Rider Announcement: Geerike Schreurs

You might not know Geerike Schreurs yet, but there’s a good reason she’ll ride The Gralloch in the colours of the road peloton’s most successful women’s team, SD Worx-Protime.

Her place riding Specialized for the Dutch super-team is a bit of a homecoming after she rode for the squad’s predecessor, Dolmans Landscaping in 2011. After only three seasons she left the peloton, returning as a team soigneur - or carer - at Hitec Products, before joining the newly formed Trek-Segafredo (now Lidl-Trek) in 2019.

Last year was the Dutchwoman’s first riding gravel but she still managed fourth overall in the Gravel Earth Series while working full time. Now, Gee, as her friends call her, is a full time gravel racer podium results are coming thick and fast.

So, read on to discover Gee’s journey into gravel racing, the life lessons learnt from three different careers in our sport and how she helped former Olympic and multiple World champion Anna van der Breggen back into cycling - kind of!

GS: “It's my first year doing serious gravel racing, last year I only did four but that was combined with working full time, signing up, having a fun day out. When I got a bit closer to the [Gravel] Earth final I was more serious because I was actually in a good position.

“The next big event for me is the Traka. Last year I did the 200km and I said next year I'm going to do the 360, not knowing how my life would look like.

“There was a lot of doubt between the 200 and a 360, going back and forth, but this whole year is getting out of my comfort zone, challenging myself physically and mentally, so just go for the 360.

The Gralloch: 360km is a long way (223 miles!) is the biggest challenge mental or physical?

GS: “It is a long way, but it's here in Girona, so I have time to recon the course and I know the people who organise it really well, it's just gonna be a good day out.

For me the biggest enemy is myself mentally, and for sure I will have some doubts along the way. The farthest I’ve done is 200km so I don't know how to approach it, so it's going to be a challenge physically for sure because it’s maybe 13 hours on the bike, so you need to plan your fuel, your your pace, all these things. And then of course keep your head quiet.”

The Gralloch: How's the year been so far, you’ve had some good results.

GS: “I've done a couple of races, the first one was at Santa Vall, in Girona, which was really nice. It was a three day stage race with all different kinds of stages and the last one I won and was very happy with that.

“After that I went to America, which was a great experience. The first race was pretty technical and I really enjoyed it, I didn't feel super well, but good enough, and I got fourth, so I should be happy with that. The second one I felt much better and I knew that course was suitable for me, but after six kilometres there was this crash and somehow I broke my handlebars so couldn't continue.”

[Since we spoke to Gee she finished second at the Trek UCI Gravel World Series race in Austria.]

The Gralloch: How did you get to join SD Worx-Protime?

GS: “I know Anna van der Breggen for many years, since 2008, she visited me here in the off-season and we started to talk.

“I decided already not to continue with my job and I would like to do more gravel, but it's hard, it feels like you only get sponsors when you are big on social media, and I'm definitely not big on social media. We were talking, she said Specialized had mentioned maybe having a gravel rider in Europe. And that's how it started.

“Danny Stam [SD Worx-Protime manager] said it might be good to be with Specialized and then get support from the team, so race in the clothing and join the training camps and getting a coach. So little seeds get planted and that blossoms, and they gave me this opportunity.”

The Gralloch: You’ve worked in the pro peloton as a soigneur, how was training with the team?

GS: “Of course I knew some of them, but they know me as a soigneur and why would a soigneur be able to ride a bike? I was a little nervous in the beginning, you are a rider and you get treated like a rider, I found that transition a little bit hard at times, I was like, ‘Can I do this? Can I do that?’ and they kept telling me you don't have to do anything!

“I started riding with the girls and it felt really good, I really enjoyed the training camps, and they're all very strong and very nice personalities. In the January camp I felt more and more part of it, but I don't have much to do with them during the season, only when I watch the races on the TV!

The Gralloch: Tell us about your road career.

GS: “I started riding a bike in 2009, I’d never been on a on a race bike at all, I played volleyball at national level. I got introduced by Anna [Van der Breggen], we’d been riding together a bit and I thought this is actually a lot of fun, maybe I can do a few races. In 2010 I was just part of a club, so I did a few races in the Netherlands, which went pretty well.

“I got asked by Dolmans to join the team in 2011. I only raced in the Netherlands, a few club races, but I had no idea how it was, what they expected, it was at that time with not much support, I had no coach, I was just riding the bike, basically. And of course I had to work.

“I was 20 or 21 and I'm very good at setting the level very high for myself, so I was always disappointed. Of course they didn't re-sign me.

“Then I met one of the managers in Sengers Ladies and they gave me a contract, and I asked would it be possible to bring Anna as well because she might want to race again [after a nursing internship in Ghana], so that's how we ended up together in the team.

“I learned a lot from Anna, we did really well in Tour de Bretagne and I could really support Anna there, but that team did not end well. On this moment I didn't know what I wanted in life, I had pressure from family, so I didn't know what to do.

“Mentally I was broken, and maybe I did not even have the level, I don't know, so I decided to quit after two years with Sengers and step out of cycling. I thought it’s just not something for me, but I sort of regretted it at the time, I always have.

“So that’s why now is my opportunity to actually do what I always wanted to do, but with much more life experience and with the right people around me. I feel like this was my choice, when I decided to quit then it was not really my choice.”

The Gralloch: How did you become a soigneur at one of the biggest teams in the peloton?

GS: “In Zwolle, where I lived, there was a year at school to become a sports massage therapist. I know Kirsten Wild [former WorldTour road rider and track world champion] pretty well and she was with Hitec Products [Norwegian team] and they were looking for a soigneur, she asked ‘would you like to come?’ I said why not? I don't have much experience but I know the racing so for sure I could make it work.

“Then in 2017 Kirsten joined Cylance Pro Cycling and she brought me with her and I stayed there for two years, full time. I did it all by myself and now I think how did I do all that? Six riders, massages, all the food, all the drink bottles! In 2018 that team folded so I was looking for another job and I knew that Trek-Segafredo would start a women's team, so I applied.”

The Gralloch: Being a soigneur is a pretty full on job, how much riding were you able to do?

GS: “I used to run, thanks to Ina [Yoko Teutenberg - former rider and Lidl-Trek sports director] she got me to do much more exercise. We used to go on morning runs before breakfast.

“In 2019 I had my bike at the Classics because you're staying there for over two weeks, and Ina said ‘Okay, tomorrow we're gonna be going to do a recon, you come with me.’ This was the first time I'd ridden with Ina, I didn't sleep that night, I was so nervous, I thought she would drop me straight away, but it was a really nice.

“If we had the time we would always go. We called it to dawn patrol, we would go at 0530 or six o'clock and ride for one and a half, two hours before breakfast, and if there was no time for riding we would go for a run. So actually over the years I got fitter and fitter.”

The Gralloch: How did you get into gravel?

GS: “I’ve lived in Girona two and a half years and there's a really big bike community here. I started to join the social rides here, sometimes on the gravel, so I started to enjoy the gravel more and more. And then you have the Traka in Girona, so I signed up and started from there.”

The Gralloch: Would you have left your job as a soigneur anyway?

GS: “I decided in back in August, but even in the start of the year I was feeling like I need a bit of a change. I thought if I stay in this job nothing else will come up because I don't have enough time to see what I want to do.

“It’s a bit scary but I knew if I stayed there just for the for the sake of staying it wouldn't make me happy, it wouldn't be good for the team, for my colleagues, for the riders, for anyone, so just try and you can always come back.”

The Gralloch: What are you hoping for coming to Scotland and riding The Gralloch?

GS: “It's my first time coming to Scotland. I'm really excited, I saw some pictures and it looks very beautiful.

“It's going to be interesting because I always want to give my best and perform as best as possible, but two weeks before I do The Traka, so I really wonder how I’ll come out of that. The Gralloch it's a bit of a shorter race, maybe a bit higher speed, so just get the speed back again, and just have a really good fun day out.”

If you want to follow Geerike on her gravel journey she’s on Instagram at @geegeertje.