The Other Side of Victory – Pauline and Kasia

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

For much of the year, a professional cyclist exists in a funny sort of bubble. Their team becomes a de facto family unit. Relationships form out of practicality and the human need for emotional connection. After the season ends, sometimes these bonds disappear. They were merely there for convenience’s sake, to serve a rational purpose. Other times, they are deep and lasting. This is a story about a relationship like that.

Katarzyna "Kasia" Niewiadoma and Pauline Ferrand-Prévot are two of the world’s best cyclists. Kasia is a two-time European U23 champion and is only getting better. Pauline is a three-time elite world champion, in three different disciplines. Before coming to CANYON//SRAM Racing, the two women spent five years together on the Rabobank-LIV team, where they developed a solid friendship. When Pauline found out that Kasia was joining CANYON//SRAM for the 2018 season, she was “very, very happy. Not only because [Kasia is] my friend, but also because she is a really good rider, a real fighter.”

At the first Women’s WorldTour race of the 2018 season, Italy’s Strade Bianche, both Kasia and Pauline entered as podium contenders. Kasia had placed second the last two years in a row, so she was hungry to ditch her bridesmaid designation. Pauline was back on form after a tumultuous 2016 season and a 2017 season spent climbing back to the top.

The team adjusted their approach to early season training, so everyone was especially fit and motivated. While there was much to be positive about, when race day came, it was downright miserable. It poured rain the entire day. The two women finished the race absolutely spent—soaking wet, freezing cold, and covered with grit from the famous "white roads." Kasia placed 2nd and Pauline 48th. While they could have been jealous and near-rivals going into the race, they both said they were ready to sacrifice their own result if the other was on better form. It was Kasia’s day.

“You can be good before the race, but during the race, if you struggle a bit, for myself I will be honest with Kasia. If I’m not feeling very good I will tell her and I will try to help her as much as possible,” said Pauline before Strade. Flash forward to the Ardennes Classics, a period of races which Kasia, in particular, had been targeting. At Flèche Wallonne, Pauline launched an attack before the first climb up the Muur de Huy and successfully created a dangerous breakaway. But the group couldn’t stay away on the second and final time up the Muur. They were caught. Kasia dug deep with a counterattack, but she wasn't able to hold it, finishing a disappointing 21st. She didn’t have the legs—but she did have her best friend right there to console her.

What’s most impressive about these two women besides their talent, or their picturesque friendship, is how they use the light it creates to shine as people. The pursuit of individual glory is enhanced by the glory of helping a teammate succeed. “If you care about somebody, and if you see that that person is in good shape, or if that person is able to win that race, it feels as if it was your own victory. If you really care and really want that somebody to be happy as well, it’s no jealousy in that moment,” remarked Kasia. 

For Pauline and Kasia, the other side of victory isn’t just about personal success. It’s about the meaningful reverberations that come from caring for others. It's about what really counts. Here’s to the other side.

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