycling because of my dad. He was cycling in a tourist group, like every weekend with the club a ride. I joined them a few times on a really old racebike and I liked it. My dad is teacher on a high school, and they give MTB trainings and weekends. I joined them a few times and that was something what I really loved to do. When we went on holiday to France with the caravan, my sister, my dad and I where cycling on the MTB on the road. In 2009 there was a small race in the forest in my home town and I participated overthere. I won and then I started with racing in 2010 in Junior Category, on the road.
Her great 2016 and the suffering:
In 2016 she archieves the Cyclocross World Championship, a title that brings back great memories. “The best in the world, it means you’ve beaten them all. It’s like touching the sky. But I also won a stage of the Giro Rosa on the road, doing 2nd in the prologue, working for the team…“
After those successes the bitter moments would come for a long period. “It is very hard when you are injured and can not do what you want to do. But staying positive is something that you really have to try. Even the smallest things, think positive. Take the time, do something else you like to do, that helped me a lot. Also you have to create a small ‘world’ with people that you are trust and who can help you. Not to much opinions, just a few people. And then think about your recovery. It will take much more a longer time then you expect, and you will also fall down, but in the end it is all worth it, and then you can do again what you love to do”
For CX’s lovers, she herself clears up doubts about a possible return. “I have been asked a hundred times in recent weeks when I will do cyclocross again, but I have to disappoint the fans for now. The focus is entirely on a good road season in 2023. I want to get through the winter rested and fit and prepare myself with full dedication to road cycling. Cyclocross does not seem to fit into my programme for this year. Also, I’ll go to Mallorca with the team in winter for a training camp.”
Thalita de Jong is one more of the plenty school of cyclists that The Netherlands has. “I think that the reason why we have so many quality cyclists in my country may be that since we were little girls we are very sporty and we always set ourselves goals. We try to give our best and always look for the best result. When you see my team, you can already see who wants to give 100% of himself or only 90% But I certainly don’t know yet, nobody knows…”