Puck Pieterse aiming for cyclo-cross world title and Strade Bianche ahead of Olympic MTB focus

Young star outlines plans to balance three disciplines, with Paris 2024 mountain bike campaign the main focus

Clock09:16, Wednesday 13th December 2023
Puck Pieterse finished third in the Val di Sole round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Puck Pieterse finished third in the Val di Sole round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup

On Sunday morning, in the heart of the Italian Alps, just before the start of the snowy round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Val di Sole, GCN spoke exclusively with Puck Pieterse, one of the most talented multidisciplinary riders in modern cycling.

The 21-year-old Dutch wonder finished the race in Trentino in third place after a solid performance on the slippery snow and she revealed her main cyclo-cross goals for this winter, but also her mountain bike and road ambitions for 2024.

On the topic of ‘cross, Pieterse admitted that this season she is doing a shorter program, due to the busy schedule she had with the UCI Mountain Bike World Series between April and October. She won the series overall, taking four wins across the year.

“I started a bit later this year because the mountain bike season finished really late,” she told GCN. “Normally I would be done with MTB just after the World Championships or two weeks after, but this year I was leading the general classification and it went really well, so I made a full mountain bike season.

"That meant that the last MTB World Cup race was just a week before the first cyclo-cross World Cup round, and it was too much to do everything in one go, so I took a little break."

Read more: 'The whole system is flawed' – Cyclo-cross riders call for reform amid scheduling drama

Even though it will be a shorter CX season, the young Dutch phenomenon has a clear and ambitious target to achieve on the ‘cross bike this winter.

“The main goal is Worlds in Tábor this year. Of course I’ll go race by race to do my best, but the main focus is to win the World Championships. And for sure I will race at the nationals to defend my Dutch Champion jersey."

In order to reach the Worlds in her best shape, Pieterse will complete a busy stretch of races during the infamous ‘Kerstperiode’, the Christmas period that starts on December 23 and will carry the cyclo-cross riders straight into the new year without a break.

“I’ll do the World Cup races and probably also the Superprestige in Diegem,” she said.

That means we will see Pieterse racing four times in less than two weeks: Antwerp on the 23rd, Gavere the 26th, Diegem the 28th and then Hulst on the 30th of December.

Read more: Where will Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Pidcock and Wout van Aert clash this winter?

The Fenix-Deceuninck rider is undoubtedly one of the best mountain bikers and cyclo-cross riders in the world right now, but, with the Paris Olympics Games approaching in July 2024, she knows where her focus will lie next season.

“I will focus mostly on mountain biking to be in the right shape in Paris. That’s the reason why this year I did the full season of MTB and I will do it again in 2024,” Pieterse told GCN.

“We did the cross-country test event in Paris this year, it was a bit of an atypical course with a lot of gravel and not so many natural elements but it was quite fun, a bit technical with a lot of up and down. Looks a bit like Dutch courses but with more elevation.”

With an impressive fifth place in this year's Strade Bianche, Pieterse demonstrated that she can also be extremely competitive in road racing, which will be one of her targets in coming years.

“Yes, for sure in the future I will do more road races, but next year with the Olympics it’s not ideal to do a lot of road racing,” she said. “Probably after the Olympics I will try more on the road, and I think I will be in Siena in March for Strade Bianche.”

Cycling fans should expect to see Pieterse fighting for the podium - if not victories - in the biggest road races too in years to come, with the one-day Classics her clear favourite: “The nicest races are the Worlds and the Classics, like Strade Bianche or Ronde Van Vlaanderen.”

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