Not any more. I used to, but my claws shredded bar tape so quickly it was getting too expensive… like a lot of people competing in women’s races I just wasn’t earning enough to keep replacing it, so I retired from the sport and got a job as Marianne Vos’ cat instead. One advantage I had was that I could ride with cheap platform pedals – I just wrapped a bit of old carpet round them, dug my claws in and got a better grip than any clipless pedal. The UCI need to do something about that – there are a lot of women who just can’t earn enough in cycling, so they have to give it up and find a job. Who knows how many great athletes were lost to us because of that?
You were there at all five stages of the FLG Women’s Tour – what did you think of the race?
Well, I’m sure you already know I’m going to say it was absolutely amazing right from the start – all the top riders, a great parcours and enormous crowds of people, many of whom stopped to stroke me. I’ve been to a lot of races, but that was something else entirely – I’ve never seen so many people turn up to watch a women’s race and all the stage towns had a real party atmosphere like the Dutch and Belgian town fete crits we go to, but the crowds were much bigger in the UK. It was even better after Stage 3 in my opinion, of course, because Marianne was leading.
What’s it like, being Marianne’s cat?
It’s a good life, a very good life. I get to travel the world, meet a lot of good women’s cycling people, try new food and there’s an endless supply of trophies to knock off shelves. So, no complaints.
No – she’s the best cyclist of all time. Think about it: a lot of people say Eddy Merckx – who I’ve always had down as a dog person but hey, nobody’s perfect – was the greatest of all time and by the time he turned 27 on the 17th of July 1972 he’d won 296 races which, give the man his due, is respectable. Marianne turned 27 today (13th May 2014) and by my count she’s won 307 – which when you consider there’s a lot fewer races for the women than there is for the men is really quite superb. Plus, she buys me tuna; Merckx has never bought me any tuna.
May I just say, before we finish the interview, that you speak excellent English?
Well of course – I’m Dutch. Have you ever met anyone from the Netherlands that didn’t speak excellent English?