The Race to Equality
Did you know that Cyclocross was invented in 1902, and that in 1950 the UCI sanctioned the first world championships… for men. Despite the fact that women clearly rode bikes, it wasn’t until 2000, and after several letters from female riders, that the UCI sanctioned the first World Championship CX race for ladies. Yes, we know, it’s truly hard to believe. Thankfully, it was due to the perseverance of riders such as Daphny van den Brand, who wrote many of those letters to the UCI, in 1999, that ladies cycling began the long journey towards true recognition.
Determination & Passion
This determined and exceptional athlete, had by 1999 already won 2 of an eventual 10 Netherlands national cyclocross titles (and 1 national MTB title) in a nation that had the very best riders in the world - and yet was unable to compete at World Championship level. Nothing however, will ever stop Daphny, and her letters which quite obviously helped in bringing the first WC race about, making her a pioneer, is only one part of her incredible story. Born in Zealand, in 1978, Daphny rode from an early age, initially racing mountain bikes. However, as a teen she was diagnosed with severe hay fever, which badly affected her ability to race during the main MTB season. Not one to give in, Daphny turned her attention to cyclocross and turned the cranks at a phenomenal pace, soon bringing her to the attention of others, where she’s remained ever since.
Winning the Rainbow
Let’s get back to the year 2000 and the Worlds then, where a young Daphny entered and came third. Only 3 years later, she was to taste victory and to wear the rainbow jersey, beating Hanka Kupfrnagel in a sprint to the line, and stopping the legendary German rider from winning a triple. Speaking with Daphny, now 20 years later, she vividly recalls how she felt on winning the race in the intermittent rain, saying:
“Wow, amazing feeling! I worked a lot of years for that jersey. I won in a sprint. I knew that I was faster than her."
Giving Your Best
As she talks to me about those feelings, her whole face is lit up with the same passion and her eyes are focused and alive. She’s still that ultra- determined racer, and will never give up at anything until she’s done it perfectly - and that includes the bike shop that she and her former racer husband, Johan have operated together in the Netherlands, since 2017. In her own words, Daphny tells me:
“You should always do your best in everything, to give everything. it forms who you are in life.”
It does seem strange to think that, only 20+ years ago, women like Daphny had such a battle for recognition and respect - something that Daphny says has thankfully developed, but still has a way to go. When asked what advice that she’d offer a young Daphny, starting out racing today, her advice is simple:
“Just enjoy it and have fun!”
Johan, himself a former elite national mountain bike champion, shares Daphny’s passion for all things cycling, and the family recently attended the 2023 Cyclocross World’s at Hoogerheide - 20 years after her own ground-breaking rainbow jersey win. Talking together about this year's events, Daphny admitted to still feeling the excitement and butterflies in her stomach as she stood watching the racers before the off, and to missing the atmosphere of the racing.
Thankfully though, despite being a busy mum of a young family, and running a successful business with Johan, she still finds time to ride Thursday and Sunday - these days on her Specialized bike. It’s a brand, like Lake, that she enthuses about and stocks for her knowledgeable and genuine customers, at their CyclExperience store, based in Uden, between Eindhoven and Nijmegen. Daphny is as enthusiastic about her successful cycle shop as she was her racing, and has clearly build a bond and formed a great relationship with the local cycling community. The shop has an adjoining cafe, serving apple pie alongside the obligatory coffee, which I can’t wait to try myself sometime. And, when not riding or at the shop, Daphny and Johan love visiting favourite places such as Spa and the beautiful Ardennes, where the family hike and mountain bike, which is still her favourite riding discipline.
Lake Shoes - for Comfort, Performance & Excellence
For Daphny, the feeling of exhilaration and freedom of mountain biking is wonderful - especially the off-road descending. Listening to Daphny, she’s clearly determined in everything that she does, and her eyes do literally light up at certain points in the conversation. She’s a perfectionist, which is why she and Johan themselves use Lake Cycling Shoes and stock our vast range of cycling shoe styles, across all cycling disciplines, for their knowledgeable customers.
Her own choice of shoe, both on and off-road is the Lake 238, which Daphny describes as being a great shoe for wide feet, also having a super comfortable leather upper, and a stiff carbon sole that transfers power and keeps the foot perfectly stable. She also loves the new CX 242, with the new Carbitex support panels offer additional support to enhance the super adjustable double BOA closure system. Hearing this feedback from such a clearly exceptional rider and individual is music to our ears, at Lake. The research, the time and dedication that Hutch and the team here at Lake put into every aspect of cycling shoe design, is dedicated to making cycling more comfortable and to maximise performance. Talking to Daphny, and listening to her, it’s clear that she still has that champions unique, determined and positive mental outlook - which mirrors our own passion for you, our customers. It’s a relationship that we’re proud of here at Lake - and we’re extremely proud of Daphny, and her pioneering spirit.
If you’re cycling or traveling through the Netherlands, then take a detour and visit Daphny and Johan at CyclExperience, and take a look at their wide range of bikes, and our own Lake Cycling Shoes. Have a coffee and chat with these two cycling champions, share some apple pie… a small piece, then ride it off on the nearby roads, with your feet wrapped in Lake Cycling excellence. Then dream of winning those races that dance across all our cycling minds, and share the passion for life and cycling that radiates from Daphny’s eyes - the focused eyes of a true champion.