"We Always Go For the Victory": Christine Majerus Interview
Christine Majerus of Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team is easy to spot in the women’s peloton. As a 28 time national champion, including every Cyclocross, Road, and Time Trial championship since 2010, she’s never seen without the signature red, white, and light blue stripes of the flag of Luxembourg. While frequently able to ride for her own results, Majerus most often finds herself in the role of star domestique, delivering her teammates to wins in the biggest races on the calendar. We caught up with her shortly before her superb fourth place at the Cyclocross World Championships.
You have been on Boels-Dolmans for several years. How have you seen the team evolve and change over the years to remain at the top?
When I first signed with the team, it was more like a middle-ranked team [Boels-Dolmans has now been the top-ranked women's team for two consecutive years]. Danny [Stam, team manager] did a great job. It was a real project in terms of growing each year. They all made pretty good decisions with recruiting good riders, maybe not always the best in terms of performance, but riders who really fit together and make the group work well together. That led to a great team. I’m really happy I made that decision in 2014. I have absolutely no regrets and I am proud to be part of it.
You also race cyclocross. Is it challenging to do both well? Or does cyclocross improve your road racing?
Last year, cyclocross was really important because I had Worlds at home [Luxembourg], so it was a real goal for me. I really did the season like I was a pure cross rider. I cannot do that every year. So now I’m coming back a bit to the mentality that I had before, and I use cyclocross as preparation for the road season. It’s great power training and intensity. What I can do in competition I don’t have to do in training anymore, and if you add the fun I have during cyclocross races that’s perfect. That’s why I do it. You wouldn’t do cyclocross if you don’t enjoy it or love it. It’s too much hard work for that. I really enjoyed the last years. Especially last year was a really nice season for me. Maybe I’ll come back for a full season but more to the end of my career. For now, I’ll go back to the road race preparation system, which works pretty well [Majerus finished a career-best fourth at the 2017 Cyclocross World Championships].
Photo ©Balint Hamvas
You finished sixth at road Worlds in September. Does that give you increased confidence or change your goals headed into the new season?
For this year’s Worlds [Innsbruck, which is supposed to be pretty hilly] we need to switch the training a little bit and spend more time in the mountains, but I’m not yet there. I was really happy that I finished sixth. With Boels-Dolmans, I often have more of a support role, and I get my chance from time to time. When I get the chance I grab it. That day I had the full support of the girls. For Worlds, I’m obviously all alone, with almost no help, and I never really had great results at Worlds. The fact that I could finally have a good performance was really satisfying and I hope it shows that I can also go for a really good result when everyone is there. I don’t know if that will change something in my role in the team. Seriously, I don’t really think so. But it was nice to have a top 10 in every World Championship race I did in 2017, like Cross seventh, second with the TTT and sixth in Road Worlds. I don’t think that are too many girls who can say that. I’m really proud of my consistent riding. That’s the biggest power I have.
Before Worlds in Innsbruck, you definitely have other races you’ll focus on. What are they?
I obviously love the hard, cold, crappy weather races. It feels like ‘cross. I really like all the Spring Classics. Then again, on this team it’s pretty hard because we have so many good leaders. We are riding for the best one that day. If it’s me, it’s me. I’ll be there and I’ll do it. If it’s not me, I focus 100 percent on supporting my teammates. I know that during the year I’ll get my chance once or twice. Last year in Luxembourg and at Tour of Britain [OVO Energy Women's Tour] I was second in GC and had some really good stage results.
What’s the best moment of your career so far?
In your career you have a lot of them. Otherwise it would be a sad career! [laughing] I have two, actually. Cyclocross Worlds in Luxembourg [January 2017] was a huge highlight for me. Not necessary at the moment itself because I was focused on my race, but when I look back and hear what people were saying about the race and how exciting it was, that the women’s race was the best race. Also, when I was in the lead! Ok, that didn’t last long [laughing], but people went crazy. It’s really something I’m proud of. I’d been working a lot off the bike to promote the event and make it really popular. I’m proud that it worked out and I’m also proud that behind all the responsibilities I had off the bike I could still perform well. I had a great winter with a lot of wins and I could improve compared to the years before. That’s not a win but it’s kind of a victory for me.
The second moment is when we won in Qatar the World Team-Time-Trial in 2016. For me, it was something special because I’ve never been World Champion before. Every other girl on the team was World Champion on the track, on the Road or on ITT/ TTT. For them, it was maybe not that special anymore, but for me, it was special to get that medal and to call myself World Champion.
You come from the small nation of Luxembourg. That nation has produced more than its share of great cyclists including Charly Gaul and Frank and Andy Schleck. What is the cycling culture like?
We have a really old cycling culture. I don’t know how we’re doing it, but there’s always someone, one or two per generation, making it at the highest pro levels. Maybe because we have all those idols that we are looking up to. We do not do anything different to find talent, and I even think that we are behind other nations in talent development. I think we could do so much better than what we are doing now. Despite that, we have good riders like Bob [Jungels] and Jean-Pierre [Drucker] at the top of their level, and the upcoming boys look promising too. My only hope is that I can also say that in 10 years with the women. It got a little bit better in the few last years, and I hope we’ll have someone replacing me soon, because I cannot do it for another ten years.
You have experience riding with disc brakes on your Cyclocross bike and now you are riding the disc brake version of SRAM RED eTap on the road. What are your thoughts on disc brakes for the road?
I’m really positively surprised. I’ve been riding disc brakes for three years in cyclocross, but not on eTap [SRAM Force 1 HRD] and I always thought it would be nice with eTap as well. I’m really happy especially with the hoods, [they] are really nice and comfortable. And then the shifting logic is the same and I really like it. I really believe that the braking is so much better with disc brakes, especially when the weather is bad. And for cyclocross, I would never go back to rim brakes. … For cross, they made me so much better and confident on my bike. I can just brake later and go faster. I save so much time. I believe it’s going to be the same on the road.