Amalie Dideriksen surprised even herself when she beat Kirsten Wild to take victory in the women's road race at the World Championships last October. Wild had been the overwhelming favourite heading into Qatar and was backed by the always enviably strong Dutch squad, but the 20-year-old Dideriksen, who had just two teammates and had won just one race that season, played it perfectly and accelerated past her rival with 100 metres to go.
On the Boels Dolmans team website, Dideriksen states that her personal ambition for 2017 is to prove that the win was no 'fluke'.
"I think mostly to myself," she tells Cyclingnews from her home in Denmark. "Of course, I want to prove to everyone else that I belong at the top of women's cycling and that I can be a better sprinter in the future."
Dideriksen came into the professional ranks with some serious pedigree, after becoming one of the few riders to win back to back junior world titles. However, this was the real deal, the biggest victory of her fledgeling career, and it has taken some time to sink in.
"I've dreamed about it for the future so to do it now was like 'wow'. I talked to Julie Leth, one of my Danish teammates, and she was like, 'This isn't a junior one Amalie, this is the senior one.' It's really the right one this time," says Dideriksen. "Winning the junior title was huge for me, but then you get into the senior category, and the juniors aren't so big. When I won the junior one, I wanted to get in the elite [level] because they can always wear the stripes on their sleeve. To be able to do it was crazy."
In her first year as junior world champion, Dideriksen got to wear the rainbow bands all season, but she turned professional the year after her second title and so couldn't ride in the jersey. Keen to get as much time as possible in the rainbow stripes this time around, she has been training in the jersey over the winter. Riding in the colours of the world champion brings with it added attention, and she's noticed a lot more people saying hello when she's out training.
"It's nice. I try to keep it the same; I'm still the same person," says Dideriksen. "The first time I was like what? Someone rode by me and said hello. It's funny, it's different because normally that doesn't happen.
Dideriksen took a sage piece of advice from teammate and former world champion Lizzie Deignan to ensure she remembers not to get lost in the furore of the title and remember her life outside of cycling. The Danish rider still has her feet very much planted on the ground and life at home hasn't been too different. The off-season has given her an opportunity to catch up with her studies.
Dideriksen's studies have been deferred, allowing her to complete them over five years rather than the traditional three. Over her professional career, she's had to mix her learning with her training, but that's due to come to an end this summer when she finally completes her studies just before the national road championships in June. It has been hard to combine the two, but it has been good for her as well, to get away from the all-encompassing nature of professional sport.
"Sometimes it's not so fun to do school assignments, but when I'm at home it's nice to go and talk to people who don't know anything about cycling," she says, joking that, "they don't think that I'm there so much but it's ok. I try to study a bit at the training camps also, on the days where we have the afternoons off."
Dideriksen will get her first chance to wear the rainbow stripes at a race when she lines up at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad at the end of this month. In recent seasons, Dideriksen's attention has primarily been on the track with the omnium at the Olympic Games but she will race a fairly full Classics campaign in 2017.
"I'm going to try and race as much as I can in the jersey," she says with a laugh.
At 20, there is still a lot to come from Dideriksen in terms of her physical development. The Classics will be about finding her feet and seeing how far she can push herself in longer, tougher races with the hope of coming good for later in the season. Increasing power and strength will be a big focus for Dideriksen in the coming seasons as she also looks to gain experience.
"I think I need to be stronger so that I have more strength at the end of the races," she explains. "I also need more experience in the whole final situation, what to do and how to react. There have only been a few occasions that I've had the possibility to do the final for myself and not for someone else. More experience is always good for getting better.
"I haven't really tried the Classics before so I don't know which one will suit me the best. I hope that I can survive for a long part into the race, and maybe be there in the final. Maybe there will be an opportunity late in the season for a bunch sprint. I would really like to go for that and be more consistent in the finals than I have been previously."