With Wielerrevue during 1997 Tour of Netherlands.

Today, Bill talks to Pat Jonker

One of Australia's (Netherland's) big prospects

January 1, 1998

Today I am talking cycling with Patrick Jonker, one of Australia's top professional road cyclists who rides for the Dutch team Rabobank. He is currently at home in Adelaide with his parents getting prepared for the coming season in 1998. I talked to him on New Year's Day.

Patrick began his professional career with Peter Post's Novemail team in 1994 with the credentials "Aussie most likely to succeed" stamped on his cycling licence. He seemed destined to fulfill these expectations with a fabulous GC result in the 1996 Tour de France. But some strategic errors in 1997 have forced him to seriously reappraise his plans for 1998.

We talked about these plans and a range of other cycling matters.

Patrick Jonker

Photo from Rabobank's Wielersite
Bill: Hi Pat, your'e in Adelaide at present, what are you doing on a daily basis right now?

Pat: Basically as many kilometres as I can. My routine usually involves doing five days a week for between 5 and 6.5 hours at a time. We do around 160-180 kms each time and I usually go out with Stuart O'Grady and Jay Sweet. We do a range of routes but often we go out to Birdwood, Williamtown and through the hills. We usually go pretty hard considering the terrain and the guys are pretty competitive and we often end up racing it on some days. Going really hard. Everyone is pushing themselves at this time of the year as much as he can and you get tired.

Bill: What else are you doing?

Pat: Well I am doing some gym work to build up strength but I find it hard to do this because the road kms are tough and it takes time to recover. But usually a couple of gym sessions a week.

Bill: When are you heading back to Europe?

Pat: I leave on January 16 and will arrive on the weekend. After the weekend, on the Tuesday, I am heading to Amersfoort in the mid-north of the Netherlands, where the Rabobank team will undergo rigorous testing at the hospital there. We do a thorough medical testing routine involving strength tests, VO max tests and the like. It is not only a test of our training fitness but also a medical test to see if we are ready for the stresses of the season.

Bill: What is your first serious race for the season?

Pat: In the second week of February I am down for the Tour Mediterraneen ...[France, February 11-15, Cat 2.3 stage race].

Bill: Before the start of last season, people were saying that of all the professional bike riders to emerge out of Australia in the past 10 years, you were the one most likely to succeed. 1996 was definitely a great year for you with ONCE. You got 12th in the Tour de France (one behind Miguel Indurain) and were ranked 74th on the UCI points (with 400 points). A good year?

Pat: Yes it was.

Bill: You had mentioned that you wanted to assume more of a team leader's role and the move to Rabobank gave you that opportunity, sharing it with Belgian Johan Bruyneel and Austrian Peter Luttenberger. Were your expecations high at the beginning of 1997? What were your plans? The Tour?

Pat: Yeh, the big plan was to crack the top 10 at the Tour. I put everything into that goal for 1997.

Bill: But it failed didn't it? You really had a bad 1997. You won the GC in the smaller Ruta de Sud but let it go in the Tour coming in 62nd (2.33.38 down on GC). You also dropped in the UCI rankings. What went wrong?

Pat: Well I targetted the Tour all year and didn't race several of the races I had previously raced to get to my maximum condition for those 3 weeks. The Tour for riders like myself, riding for the top GC places, but not quite good enough - like the real stars, Ullrich and those guys, it is difficult to put all your eggs in one basket for the season. It is too risky. After the first 10 days you are either flowing and you go on like in 1996, or you realise you haven't got it and you lose all hope. That is what happened in 1997. I knew after the first week that I didn't have it and so I then rode for Luttenberger.

Bill: So you made a strategic error in 1997 by putting everything into the Tour?

Pat: Definitely. It was too risky. There was the possibility of a top 10 on GC but I now realise that the sponsor is far more pleased to get stage wins. They are easier and the sponsor gets much more publicity. When Neil Stephens got his stage win last year, Festina got a lot of publicity. More than they would have got from a top 10 GC result. I know for 1998, that Rabobank are wanting stage wins and that will be an aim of mine. The GC is like a dream. It is the sign that you are an ultimate athlete. It is a very difficult thing. In 1997, the team fully supported me. But I didn't have the engine, it blew up in 10 days.

Bill: So what are your 1998 plans?

Pat: In 1997, I waited for the Tour for everything to come together. It was too risky. The team won't support that this year. So in 1998 I want to go back to my previous strategy. If you examine my performances since I was in Novemail you find that I do well in the smaller 4-10 day stage races like the Dauphine-Libere, and the Midi-Libre and the Tour of Catalonia, the Ruta de Sud and I could even go well in the Tour Suisse and I would like to do well in Paris-Nice. I am better over the 10 day tours. So I will definitely be targetting some of those and hoping for a GC win. In the Tour I will aiming for a stage win.

Bill: What about the classics and the World Cup events?

Pat: Last year I rode a good World Cup effort for Rolf Sorenson. In both the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Amstel Gold Race. I like the classics but they are extremely difficult. Rolf Sorenson is the best hope for them. I support him and often attack to break up the race for him but if I get a chance I will take it.

Bill: Yeh, in last year's Amstel Gold race you were the first to hammer up the Keutenberg (23 per cent). You were in form that day?

Pat: Yes, I was trying to break up the field for Rolf. I rode a good race.

Bill: Let's talk about strength. You are not a small Pantani type and yet you lack the strength of an Ullrich in the mountains. Is this your ultimate Tour limitation?

Pat: Yes. I realise that I cannot get the strength of Ullrich. I am a small gear pedaller in the mountains and I tried to use big gears and it didn't work.

Bill: I recall you saying at the start of 1997 that the improvement that you hoped to make was in the strength area for 1997. You were spending a lot of time in the gym with that aim in mind? Why didn't it work?

Pat: Yes, I tried to build up strength. I lack strength in the thigh areas. I tried everything before last season. I ate protein supplements, took amino acids, and ate the right balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats. I am naturally a small gear rider. My goal for 1997 was to try to pedal big gears in the mountains to keep up with the top group. I knew I had to change myself although I now realise I was born like this. In the Tour I had worked on the big gear strategy. I no longer had the "suplesse" to ride the small gears in the hills but I also was not strong enough to ride the big gears. Those guys often look like they are pedalling small gears - they pedal smoothly - but they are really riding large gears. Pantani often rides the 16 when we are in the 21.

Bill: You even got scientific help from the sports department at the University of Maastricht where you live?

Pat: Yes, the University leads the way in diet and nutrition research. I followed their dietary advice to the letter. They found I was spot on with respect to the composition of the diet between carbohydrates, protein and fats. My diet was spot on. But somehow it was my natural metabolism that stopped me building up in the legs. I was searching to become the ultimate machine. And increase my power to weight ratio. I tried everything to build up my legs to increase the power to weight ratio. But my natural metabolism prevented it from happening.

Bill: There have been rumours that you struggle with your diet. Do you have eating problems?

Pat: It is difficult. There is a struggle with diet. If you get too light you lose your power output. If you want to increase your power output then you can get too heavy and the ratio suffers. So it is a fine line. We all have the same problem. The university gave me a diet which I followed and it was spot on.

Bill: Some Aussie issues. You get asked this because you know how strong we feel about our sportspeople. I heard you say at the 1996 Maastricht Ritterronde that you were definitely Dutch. Where do you call home? I mean this in the spiritual sense.

Pat: Well I usually answer 50-50 Dutch/Aussie. But home in that sense is in Adelaide at my parent's house. I went to school here and mostly grew up here. I would say that this is what I call home. But I also was born in Amsterdam and went to primary school there and a bit of high school. So in that sense it is 50-50.

Bill: Well lets approach it this way. When it comes to national selections who do you dream of representing?

Pat: I want to represent Australia at the Olympics and at the World Championships. So when it comes to national team aspirations I think of Australia. But then I ride the Dutch national title and I would love to win the red, white and blue Dutch National jersey. I am not really a patriotic person like that. I realise that with cycling so small in Australia that I should try to be more of a Dutchman for the sake of the sponsor. And maybe wear an orange jersey at the Worlds. Rabobank are doing the right thing by me and I realise that I have a responsibility to return the generosity. I would like to remain with them for a few more years at least. So in that case I would do what I thought was right for the sponsor.

Bill: Let's talk a bit about Aussie road racing. We now have many riders in the peloton. More than ever. You came through under the guidance of Heiko Salzwedel who until recently was the Australian National Coach. Has he been an important influence on your riding?

Pat: Definitely. Heiko has been a very important influence and I would always support what he had done. He brought from his East German days a lot of things about lifestyle, training and nutrition that were unheard of in Australia. He has had a great impact on Australian road riding. The facts and figures speak for themselves. In 1989 when he took over the top job in the country we had around 3 or 4 professionals in Europe. In 1997, as they sack him we have 11 or more riding at the top level. That was due to him. And it was not just the riders in the programme [...the Australian Institute of Sport Road Squad which Heiko still runs as Head Coach...] who benefitted. It was also the State and A grade riders who were confronted with tougher racing and harder competition. It has lifted their performance.

Bill: Yes the A Grade became a lot tougher at State level!

Pat: Yes it did. And that was due to Heiko. He made a huge impact and lifted Australian road cycling out of the doldrums. I would always support what he has done.

Bill: So what did you think about his sacking by Cycling Australia from the top national Coaching position? [clarification - Heiko retains the AIS Road Coach position but has been sacked from the National Road Coach position]

Pat: It was very sad. The way they went about it wasn't very professional. The people in charge [...Cycling Australia...] should have faced him face-to-face and told him ... that there were financial problems, that he was spending too much, or whatever it was... they should have told him to his face. Instead it was a bit of a stab in the back. He shouldn't have been treated like that.

Bill: Was Heiko ever difficult to deal with though?

Pat: Yes at times he was a hard man to deal with. But this was usually only if the rider was not 100 per cent committed. Then he was tough. But usually if you were committed he was very helpful. It is bad for road cycling to have sacked him and unprofessional to do it in the way they have.

Bill: Changing subjects. The recent revelations in the Netherlands concerning PDM, and the doctor from Geleen, Wim Sanders and the rest of it points to widespread abuse of banned substances in cycling and other sports. The problem is compounded by the involvement of criminal elements which want to make money and don't care about the health of the riders. Do you think it is time for the UCI to legalise doping and take it out of the hands of the criminals and put the safety of the riders into the hands of proper doctors?

Pat:The UCI should spend more money on control. They should ban everything. There should be more controls and more testing. The Governments should become involved and should force the pharmaceutical manufacturers to put traces on their products so that at every stage of the distribution chain the substances can be traced. That would go a long way towards getting rid of them out of the sport. It is necessary also to stop the rumours that are around. Riders getting accused when they are innocent. It would also stop the abuse of the banned substances. Tracing is essential. The UCI should also institute full blood testing and test for everything. Sure it would cost money. It comes down to money. But the millions that are paid out in wages in the sport - perhaps, 10 per cent could be taken off the top to wipe it out altogether.

Bill: Some Dutch questions. Where do you live these days while you are in Europe?

Pat: Mostly in Maastricht now with my girlfriend. I also spend time at Etten-leur near Breda. The environment around there is very supportive. But Maastricht is great because I love the hills near there.

Bill: Yeh, I go and live in Maastricht every year too so the roads there are very familiar. What are your favourite training routes there?

Pat: Well, L-B-L is my favourite race so I often train over the last sections of the parcours. Down Spa.

Bill: Yeh, but the detail?

Pat: From Maastricht I take the small paths down alongside the main road between Maastricht and Luik. Via the back of Heer, Gronsveld, Rijkholt, Eijsden, Mariadorp, Moelingen, Vise/Bombaye, Dahlem, Cheratte, and those roads. Then I head out to Spa, Francorchamps, Remouchamps where I hit La Redoute, and then I often do the last section of the race. On other days, I trace out the last sections of the Amstel Gold race route and do the Keutenberg, Halembaye, Cauberg etcetera. On easy days I go north up the river (Maas) where it is flat.

Bill: What is your favourite race?

Pat: Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It is the dream race for me. I have done it 4 times and never done much but you can still dream.

Bill: L-B-L is my second favourite race.

Pat: Yeh, what is the favourite then?

Bill: Well the Ronde van Vlaanderen. I have always done okay in the Amateur Ronde van West Vlaanderen which covers a lot of the same route. So I especially like those little hills.

Pat: The walls!

Bill: Yeh, I think it special hammering down a wide road at 55-60 kms in the bunch knowing that in an instant you have to turn left up a very steep rough track a few bike widths wide. The battle for position really teaches bike handling skills.

Pat: Yep.

Bill: So if L-B-L is the favourite what is the least so?

Pat: Hmm, probably Het Volk.

Bill: What are your best experiences to date in your professional career?

Pat: I would say in the 1996 Tour in the Mountains when I was in the second group with Rominger, Miguel Indurain and Olano and we were chasing Ullrich and Riis.


Stage 17, Argeles-Gazost-Pamplona, 262km

 1. Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Festina             7.07.08
 2. Bjarne Riis (Den) Telekom                   s.t.
 3. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina              0.20
 4. Jan Ullrich (Ger) Telekom              	0.20
 5. Luc Leblanc (Fra) Polti                   	0.20
 6. Piotr Ugrumov (Rus) Roslotto              	0.20
 7. Fernando Escartin (Spa) Kelme             	0.20
 8. Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Carrera          	0.20
 9. Massimiliano Lelli (Ita) Saeco              8.28
10. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Roslotto          	8.28
11. Neil Stephens (Aus) ONCE                 	8.28
12. Tony Rominger (Swi) Mapei                   8.30
13. Manuel Fernandez Gines (Spa) Mapei  	8.30
14. Bo Hamburger (Den) TVM      		8.30
15. Giuseppe Guerini (Ita) Polti   		8.30
16. Patrick Jonker (Aus) ONCE    		8.30
17. Laurent Brochard (Fra) Festina 		8.30
18. Michele Bartoli (Ita) MG-Technogym		8.30
19. Miguel Indurain (Spa) Banesto   		8.30
20. Alberto Elli (Ita) MG-Technogym 		8.30
21. Udo Bolts (Ger) Telekom			8.30

Bill: At that moment you knew you were in the elite of professional cycling!

Pat: Yes, it was a great moment for me even though I wasn't in the top group. The other memory comes from the same Tour when my performance in the ITT cemented my 12th place on GC.


Stage 20, Bordeaux - St-Emilion, 63.5km

 1. Jan Ullrich (Ger) Telekom                1.15.31
 2. Miguel Indurain (Spa) Banesto               0.56
 3. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei                   2.06
 4. Bjarne Riis (Den) Telekom                   2.18
 5. Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Festina                2.19
 6. Chris Boardman (Gbr) GAN                    2.29
 7. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina              2.30
 8. Tony Rominger (Swi) Mapei                   2.47
 9. Yevgeny Berzin (Rus) Gewiss                 2.56
10. Laurent Brochard (Fra) Festina              2.57
11. Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Carrera            3.06
12. Patrick Jonker (Aus) ONCE                   3.37


 1. Bjarne Riis (Den) Telekom                92.26.32
 2. Jan Ullrich (Ger) Telekom                    1.41
 3. Richard Virenque (Fra) Festina               4.37
 4. Laurent Dufaux (Swi) Festina                 5.53
 5. Peter Luttenberger (Aut) Carrera             7.07
 6. Luc Leblanc (Fra) Polti                     10.03
 7. Piotr Ugrumov (Rus) Roslotto                10.04
 8. Fernando Escartin (Spa) Kelme               10.26
 9. Abraham Olano (Spa) Mapei                   11.00
10. Tony Rominger (Swi) Mapei                   11.53
11. Miguel Indurain (Spa) Banesto               14.14
12. Patrick Jonker (Aus) ONCE                   18.58

Bill: And the worst experience?

Pat: I have crashed a few times. That is never great. But I suppose the worst thing about the sport for me is the freezing and rainy days in early April. I spend the off-season in Australia building my base in very hot weather and I seem to have lost resistance to the cold when I go back to Europe.

Bill: So you are an Aussie after all?

Pat: Well when I lived in Amsterdam as a youngster I could go out in the really cold weather and I didn't seem to suffer from the cold. Now I definitely have lower resistance to it especially because of the hot Australian summer.

Bill: Okay we will leave it there.

Pat: Ring me when you are back in Maastricht and we can get together.

Bill: Yes, definitely. I will look forward to it. Take care and have a great 1998 season.

Pat: Thanks Bill. See ya later.

Bill: Time for me to go Training

Patrick's Essential Details

Date of Birth: May 25, 1969

Teams: Novemail with Peter Post (1994), ONCE with Manolo Saiz (1995-96), Rabobank with Jan Raas (1997-)


  • Pre 1994 - Member of Australian Institute of Sport Road Squad (with Heiko Salzwedel as Coach). Decisive victory in 102 km Birmingham stage of the 1993 Milk Race which gave him leadership of Heiko's road team. 1993 Australian Time Trial Champion. He left the AIS Squad to become a stagiaire with Peter Post in 1993, leading to the contract with Novemail in 1994.
  • 1994 - 4th on GC in Route du Sud, 6th on GC in Midi-Libre, 8th on GC in Dauphine Libere, 5th Dutch National Championship, 18th Tour d'Aragon, 21st Tour de Murcia, 29th Grand Prix de Wallonie, Abandoned Tour de France.
  • 1995 - 2nd Circuit La Sarthe, 44th Giro d'Italia, 2nd Summer Tour of Australia, 3rd Veenendaal-Veenendaal, 20th Tour de Romandie, 22nd Tour de Burgos.
  • 1996 - 12th Tour de France, Won Stage 4, 2nd Prologue, Stage 3 and Stage 5 and 2nd on GC in Tour of Catalonia, 2nd Maastricht Ritterronde, 5th la Classique des Alpes, 8th Olympic Games ITT, 15th Critérium International, 19th Tour de La Rioja, 33rd Liège-Bastogne-Liège
  • 1997 - GC in Route du Sud, 3rd in Roosendaal Criterium, 2nd in Regio Tour International, 23rd Catalan Week,
  • UCI Classifications - 225 in 1994, 182 in 1995, 74 in 1996 (400 points), 83 in 1997 (259 points).

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