An Interview with a Cyclist: Boukje van de Ven

This interview was written by Jack Tominey, @jacky2wheels,

I wanted to try something a little different for this blog post…so welcome to an interview with one of my favourite people on Instagram. The interview is with Boukje (@boukjev), a fun, positive cyclist from the Netherlands with an inspirational story.

Jack: Hello Boukje, thanks for joining me. So, how did you get into the wonderful world of cycling?

Boukje: Twelve years ago, at the age of 31, I had breast cancer. I had the whole package…I had a breast removed, chemo, a bald head, radiation and I spent five years in menopause. At 35 years of age, my oncologist told me that I had the bone density of a 55 year old woman. His advice was to exercise more outside and the result was that I stepped on to a road bike for the first time in my life.

Four months later, I climbed Mont Ventoux. There, on that mountain, I fell in love with cycling and realised it can be beautiful on the bike. A year later, my oncologist told me that my bones were from a woman aged 45-50 years. He asked what I’d changed and I told him about climbing Ventoux. He laughed so much that he almost fell under his desk. It was the most beautiful compliment. And that’s how I felt in love with cycling!

Jack: Wow, that’s an incredibly tough experience you’ve been through. Thanks for sharing that with us – very inspirational!

With this in mind, what would you say are your biggest achievements on the bike?

Because of my experience with cancer, I like doing good things for other people who need it. In 2016, it was ten years since I became ill and I survived it. That year, I promised myself to give something back for those who need it. And, also to remember that it was a hard time for me when I was ill. Someone helped me when I was ill and this is my way of giving something back.

So my biggest cycling achievements are:

  • In 2016, I climbed Alpe d’Huez three times for a cancer foundation called Alpe d’huZes
  • In 2017, I did the Tour for Life over three days. I cycled back in 3 days from the North of France to Rotterdam. Day 1 195km, Day 2 186km, Day 3 118km. This was for a cancer hospital in Rotterdam.
  • In 2018, I climbed Mont Ventoux from all three sides. I did this for a cancer hospital with my team, Mont Ventiel.

Jack: That’s a pretty fantastic list of achievements…Chapeau! What’s next on the list?!

Boukje: I need a goal to cycle every year…I love to challenge myself on the bike. Next year, I’m going to try to cycle the short distance of the Tour of Flanders. Why the short one? I want to know how my body copes on the cobblestones after my illness. If that goes well, then in 2020 I want to cycle the 150km.

I’m also going to try to register for the dolomites marathon (106km) in 2019.

For the future, I’m working on an idea with Bianca (@bfr._bianca) to ride with people from Instagram. How and what we’ll do will remain a secret for a while. This is a different kind of challenge.

Jack: Ok, great. I’m looking forward to seeing it all on Instagram! Next question…What would you say has been your toughest ride ever?

Boukje: Riding up Mont Ventoux three times is my toughest ride in one day. It was hard to climb this mountain in one day because of the climbs, the emotions of the day…and the wind! But I knew I could rely on the bike.

On the last climb, I wondered how it was possible for me to stay on the bike…how could I keep slowly turning my legs? But I was in good condition…mentally strong…and I persevered. And I didn’t forget my friends on the mountain and at home in the Netherlands.

Jack: Time for the most important question….How many bikes do you own? And which one is your favourite?

Boukje: I have 3 bikes and 1 motorbike ?

My race bike is a Bianchi Intenso. I’ve had it for four years now and I love this bike. She makes me smile.

My mountain bike is a Scott. I’ve had it for three years and I start riding it in the fall and the winter into the woods.

I’ve also got a Trek hybrid. This is my bike for commuting in the wetter months. It was a present from my parents after my cancer treatment process.

And my motorbike is a lime green Kawasaki Versus. I don’t ride this one so often…I like to ride my Bianchi more. But I know that I love to ride my motorbike too.

Jack: That sounds like a pretty cool selection. I’m too petrified to ride a motorbike to I’ll leave you to it.

What’s your favourite place to ride your bike and why there in particular?

Boukje: I like to ride in Italy in the Dolomites because of the nature, the good food and the nice people. I love it there!

Jack: Very nice – I like pizza loads so that works for me. An important question for all Instagrammers out there…what’s your favourite cycling kit brand? And why?

Boukje: I have two favourite brands – Alé and Parentini – and both for different reasons. They’re great to ride in and they make me smile.

Alé? I like the colours and the patterns in the kit. Just because they aren’t ordinary and it’s something a bit different.

Parentini…because it wears nice and it’s good in the hot weather.

Actually, another brand I like is This is Cambridge. I only have one jersey and a pair of socks that I won on Insta. I love their combinations of colours and patterns.

I love to mix and match colours and patterns. Not only the kit but also socks, shoes, caps and glasses. When I get on my bike, I need to match from head to toe. That makes me smile.

Jack: Pretty cool kit I have to say. Remind me to tag them a million times so we get free kit. What do you like to do in your spare time off the bike?

If I am not on my bike, I like to spend my time with my friends and girlfriends – we often go out to restaurants. I have quite a lot of energy so I like to do a lot of fun things, for example going to the cinema, concerts or visiting the beach. And sometimes very often…I can also admit to doing nothing at all.

But, overall, I try to receive a gift of life in every day. A nice moment to be aware that life is beautiful.

Jack: What’s your biggest discovery of yourself since you started cycling?

Boukje: Every year I still notice improvement. I ride more kilometres and every year I like it more and more. This is my eighth season and I have plans to do this for a long time.

Jack: That’s good to hear. Cycling is for life! A question that comes up a lot with my friends at the moment…Do you like to cycle with only men, only women, mixed or alone? What works best for you, and why?

Boukje: I cycle with Hoeksche Waard Dames Peloton – it is a peloton only of ladies. We ride throughout the week and in the weekends. But I do also like to ride with men because they often ride faster and it makes me stronger.

And I like social rides to cycle in different places, to meet new people and to discover new roads…but then I do like to ride alone or just with friends. So a bit of everything!

Jack: Definitely a bit of everything there. I like to mix it up too – I think it’s important to ride with different people to keep things fresh and fun. Time for the final question…what is your secret cycling tip?

Boukje: Always keep smiling and enjoy your time on your bike. That makes the ride nicer.

Jack: I think that’s a perfect note to end on. Thanks for joining me…see you on the road!