Cyclist with intellectual impairments line-up on the podium after receiving their medals

Champion Lars de Jong prepares for 2018 World Intellectual Impairment Sport Cycling Worlds

By Marcia De Wolf | For World Intellectual Impairment Sport

It is what dreams are made of: winning gold at your first World Championships.

That is exactly what Belgian cyclist Lars de Jong did in Assen, The Netherlands, in 2017, winning the men’s road race title and beating defending champion Jeremy Texeira Pereira of France.

He even had a chance to take gold in the individual time trial. De Jong pushed Texeira Pereira all the way and coming within one second of the lead.

“I was very surprised, I never thought I had a chance to be the world champion in my first try! I cannot describe how I felt, everyone was so happy,” de Jong said.

He is now firmly focused on the next World Championships, taking place during the International Federation for Athletes with Intellectual Impairments (World Intellectual Impairment Sport) European Games in Paris, France, from 14-21 July.

But de Jong knows it will not be easy to return to the top three.

“There are cyclists such as Dutch riders Davy Mertens and Jonathan Duinkerke, French athletes Jeremy Texeira Pereira and Alexandre Morel, who were really strong in Assen at the World Championships.

“I am not sure how I can beat them this time but I am going to work very hard and try to win.”

Duinkerke was a bronze medallist from the road race last year behind de Jong. Alexandre Morel took the same colour in the time trial. Davy Mertens was a top five finisher in both events.

The young cyclist

Cycling comes natural to de Jong who used the sport to improve himself.

“When I was small I used to go cycling after school to relax. I enjoyed it so much that I joined a cycling club with my dad. I learned to bike there and got a lot of confidence from it,” he said.

He got his competitive start in October 2015.

“There was a G-biking cyclo cross in Antwerp and I really enjoyed that as well. I won the 2016 and 2017 Championships and decided to start road racing as well. When we found out about the World Championships in Assen, we tried to see if I could participate and I was allowed to. It was amazing, I came second in the time trial and won the road race!”

De Jong says his life is all about cycling: “It gives me confidence and I feel calm and safe when biking. My problems disappear when I get on my bike.”

The 2017 World Intellectual Impairment Sport European Games, organised by World Intellectual Impairment Sport Europe, will feature the World Intellectual Impairment Sport Cycling World Championships between 16-19 July.