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‘Every year there are more and more riders that are capable of winning’: Q&A with Kasia Niewiadoma

In-depth
29 Jun 2022
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Canyon/SRAM’s lead rider talks to Cyclist about the growth of the women’s sport and the importance of the upcoming Tour de France Femmes

Words Robyn Davidson Photography Thomas Maheux

Cyclist: You finished second at Brabantse Pijl and fourth at Strade Bianche this year. How would you rate your season so far?

Kasia Niewiadoma: I wouldn’t say I’m hugely disappointed but I’m definitely unsatisfied. I came into this season having big hopes and unfortunately I got Covid.

Since then I feel like I’ve just been floating, having good days but then setbacks that I cannot understand. It makes me want to finish the season and start a new one all over again. 

Cyc: What motivates you to get out of bed and ride?

KN: When you’re in good form, everything seems lighter and easier. It’s the chase of getting to that state and wanting to win.

Also just watching other girls winning and seeing a lot of badass women doing cool things in the world. It makes you want to be one of them. 

Cyc: Have you found it easy to develop into a leadership role at Canyon/SRAM over the past few years?

KN: For a while I was kind of struggling with it, but I feel like it comes with age. When you are young and do well, you feel like you must never underperform, and you suppress your feelings because you don’t feel that you can speak up.

But once you fail and realise that nothing too bad happens, you gain confidence. In the last two years I have been able to embrace my leadership role instead of trying to run away from it.

Cyc: What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in the women’s peloton?

KN: Every year there are more and more riders that are capable of winning. There were about three riders fighting for victory at the start of my career.

Another change is the number of good teams we have now, and it’s nice to see men’s teams have women’s team too. It adds an extra dynamic to the peloton and to the racing. 

Cyc: In terms of growth, do you think anything can be changed in the short-term to help women’s racing?

KN: I still believe there’s a huge jump from racing as a junior to becoming a pro athlete. Putting extra emphasis on under-23 races would be a great step for the 19 or 20-year-old juniors, instead of immediately finding themselves racing with people like Annemiek van Vleuten and Demi Vollering.

Of course, if somebody is extremely strong, go for it. But it would be nice to at least have an option. 

Cyc: Do you feel like you still have room to develop as a rider?

KN: In the last couple years I have been trying to specify what kind of rider I am, and it felt like I was running out of time. Am I punchy or do I prefer longer rides?

Given the fact that our Tour de France ends with two hard climbs, I want to put more attention to developing my sustained power efforts. I can make a difference there.

Normally I would just want to do short, punchy intervals. It’s nice to have a goal.

Cyc: How important is a race like the Tour de France Femmes for women’s racing, and how much are you looking forward to it?

KN: Nobody really realises how big it’s going to be. We have expectations and our imaginations go crazy. The Tour de France is such an iconic race that even people not connected with our sport recognise it.

It definitely gives extra exposure to the sport and hopefully will encourage youngsters to start riding. 

Cyc: Are you targeting any stage in particular?

KN: Stage 3 looks interesting [133km, hilly]. The stage with the gravel section as well [Stage 4]. You never know what can happen there.

I do want to have a day-by-day approach, and together with my teammates see how we feel and how we can work together and fight on those super-hard days, but having a stage victory would be amazing.

Cyc: Who will be challenging in France?

KN: If Annemiek van Vleuten prepares for something, she’s going to show up being good. SD Worx have good riders like Demi Vollering and Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, then Trek-Segafredo with Elisa Longo Borghini.

I have a feeling there will be a rider who surprises us too – a rider that we don’t expect but will be there ready for that fight. That’s what I like about each season: how often we have a rider who wasn’t necessarily performing too well before and now she’s shining.

Cyc: Who is that rider this season?

KN: Lotte Kopecky for sure. Everyone knew she was so strong but in a team that gives her support and faith it changes everything. 

Cyc: What would you say is the best part of being at Canyon/SRAM?

KN: Everything comes so naturally. I feel like we just trust the process and ourselves. I love the atmosphere. We know that even if we lose we will get there because everyone tries so hard.

We never get disappointed after a race in a way that we want to give up. It gives us extra strength to fight harder. 

Cyc: Which races do you most want to win in your career?

KN: Strade Bianche and Flèche Wallonne. I feel like for some reason those are races I keep chasing. 

Cyc: When you aren’t training or racing, what do you enjoy doing?

KN: Baking. I started in lockdown. It takes up a lot of time and I love it because there’s this whole preparation connected with it. My boyfriend [Taylor Phinney] just loves eating baked goods. 

Cyc: And how does it feel having one of the best kits in the peloton?

KN: It’s always nice to have something feminine or a kit you like wearing and not a jersey packed with sponsors and letters. It makes you stand out and that’s cool.