Former triathlete Lone Meertens has signed with the Lotto Soudal Ladies team for 2020, the team has announced.
Meertens is a 21-year-old civil engineering university student who will combine her studies with racing at the highest level, having spent the past two seasons with Belgian domestic team Keukens Redant.
"Lotto Soudal ride a really nice programme, and that's important to me," said Meertens in a press release.
"I needed the past year to get experience, but now I'm ready to make the step up to a UCI team. I already know some of the riders, like Julie Van De Velde and Jesse Vandenbulcke, and the team is very professional," she said. "I'll be satisfied at the end of next season if I've taken another step forward and if I feel that I've been able to contribute something to the team."
As for her studies, Meertens feels that she'll be able to strike the right balance between racing, training and her university commitments.
"I'm now in the final Bachelor year of my civil engineering studies, and there are two Master years to come," she explained. "I'll be doing fewer modules because I want to grab the opportunity Lotto Soudal gives me with both hands, so now I'll have more time to train and rest.
"When I did triathlon, I noticed that you won't benefit from training if you don't take enough rest," said Meertens. "During the week, I'll be living in Leuven, and will easily be able to go cycling or go to the gym between classes."
Meertens made the switch to road racing after several years racing triathlons.
"During races, I often had stomach aches, and it was hard to combine triathlon with my studies," she said. "My brother was cycling already, and in 2017 I took part in a race to see how it would go. It was 40°C that day. In a triathlon I would have had problems with my stomach, but that wasn't the case. Despite the heat, it went rather smoothly, and I had fun.
"It's not been easy to make the switch from triathlon, though," she continued. "The distance, for example, is a huge difference compared to the sprint triathlon, so I need to work on my stamina and power.
"Another aspect that I need to work on is my knowledge of the courses," Meertens said. "I love tough races, and with the Belgian national team I rode in the Czech Republic and discovered that I love riding uphill. I haven't been able to ride the Ardennes Classics yet with my current team, but those are races that I'm looking forward to riding in the future.
"I'll definitely need to further develop myself as a rider, and then my specialties will become clearer," she said.