The star from the Netherlands will aim to improve on last year's silver medal


Puck Pieterse doesn't need an introduction. A member of both Alpecin Deceuninck and Fenix Deceuninck teams, managed by the Rodhooft brothers, the patrons of the cycling star Mathieu van der Poel, Pieterse competes in mountain biking with the former and in cyclocross and road cycling with the latter.

Excelling in all three disciplines, she topped the overall standings in the mountain biking World Cup, won a bronze at the World Championships, and secured victory at the European Championships. In cyclocross, she dominated six World Cup races and earned a silver at the World Championships. Her primary winter rival is compatriot Fem van Empel, known for her challenging competition. Despite van Empel's exceptional technique and endurance, Pieterse is one of the few riders who can defeat her. Will she succeed at the World Championships in Tábor?

How do you like the track in Tábor?

It's quite a challenging track. On Friday, the track froze, then it thawed, creating conditions I haven't experienced before. The track is hard to read at the moment, with frozen and muddy sections, and it will change a lot. Additionally, two categories will race before our event, so it will be churned up. Although the wind is blowing, the ground is soft here, so it will be muddy.

Do you find it suitable?

Yes, definitely. It's a playful track. Under normal circumstances, it's very fast, but even now, it's nice and I like it. It has a playful nature. However, it involves a lot of strength; in some places, you sink completely.

Do you jump over obstacles? (In the women's category, Pieterse is essentially the only woman who can jump over obstacles on almost any track, giving her a significant lead, editor's note.)

Yes, I jump, but this year they are higher, making it much more challenging. I had to try them properly because there is soft mud between them, and you can get stuck. During the race, however, you just have to jump them. (Although jumping never goes according to plan, Pieterse successfully overcame the obstacles several times.)

You have achieved great success in the Czech Republic, do you enjoy racing here?

Yes, definitely. The fans are fantastic, supporting everyone who competes, not just the top athletes. In the Czech Republic, I stood on the podium for the first time in a cyclocross World Cup race, and I also won the first mountain biking World Cup race here, which was unexpected.

But you have never won in Tábor...

No, I've never been outside the top ten here. I've been second twice, but now it's time to change that!

Do you have a plan on how to beat Fem?

Not yet. I'll have to think about it. Fem is incredible, it's not easy to defeat her as she hardly makes any mistakes. I have only my personal plan - to go full throttle from start to finish.

What are your plans after the World Championships?

I'm going skiing in Austria! (laughs) I want to enjoy a moment of rest. The season has been long, and a challenging season is approaching. After the break, I'm heading straight to Spain for a training camp, and then I'll be back in the racing circuit.

Is the Paris Olympics the main goal for 2024?

I have several goals, and the Olympics is one of them. I also want to compete more on the road in the future. Last year, I raced in Strade Bianche, and I like such races. My team also wants me to participate in more road races. However, I'll only compete on the road until the end of March, followed by a short break, and then I'll be fully focused on mountain biking. I'm doing well off-road, and I also have a chance for success at the Olympics, so it's the main goal for 2024.

Author: Tomáš Ježek

Photo: Miloš Lubas