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An interview with Mirjam Melchers, November 27, 2003
A Model of Consistency
Dutchwoman Mirjam Melchers (Farm Frites-Hartol) has been one of the top female cyclists in the world for the past four years, holding the UCI number one ranking on occasion as well as winning many highly rated races on the women's circuit. She admits that she is a one day specialist, however has still managed to win a few smaller stage races on the side. Cyclingnews U.S. correspondent Kristy Scrymgeour finds out a bit more about what makes her tick.
Look at the results of the women's World Cup races this year and you will often find Mirjam Melchers' name in the top 10. The 28 year old Farm Frites-Hartol rider is one of the few women who can do well in any one day race. She can climb, she can sprint and is experienced enough to be in the right place at the right time when the final selection is made. This year she won the GP Feminas Castilla y Leon round of the World Cup and finished third overall in the series behind the untouchable Nicole Cooke and German sprinter Regina Schleicher.
Melchers also finished first on GC in the Damesronde van Drenthe and the Emakumeen Bira, before bringing her season to a close with a fine silver medal at the World Championships road race in Hamilton, Canada. In 2003 she won a total of 11 races, a sure fire indication of her strength as an athlete and her consistency on the bike. How then did she rate her year?
Mirjam Melchers: I am pretty happy with the year I had, I had a good World's again so that gives me confidence for the future. One day I will get there.
Cyclingnews: Were you confident of getting a medal prior to the World Championships?
MM: Before the race I said that I wanted to get a medal, because I had never won a medal at World Championships before. But after the finish, silver didn't mean anything for a while. However right now I know that there was nothing else I could do on the finish line, after all the work I did to get [Jeannie] Longo back.
CN: You didn't look happy on the finish line at the World Championships. Did you think that Ljungskog didn't hold her line, or were you upset that she let you and Nicole Cooke chase down Longo?
MM: She let us do all the chasing and I think she needed to take responsibility with her status. Also in the sprint she didn't keep her line after she passed me, which I didn't think was necessary.
CN: Looking back on the season what do you rate as your best result?
MM: The World Cup I won in Spain (Castilla y Leon) and after all, the World Championships, because it was one of my strongest races this year.
CN: This year you placed in the top 11 of all of the eight World Cup races you competed in. I would say that you are one of the most consistent riders on the women's circuit. Was the World Cup your primary focus this year?
MM: No, not really. In 2002 my goal was to win the overall classification and that cost me a lot of energy. This year I picked some individual World Cups and I didn't travel to Montreal because I wanted more rest and training periods. But it is no secret that my strengths are in the one day events.
CN: In the four years since 1999, you've placed either second or third in the World Cup. Are you pleased with these results, or is it a little frustrating?
MM: In 2000 and this year it was not my goal to put everything on the overall, but more a result of consistent riding. In 2001 I was not good enough and last year I had to deal with a very strong team, and a lot of bad luck.
CN: What will be your focus next year?
MM: The World Cup next year will be the same for me as this year. The Olympics are very important, even as important as the World Championships, so the rest I will fit in as well as I can.
CN: Do you plan on going to Australia again for the first round of the World Cup?
MM: We will go to Australia again. For me this is the best start of the season, the weather is a big plus and the competition is also welcome. However the World Cup will not be my biggest goal there. My form will be far from good in that period and the Olympics are in August you know!
CN: Last Olympics you worked hard for Leontien Van Moorsel. Are the Olympics a big goal for you? Will you be working for Leontien again next year or will it be her turn to work for you?
MM: The Olympics are a big goal for me, and what it will be in the race depends on who's the best that day. We will try together to get that title, that is the most important thing.
CN: Are you staying with Farm Frites-Hartol next year?
MM: I will stay with Farm Frites-Hartol next year, it is a very professional and a well organized team, and besides that I am having a good time here also.
CN: Tell me a little bit about when, how and why you started racing.
MM: Friends of mine were fanatic cyclists, and I had to hear all their stories about the races. That's why I got interested and I said that I wanted to see it with my own eyes.
After the first race I saw, there was no turning back and I stopped playing soccer. Soccer was almost done anyway, because all my teammates were having babies. I start cycling in 1996 and in that year I also did my first race.
CN: How do you think you have managed to remain so consistent over the years compared with other riders?
MM: I don't know exactly why I am so consistent. I don't need a lot of time to get into good form. But most important is to be one hundred percent focused and motivated in your training the whole year and together with that you need a well-balanced yearly plan. For me it is also important to have a break in the middle of the season.
CN: What is your best memory in cycling so far?
MM: I have a lot of good memories. I have already won some good races but the best is yet to come and I still have to visit a lot of places in the world. But a very good memory was my first World Cup victory in Italy, the Primavera Rosa.
CN: So now it's the off-season and I imagine a little cold in the Netherlands. Are you back into training again?
MM: It is starting to get really cold and wet here. Right now I started my training again, and this will be doing some cyclo-cross and using my Tacx-rollers. I also go the track once a week. Actually I have a pretty easy winter, after January I am training more seriously.
CN: What else do you enjoy doing in the off season besides training?
MM: I like to go to the movies, eating nice and fatty food, see people I don't see much in summer, drink wine (sometimes too much), study a lot because I have the time now, and I am crazy about my Xbox.
CN: How does the long term future look for you?
MM: Right now I'm thinking of racing till the next Olympics in 2008. That will be a good moment to quit. But you never know how things go, it also depends on what the future will bring in the coming years.
CN: Have you thought about what you might want to do when you finish cycling?
MM: Last year I started to study again, but now I study from home, because it is a big problem to combine cycling and study. So this is a good start for my new career later on, but I'll just see what is coming down my path, hopefully something in the sport.