Iris Slappendel

born 18 February 1985

My first race

2001

Bronze medal junior World Championships Time Trial

2003, Hamilton, Canada

Cervelo Test Team

2010

Rabobank-Liv team

2012-1014

Dutch National Champion

Ootmarsum, 2014

Iris, professional cyclist

It was never my dream to become a professional cyclist. But now that I am one, it is like living a dream. Cycling is one of the best sports that exists. Cycling is freedom. Everyday in cycling you have to push and beat yourself. On the bike, you really fight against the elements and at the same time you are one with them.

It was actually by pure chance that I became a professional cyclist. I was competing in long distance skating when it ended up that I was much better at cycling. I had turned up at races and within a year I was selected to race the Junior World Championships, where to my utter surprise, I won bronze medal in the time trial. I realised that moment how good I was. After that you automatically try to push your boundaries, you increase your targets and cycling started to take more and more of a priority.

For the first six years I really enjoyed competing as part of the Dutch teams ‘Vrienden van het Platteland’ and ‘Flexpoint,’ with my participation in the World Road Race Championships in Salzburg (2006) as the high point, where Marianne Vos took her first World title. During that time I combined cycling with my studies as well as a part time job.

In 2010 I got the offer to join the Swiss ‘Cervelo Test Team’ where I had the chance to concentrate on my sport fully. All of a sudden, I was part of the best team in the world. This gave me the opportunity to take a few steps ahead. The high points included victories in the queen stage of the Thüringen Rundfahrt and the World Cup team time trial victory in the Sweden. After a year riding under the flag of ‘Garmin-Cervelo’, the team was disbanded and I returned to the Netherlands in 2012 to join the new Rabobank women’s team. Another really successful team, much of which was due to team leader Marianne Vos, but I enjoyed a great year myself with an individual victory in the World Cup race in Vargarda, Sweden. Yet that very year I suffered one of my biggest disappointments due to a crash during the World Trade Team Time trial which resulted in a collarbone fracture and in missing the World Road Race Championships in Valkenberg. After such a good year I viewed selection for the world championships as an ultimate reward and I really wanted to help Marianne Vos win a second world title. The fact that the world championships were taking place at home made it even more painful. In 2014 I had the highest point in my career until now. In Ootmarsum, on the 28th of June, I was crowned Dutch Road Race Champion. The race turned into a real thriller when I went off chasing my teammate Lucinda Brand and only managed to catch and surpass her several metres before the finish line. Joy but especially disbelief overcame me on crossing the line. It is really special to be able to pull on the champion jersey in the red-white and blue every day for the entire year and to hop on the bike. Next to that it is so nice to be able to share such a wonderful success with my friends, family and other people around me who have always been there for me. After three wonderful and successful years with Rabobank-Liv team, I decided to take a different path in 2015. The foreign adventure called again and so I signed with the Swiss Bigla Pro Cycling Team. An even bigger adventure offered itself in 2016, when I got the chance to combine my favorite races, the Dutch and Belgium springclassics, with racing in the United States. I truly enjoyed my last year as a professional rider with the United Healthcare Pro Cycling team.

My palmares are, perhaps, not filled with great victories but every victory has a special story. During the years that I’ve competed, I have learned that victories are not the most important. The journey you undertake to that destination, the freedom the sport gives you and the physical effort that you put your body through are more important. Difficult, tough moments are followed by beautiful moments. It makes each and every pedal stroke unique.

Most important achievements

Iris, the designer

Iris-21

It was always my dream to become either an illustrator, an architect or an artist. Combining cycling and art is not really easy. Neither is combing art academy and elite sports. All of a sudden I found out about Industrial Product Design training. I didn’t doubt it one bit, this was the course that was suited to all my characteristics: technical, creative and practical. During my studies in the Hague, I enjoyed working the most at either the design table or in the workshop. My strengths were clearly more on the creative side than in mathematics, material mechanics or computer programing. A good example was a design assignment where I designed a pair of ‘haute couture’ boots which I later exhibitied at the shoe museum in Waalwijk. A six-month internship at a design studio under the smoke of Milan developed me further. In 2007 I finished my studies with a design for a lightweight city bike, a project for Van der Veer Designers and Gazelle, where I could combine my acquired design knowledge with my experience as a cyclist.

After my graduation in 2007 I started working as a freelancer and through my contacts in cycling, I worked on projects for cycling related companies such as BBB Cycling and FFWD Wheels. This was when I developed further in graphic design in addition in product design.

A highlight so far is winning the UCI World Cup jersey contest. My designs for the leader jerseys of the World Cup for women are selected and produced.

At the moment I work as a freelance graphic and product designer. I can use my love for fashion and unique items in designing and making my own bags. But also in the design of cycling clothing. What you wear says a lot about who you are, how could that not be the same with sports clothes? I strive to make cycling clothing more fashionable, so you get even more fun on your bike.

How it is possible to combine professional cycling and design? Cycling gives room for creativity; Nature, traveling and different experiences always bring new ideas. On the bike, you can clear your head so that you come back to any problem or challenge with a fresh outlook.

In addition, you get in contact with many different people. Conversations bring new ideas, and various challenges keep forcing you to look for different ways to find solutions. For me, it’s a perfect combination!