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Meet Amalie Dideriksen, the world champion who’s still at school

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This was Danish dynamite, exploding out of pre-race favourite Kirsten Wild’s slipstream and into the limelight. Amalie Dideriksen became cycling’s youngest senior world champion since her hero, Marianne Vos, in 2006.

Photographs: Timm Koelln

 

Her reaction? A hand over her mouth in surprise and a giant surprise. She wasn’t overawed or emotional, just delighted. Maybe she’s getting used to this: at just 20 years old, this is her fourth rainbow jersey.

 

It could have all been very different if a commissaire hadn’t corrected her mother before her very first race. A decade earlier in Denmark, Tina Dideriksen considered the racing bicycle’s drop handlebars too dangerous for her nine-year-old daughter, so she put on safer, flat ones.

 

“No one in our family had any experience of cycling, so we didn’t even know how a bike race works. We made a lot of mistakes in the first couple of years,” Tina said.

 

Dideriksen lives at home with Tina and father Kenneth in Kastrup on the Copenhagen outskirts. I met them the day after her first junior world title in 2013, for an article about cycling families, which appeared in issue 49 of Rouleur. We talked in depth about Amalie’s progress.

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Dideriksen followed her older brother Christian into cycling with local club Amager Cykle Ring, which has also produced junior Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Bak Klaris. Her parents discussed worries about keeping Amalie grounded and cycling’s male-dominated environment: Dideriksen was often the only girl away at races. Yet it taught her self-sufficiency.

 

“In Denmark, women’s cycling is very small. I kind of get used to it, but in the beginning, it’s like ‘there’s no women at all,’” she told me in 2013.

 

Throughout her adolescence, she raced in Danish C-category (third category) men’s races too. “Some of them are not that happy about getting beaten by a woman, but some think it’s cool we want to train and try and do our best,” she said.

 

A fortnight ago, she got dispensation from the Danish federation to enter a couple of junior men’s races, finishing mid-pack in 90-rider fields. It proved good training for her win in Qatar.

 

“I think it helps technically. You need to be at the front of the peloton and accelerate faster. They sprint a lot faster. With women, I am one of the best. With the men, it’s seventh, 14th…”

 

Dideriksen has considerable pedigree. She was brought up racing track at nearby Ballerup Velodrome, winning a world junior scratch race title in 2014.

 

On the road, she claimed back-to-back junior world road titles in 2013 and 2014 with a potent mix of stamina and a strong sprint. However, the transition to the elite ranks is never seamless and few expected a result of such prestige so early in her career.

 

She has more than sport to worry about too, as she studies at Falkonergårdens Gymnasium on a special, deferred class for athletes.

 

Since turning pro in 2015 at Boels Dolmans, the 20-year-old has been learning the ropes as a domestique, helping Lizzie Deignan, Megan Guarnier and company to big wins at women’s cycling best team.

 

Her big objective this year was the Olympic omnium, where she finished fifth. She emerged with flying form and motivation for the remaining road races.

 

In hindsight, her Boels Rental Ladies Tour stage win in August – her biggest road win as a pro before the world championships – was a sign of her form, but even that was something of a happy accident. She had intended to lead-out captain Chantal Blaak, but the train broke up in the corners, and she ended up winning herself.

 

There is a certain irony that she wasn’t deemed strong enough to be selected for Boels Dolmans’s six-rider time-trial team a week earlier. She went for an easy spin while they took the gold medals. Given what unfolded in the road race, her employers will surely be re-evaluating that opinion.