Introducing: Botje Racing
Rider | @jhgroeneveld
Pro Cycling Stats tells us that you’ve raced in some exciting places.
I have been to races in a bunch of countries. The most interesting are probably Congo, Togo, Albania, Iceland, Vietnam, Madagascar, Burkina Faso and Russia. If I were a writer, I could probably write a book about every race I've been to but let me focus on some highlights.
Togo, first of all, is beautiful! At the start of the first stage we were supposed to check out of our hotel. We all took our luggage out of our room and we were convinced by our Director Sportive that our luggage would be picked up from the curb of the hotel after we left. Obviously, it's super shady to just leave your luggage on a random curb in the middle of a capital city in Africa and of course, our luggage got stolen, including all of our passports. We went the next five days without our belongings, only having our kit to wear and some small items we had in our hand luggage in the team car. After several days our luggage was actually found.
Congo was my first race in a really foreign place, and what an experience, Vice even wrote an article about our experience. Half of the stages were cancelled, there was 'some political unrest' in the country, we were flown out to some city in Congo, only to fly back to where we came from without leaving the aeroplane.
“The race organiser was temporarily locked up in jail.... and on one transfer, our bus driver tried to stay awake by huffing some kind of white powder. Needless to say, the biggest adventure ever!”
Rider | @kajverhaegh
Tell us about your original professional cycling aspirations and your journey.
When I started cycling, I always wanted to make it to a professional level and was in a regional cycling program, racing a lot of UCI races, I was on the right pathway. But when I tore my knee ligament and got mono in the same winter, I had a hard time coming back to the level I was before and eventually lost the motivation for it. After that, I got to know a few guys who rode fixed gear and began doing that for fun, but that passion for racing returned and quickly escalated into racing fixed crits all over the world.
Tell us something your mum doesn’t know.
My Mum doesn't know about a lot that happened on my bikepacking trip in Israel and Jordan. That our bikes got stolen, and we got held hostage, and they tried to extort us for cash when we wanted our bikes back. There was also this one time that I crashed in Burkina Faso.
“They had to sew the wound on my hip with fishing line. Yeah, I still don’t think mum knows about that one.”
Martijn van Strien
Rider/Video Storyteller | @fernwee.cc
You’re the oldest but the least experienced cyclist in the group. How did you first get into cycling?
I worked as a bike messenger while I was studying, but after I graduated, I didn’t touch a bike for five years. My Dad has always ridden race bikes as a commuter and he asked me to go on a trip to the Dolomites with him three years ago. I fell back in love with cycling and just wanted to discover as many sides of it as possible, including racing. Three years later, I can’t imagine ever not riding.
In a former life you were obsessed with sustainability and started a fashion design studio based around this premise.
Yeah I spent about five years trying to develop a more sustainable way to produce clothing. The whole idea of it was that we would only create garments when and where they were needed. Right now a lot of clothing is produced that never gets sold, let alone worn, and I thought I could figure out a way to eliminate this. Let’s just say that I needed a break. I picked up a bike, and haven’t looked back since.
Rider/Photographer | @mikevlietstra
You've been riding for a long time. What got you started so early and did you have much success in your early racing years?
You can actually race when you are only eight in the Netherlands. Small races of 8 laps of just over a kilometre are held every Saturday and Sunday in a different village or city. I had been on vacation with my grandfather and grandmother for a week and when I returned my Father had refurbished a yellow bicycle for me, I immediately fell in love.
I had some success as a young boy, having actually finished in the top 3 riders in the Netherlands, and it was very nice to being constantly winning races on the weekends. When I was 12 I became Dutch National champion, which also means in the Netherlands that you can ride in a beautiful red, white and blue jersey for a year. In later years, racing in higher categories, I was able to win a few classics in the Netherlands and Belgium, but before things got too serious, I was committed to my studies at university and stopped pursuing cycling professionally.
Rider/Manager/Photographer | @botje
Botje translated in Dutch is small bone or as the team defines it and we translate it to Australian: ‘Skin and bones’ which is best used to describe team manager Jelmer.
I must say that being a father for 3 weeks hasn't affected my riding style on the bike, yet. Maybe this additional weight of responsibility will kick in once racing begins.
We heard you’re pretty vocal at races when coaching from the sidelines.
Yeah, I can be pretty loud sometimes. I try to motivate the team and try to give them some valuable info about the situation in the race that they can't see while on the bike. My most used phrase is: “GET TO THE FRONT!”