The Monique Van der Vorst Story
Heading into what will be her first pro season, former Paralympic competitor turned cyclist Monique Van Der Vorst has been working hard and is encouraged by the progress she has made on the bike.
The Dutchwoman’s story has captured the attention of many in recent months, with her signing by the women’s Rabobank team giving her remarkable history an exposure it didn’t previously have. The 27 year old has defied expectations and perplexed medical science after she regained the use of her legs, years after being paralysed.
Van Der Vorst flew to Fuerteventura on Tuesday and will stay there until January 9th. She told VeloNation yesterday evening that things have been going well. “It is 20 degrees here and it is perfect,” she stated. “I’m here by myself – I’ll be heading to Spain with the team in February, but I wanted to get some training in beforehand.
“I’ve been training hard and also working on my book, which will be released in April. I have time to write and to train, and I have a great hotel to stay in, so I am happy.”
Losing the use of one of her legs at thirteen years of age and then the other when she was hit by a car, Van Der Vorst spent years in a wheelchair. She had a very successful paracycling career, clocking up two silver medals in the 2008 Paralympic Games and also taking the world Ironman championships in Hawaii the following year.
She had no expectations of recovery, but things started to change in March 2010 when a cyclist crashed into her handcycle while training in Majorca. Hospitalised for severe back pain, she suddenly noticed in June of that year that she could feel a tingling sensation in her left foot. The feeling gradually returned to her limbs and she took her first steps the following month.
By November 2010 she was training on an indoor bike, using it to build up her muscles, and in March 2011 she began cycling outdoors. No longer eligible to race the handcycle, she clocked up almost 10,000 on a standard bike between May and November. Her determination paid off when she was given a contract with the new Rabobank squad.
Thus far, everything is going to plan. “Things have been going very well,” Van der Vorst said. “The launch was great, and it was special to be between all those cyclists. I know them from the TV, and suddenly I was in the middle of them, one of the many riders on the men’s and women’s teams.
“Prior to that presentation, we had a one week training camp with the women’s team…they are really nice girls. I was very happy to be there with them, and also to be on my feet and doing sport again.”
“Everyone has the same passion. They were all really helpful, with the riders coming alongside me while training at the camp, telling me I was sitting wrong on the bike and giving me advice. We all worked together on core stability and other exercises…that helped to improve, and also to build team spirit.”
Much work to come:
While Van der Vorst was in very good physical condition when she took her paralympic medals plus her victory in the Ironman, she freely admits she has got a big learning curve ahead of her on the bike. The other riders she will be racing have been doing the sport for years and have the strength, speed and skill that she must acquire to close the gap.