'Even winning is possible' - Puck Pieterse dreams big ahead of Tour of Flanders debut

MACCAGNO CON PINO E VEDDASCA ITALY MARCH 17 Puck Pieterse of The Netherlands and Team FenixDeceuninck UCI Womens WorldTour young blue jersey prior to the 25th Trofeo Alfredo BindaComune di Cittiglio 2024 Womens Elite a 1405km one day race from Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca to Cittiglio UCIWWT on March 17 2024 in Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca Italy Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck) continues her impressive spring run (Image credit: Getty Images)

Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck) will make her Tour of Flanders debut next Sunday after scoring another WorldTour-level top 10 at Gent-Wevelgem, in what will be just her tenth senior appearance on the road of her fast-tracked Classics career.

The multi-discipline Dutch star was originally scheduled to end her road season after Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen but new plans had already been made after she impressed at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche again in her first two weeks of racing.

“I’ll do the Ronde,” Pieterse told Cyclingnews after the finish in Wevelgem. 

“At first I was going to stop at Dwars door Vlaanderen but I think quite quickly after the first two weekends of racing we already decided I would go until the Ronde because it's only a few more days.”

However, for the 21-year-old who is eyeing up the Paris Olympic Games mountain bike cross-country event as her key goal in 2024, that will be the last big race where she competes at on the road for a while.

“After the Ronde, it’s really done,” she said. “I would love of course to go further when it goes this well, but the mountain bike just has the priority. 

“I hope there are still some years for me to ride Roubaix and the Ardennes.”

No result is out of reach for the confident Pieterse and why would it be given how well she raced at Ronde van Drenthe and Trofeo Alfredo Binda. She was third on both occasions and only beaten by Lorena Wiebes, Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) and Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek).

For Flanders next Sunday, the 21-year-old isn’t limiting her ambitions. 

“With how it’s going now, of course, you have to dream of the highest and I think we have a really good team,” she told Cyclingnews

“We worked really well together here at Gent-Wevelgem, so I think even winning is possible.”

Pieterse proved herself to be one of the best Classics riders in the field at Gent-Wevelgem, able to respond to Kopecky’s infernal pace the first time up the Kemmelberg and following well in group two after the second ascent. 

However, the young Dutch rider never believed a break was going to make it to the line in Wevelgem with SD-Worx Protime and Lidl-Trek committed for eventual-winner Wiebes and Balsamo to battle it out in a bunch sprint.

“It was a good one, it was very hectic, especially going into the first time around the local laps with the climbs,” Pieterse said. “But I think today was just destined to be a sprint with how the big teams were working and how the wind was.”

As has been the case in each of her few road starts the past two seasons, even the big bunch sprint, something completely alien to Pieterse who is used to attacking single file on muddy trails, wasn’t too much to handle.

“Today was my first time being in such a big sprint. The last two weeks have both been sprints uphill with a really small group and now it’s quite a big group with a lot of pushing so I maybe wasn’t in the best position,” she said, comparing to Drenthe and Binda where reduced groups played out the final in contrast to near 40-strong group that arrived at the line at Wevelgem. 

“But I’m really happy that I could be in the top 10 again. I didn’t know what to expect of the season, but it's been really good till now, so yeah I’m just happy to be here and that it goes so well.”

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