After 'worst season ever', Ensing is eager for BikeExchange 2021 success

Janneke Ensing made a comeback from a succession of injuries and setbacks in 2020 to emerge in 2021 at the Team BikExchange camp with a renewed focus on the rest of her cycling career.

Dealing with a long-term back injury, crashing and breaking her collarbone, then crashing and tearing a leg muscle during 2020, on top of all the coronavirus restrictions, it was a rough year for Janneke Ensing.

The speed skating-convert made it back to racing in October, but wasn't at the same level as the rider that had graced the podium of big races in recent years.

"Yeah, it was really hard," said Ensing. "It was the worst season ever for me. Two big crashes and then also the corona. I'm very lucky with this team and it was hard for me to make the decision to keep going with my career.

"When you have such bad luck you are mentally going down, down, down. The first race coming back into the team, I was so lucky and everyone was so helpful and also during my 'shit' period. That makes me so happy, I'm glad I'm in this team, it's a nice family."

Ensing credits a lot of her decision to continue to fight through the setbacks to a strong, supportive team environment at Team BikeExchange. 

"I think that's the most important thing," said Ensing of the open atmosphere in the team. "During my 'shit' period, all the girls and all the staff sent me a message asking how it is with me. I never had that before... when you are out, you are out. I was out, but I didn't have the feeling that I was out of the team."

While the outside influence of the team was helpful, the desire to forge on and not quite comes from within and for Ensing, who has won races like Le Samyn and a stage of the Boels Rental Ladies Tour, but is just as famous for her almost-wins, placing second at Classic San Sebastian, the Tour Down Under and Dwars door de Westhoek and Gent-Wevelgem on two occasions.

The 34-year-old has been right up with the best in some very big races and wanted the chance to continue to improve from those showings.

"It's hard to say, I knew that I could show more on the bike," said Ensing. "I know it's still in my body and I made a big step in the last two years apart from the bad luck. If I can see what I did, and still make improvements, it's stupid to stop now and in this way."

"I've been at the highest level of sport for 20 years, not only cycling, that's been six years. I started ice speed skating at the highest level at 15 years old. It's really strange to view life this way. I knew that there was more in my body and I want to show that, especially on this team, I'm really happy here."

Older athletes have been successful at the top levels of cycling in both the men's and women's side of the sport, with Annemiek van Vleuten in particular seeming to go from strength to strength in her late thirties. Ensing is 34, but sees time in sport as more the key factor rather than age.

"I think for Annemiek and for me it's the same," said Ensing. "We started very late. I'm now a serious cyclist, in my opinion for the last four years. Also, Annemiek started very late with cycling, first she was a soccer player. I think it makes a little bit of difference. If you start late like me, maybe you can make some more steps. 

"I see some young girls who are doing what they are doing already, I think that's too much. I'm not sure if it's about age or when you come to cycling. Also, making steps in the peloton, longer hours, different training... it's hard to say."

In 2021, Ensing's ambitions are rather modest and team-based, with a focus on her native Dutch races as the early goal of the season.

"I'm not looking to the results, but more looking to a year without any problems. You never know what happens, but that's what I pray for, no injuries and no bad crashes. For the team, we'd like some nice results. For me, I'll really focus on Amstel Gold race and Liege, those are my favourite and where I want to be good."

The Australian WorldTour squad will take on a distinctly more Australian flavour when it comes to leadership opportunities in 2021, with Amanda Spratt, Grace Brown and Lucy Kennedy all riders of world-class calibre that can win the biggest races on offer.

"I think they can do a really good job," said Ensing. "Grace Brown has shown last year that she's in really good shape and next year I hope she can make that step again. Shit that we lose Vleuty, but I think it's a good thing as well. We can make another plan now and more riders have a chance now to have a good result.

While 2021 contains the re-scheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics, they are not currently a major goal for the Dutch rider, who has been part of two Netherlands world title-winning teams in the past.

"I'm hoping, but I'm also realistic," said Ensing. "I think I'm not a chance I guess. I think the selection is maybe done already. I'm focused more later in the season and they decide the team maybe already.

"It's not my focus, if you knew already that it's only a small chance you can better focus on other things."

With 2021 a new, clean slate for Ensing, her season will be one to follow with interest for cycling fans.

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6 min read
Published 18 January 2021 at 1:09pm
By Jamie Finch-Penninger