To celebrate International Women’s Month, we have partnered with Zwift to tell the stories of 31 inspirational women across 31 days
Words: Maria David Photo: Plantur-Pura
With a world title in cyclocross, a podium place in the U23 World Mountain Bike championships, and now racing on the road in the newly formed Plantur-Pura road team, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado has the potential to be the female Mathieu van der Poel.
She could also emulate her female compatriot Marianne Vos, who like her won her first world championships in as an U23 athlete.
But 22-year-old Ceylin is keeping her feet firmly on the ground and is just happy to continue her journey in racing without letting any of it go to her head.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Ceylin emigrated to the Netherlands with her family when she was five years old.
As a child she was keen on athletics but on reaching her teens, dad Rafael, who had been a cyclist himself, suggested that Ceylin and younger brother Salvador take up the sport.
If I’m in the lead I mostly think to keep pushing, and if my legs hurt, I know theirs must hurt even more to catch me
They both got the bug, though Ceylin in particular excelled, winning local races and quickly moving on to bigger things. The siblings trained together a lot and were very close, which certainly helped as a Spanish-speaking immigrant family turning up at these traditional northern European races.
People were surprised to see the Alvarado family, but the siblings let their racing do the talking and Ceylin quickly won fans over as she gained more success.
Fast-forward to today and Ceylin and her brother are on different progammes and live apart, but they still try to help each other out where possible.
‘We used to train together but now that we have different trainers and I have moved to Belgium, we don’t do much together any more,’ Ceylin says. ‘But we still give each other tips and help each other.’
Ceylin has benefited from the coaching provided by the Dutch academy, from where numerous top Dutch riders have emerged, including current Cyclocross World Champion Lucinda Brand and last year’s silver medallist and teammate Annemarie Worst.
‘I think the Netherlands has one of the best academies – maybe even the best one,’ Ceylin says. ‘They have trained us really well since I was little. Good riders have to compete against each other, which means we can only give the best and that leads to big improvements.’
On the subject of the Cyclocross World Championships, Ceylin, who won the 2020 title in a thrilling sprint finish ahead of compatriot Worst, went into this year’s race at Ostend as one of the favourites. Unfortunately, the rider from Rotterdam tumbled at the first corner and never managed to get back on terms, not helped by the sub-zero conditions and bitter north wind.
It was certainly a contrast to her success in the 2020 race, although Ceylin has now moved on from the setback.
‘One thing was the same – the tears! Last year they were tears from disbelief and happiness, whereas this year they were from hypothermia. I didn’t even think about the disappointment [of not winning] due to the cold and my shaking body.
‘Sure, after such a disappointment I cursed a little bit, but then I spoke to my family and my boyfriend [Belgian rider Roy Jans] about it, and I become calm. I analyse what happened, learn from it and look forward to the next race or goal.’
Despite failing to successfully defend her world title, Ceylin finished this cyclocross season with more prize money than any other competitor, thanks to victories at the X2O Badkamers Trophy, Superprestige races, and the European Championships. That is great news for women’s cycling, though Ceylin is measured on the matter.
‘I would not really say [conditions are] better than the men but they are good, yes. Compared with a few years ago we’ve really improved.’
Find the rest of Cyclist’s 31 Inspirational Women here
With her aggressive racing style, Ceylin is a fast starter who looks to get to the front as early as possible, using her strength from running to stay ahead of her rivals.
Even through testing, muddy conditions she can make it hurt for her rivals, as we saw at the World Cup in Overijse in January.
So what goes through her mind during those tough moments? Ceylin says, ‘If I’m in the lead I mostly think to keep pushing, and if my legs hurt, I know theirs must hurt even more to catch me. So I just try to keep the pace high.’
The Alpecin-Fenix cyclocross racer has now switched her focus to the road for a few months of racing on the Plantur-Pura road squad, and we can look forward to seeing Ceylin potentially shine in the upcoming Classic races.
She counts Alberto Contador, Marianne Vos and teammate Mathieu van der Poel as riders that inspire her, with the latter two in particular being no surprise given their success as multi-disciplinary racers. But Ceylin remains circumspect on her own chances of following in their footsteps:
‘Currently I’m doing all three disciplines, though off-road suits me very well. The road part is still something I am exploring.’
The team have raced the recent Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem where Ceylin helped teammate and fellow cyclocross racer Yara Kastelijn to a top 30 place. We eagerly wait to see how Ceylin will do in the Tour of Flanders.
For more from Zwift this International Women’s Month, visit here.