“To have this wish come true, still feels a bit unreal right now.”
The time trial world champion is expecting her first child and will miss the 2023 racing season, before returning to compete in 2024 with Trek-Segafredo.
“Me and Benjamin are super excited to share the news that we are expecting our first child in September. It has always been our wish to start a family and so to have this wish come true, still feels a bit unreal right now.”
The news follows a hugely successful 2022 season for Van Dijk during which she won her third World Time Trial Championship title and set a new UCI Hour Record.
“Together with the Team, and the unwavering support of Benjamin, I have achieved my biggest goals over the past two years. When discussions around an extension of my contract began last year, we spoke about my seemingly conflicting ambitions: I want to win a medal at the Olympics in 2024, but I would also like to start a family. Straight away, the Team was open to both scenarios and that was incredibly heart-warming.
“Of course, it’s a shame I won’t be racing my new supersonic shiny Speed Concept this year and I was really looking forward to wearing the rainbow stripes at the Tour de France Femmes and Vuelta, but you can’t have it all. Nevertheless, I’m very pleased to see these races taking the time trial discipline seriously and hopefully they’ll keep it for next year. It will also be weird not to defend my world title this year, but I think by that time my mind will somewhere else entirely.”
Van Dijk discovered she was pregnant while training with the Team in January and the news was met with an outpouring of love and support from everyone she spoke to.
“Obviously, pregnancy is not something you can completely plan for, particularly as an elite athlete where, as in my case, there is not always a regular menstrual cycle. Therefore, I feel even more fortunate to get pregnant. I took the test and found out I was pregnant when I was at training camp and after Benjamin, Manuel [Rodriguez, Doctor] and Josu [Larrazabal, Performance Manager] were the first ones I told the news.
“This is when the saying ‘the team feels like a family’ really comes to life. They were super excited for us and gave us their full support. A little later I called Ina [Teutenberg, Sports Director], who was in Australia at that moment, and she was also incredibly supportive and happy for us. Everybody has reacted super positively, and I couldn’t wish for a better environment to be in as I go on this journey.”
Van Dijk will return to racing with Trek-Segafredo in 2024 with a clear target in mind.
“I definitely have unfinished business with the Olympics. In 2016, I crashed in the time trial and ended in a disappointing fourth place then, I didn’t get selected to go to Tokyo so, together with Benjamin and Josu, we have already started to tentatively make a structured plan for my comeback in 2024 and for Paris.
“I haven’t looked beyond that, for the moment. We are really looking forward to this big adventure, but of course we have no idea what it’s really going to be like. Everything about this pregnancy is new for me, a lot is happening to my body, and I am embracing every change.”
Van Dijk’s maternity leave comes as her teammate Lizzie Deignan prepares to return to racing following the birth of her second child. The Dutch rider credits Trek for leading the way in allowing both women to combine family life with a professional career.
“Having Lizzie in the Team means a lot to me. She is a role model and seeing her do what she does, is very inspiring. Lizzie and Phil have proved that it’s possible to have a family and make a successful comeback. I’m sure I will be asking her for advice now and then as well.
“To have the full support from Trek is something special and they really are the game changers in women’s cycling. Having the option to get pregnant during your career should be a human right, but it wasn’t in our sport. However, thanks to Trek, other teams followed the example of supporting pregnancy and that eventually led to it also becoming a UCI rule.”