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Pauliena Rooijakkers draws on team spirit in her drive to be a better rider

Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM)
Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon-SRAM) (Image credit: Thomas Maheux)

Pauliena Rooijakkers is just entering her first season with Canyon-SRAM Racing, having joined from Liv Racing at the end of 2021, yet already feels settled.

“It’s my first year [at Canyon-SRAM Racing] but I really like it – the professionality, the way that training is going, and also the team around these riders,” Rooijakkers told Cyclingnews. “I’m really enjoying it, I feel at home here so it’s nice.”

Canyon-SRAM Racing, though registered in Germany, contains only one German rider; it is an exceptionally international team with eleven nationalities represented among its fifteen riders. For Rooijakkers, the team’s cosmopolitan composition is one of its primary attractions. 

“I like that there are a lot of riders from different countries, so you feel that you have a lot of respect for each other, and everyone can do their own thing,” she said. “It’s nice to see those different cultures. Before, I was always with a lot of Dutch riders and now I’m one of the Dutch riders, and a lot are from other countries. You feel like there is a lot of respect in the team and everyone can be who they are. That’s nice to see that you’re not different or something.”

Drawing from this camaraderie, Rooijakkers is determined to support her teammates to the best of her ability throughout the season.

“In the upcoming races like Amstel and Liège I hope to be in good shape there to support the team,” she said. Her focus, however, is directed more towards races with long climbs rather than the shorter, punchier efforts of the classics. 

“One of my roles is to be there in there in the final if it’s a hard, hilly race and to support the girls also, so we have more riders in the final, I think that’s one of the biggest things that we as a team want to have. I just want to be one of the riders in the final to support Kasia [Niewiadoma] or Soraya [Paladin],” she said.

Last season, Rooijakkers enjoyed her best year to date with top-ten overall finishes at the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas and the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta, as well as a seventh place at the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa. 

“I made a step last year to be a better rider and to get to the top,” she said. “I think Canyon are a really good team to support me in that. They trust me a lot, like that I will be there if there is a final coming up. We have more riders who are in the finals and who can survive the climbs, for me that also motivates me to ride a good final with these girls.”

To prepare for the upcoming season, along with the traditional training camps, Rooijakkers competed in a series of beach races, winning the European MTB Beach Race Championships. 

Although a flat beach at first seems like an utterly different discipline to the mountainous races in which Rooijakkers excels on the road, there are many similarities between them. 

“You have to push a lot of watts, this is a bit similar to climbing where you also have to push a lot of watts,” she said. “You have to suffer by yourself a lot, and that’s one of the things I like, with climbing you also suffer a lot, and on the beach you suffer to your limits in the wind and the sand.”

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Issy Ronald has just graduated from the London School of Economics where she studied for an undergraduate and masters degree in History and International Relations. Since doing an internship at Procycling magazine, she has written reports for races like the Tour of Britain, Bretagne Classic and World Championships, as well as news items, recaps of the general classification at the Grand Tours and some features for Cyclingnews. Away from cycling, she enjoys reading, attempting to bake, going to the theatre and watching a probably unhealthy amount of live sport.