‘I am still looking to achieve bigger goals.’ Harrie Lavreysen – Olympic athletes interviewed Episode 11

Christian: In this interview, it’s my very pleasure to introduce Harrie Lavreysen. For once, Harrie has been nominated by Yoshitaku Nagasako who has been interviewed before, a BMX rider from Japan. But also I have been fortunate to support Harrie as his strength & conditioning coach for 6 years now, and having seen Harrie going to difficult periods in his career due to injuries, and I am now very happy to see, that Harrie’s perseverance and commitment finally paid off, and seeing him at the top of his sport now.

Harrie started his career as a BMX rider, where he won three consecutive European Championships from 2011-2013 in the Junior category.

Harrie made the transition to track cycling in 2015, and within two years he climbed to the top of the track cycling world, where he was runner-up at the World Champs in 2017 in the individual sprint and team sprint, and clinched the World Champion title in the team sprint in 2018.

Welcome Harrie.

Harrie: Thank you.

Harrie’s darkest moment

Christian: Harrie, what was your darkest moment?

Harrie: My darkest moment was the day before I made a decision to switch to Track Cycling and stop my BMX career.

I had already done two shoulder surgeries back then, and then I had a really bad crash. I was almost back at the top in BMX, I was going really well, but then I had a really bad crash and I dislocated both shoulders. That was my worst crash and my worst week.

And after that, I made the decision to go into track cycling, and things got way better. So, I did two surgeries, but if I look at where I am now, I’m happy with my decisions.

My darkest moment was the day before I made a decision to switch to Track Cycling and stop my BMX career. But if I look at where I am now, I am happy with my decisions.

Christian: What went through your head during that time? 

Harrie: That was a hard time, it was hard to quit BMX and also still continue after that amount of surgeries and have had so many setbacks.

But I was thinking I wanted to continue. I like sports, I like to train every day with the groups and so on. I was always motivated when I was still at school, so when I was injured I could still do something and still train. It was not that I was sitting home doing nothing. I think that’s what motivated me to continue.

I like sports, I like to train every day and I am always motivated.

Christian: How did you recover from that moment?

Harrie: Maybe I learned something from it, I don’t know. When I think about it back then it was hard, I didn’t like it. I hated that I needed to stop BMX.

But if I think about it now, it was a good decision to do it. But I couldn’t know back then that Track Cycling is going so well, so I am stronger now.

Harrie’s best moment

Christian: What was your best moment?

Harrie: Of course, the World Championships this year in Apeldoorn when we won the team sprint and got the gold medal. That was a good feeling.

We were training all together towards it and we made it. That was a really good competition, good week, I had a lot of fun, so really happy with the result.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfxKjI9hs_U/

Check out the other members of the team sprint Nils van ‘t Hoenderdaal, Jeffrey Hoogland and Matthijs Büchli.

Christian: That was a special moment. What did you learn from that moment, and how has it influenced your life?

Harrie: We knew we could win it, but we still needed to do it. The year before I messed up going in the team sprint. So, this year we were even faster and better.

I think we knew we could win, but we still needed to do it, so it was a good thing that we finally did it as a country. The guys before us they placed second two times at the World Championships, so I think we are stronger now winning it.

I don’t remember the rest of the question.

We knew we could win, but we still needed to do it, so it was good that we finally did it as a country.

Christian: How has it influenced your life?

Harrie: I don’t know, it’s like I’m still growing, I want to win more, I am still looking for bigger goals to achieve, so not that big I think.

Christian: Not that big? What do you mean?

Harrie: Like how it influences my life. I’m happy with it, but nothing really big has changed now.

Christian: Probably you’re more confident.

Harrie: Yes, for sure. It was a big win.

I want to win more, I am still looking for bigger goals to achieve.

Harrie’s advise to a younger Harrie Lavreysen

Christian: If you could go back in time, like 10 or 15 years, and you meet your younger you, what advice would you give your younger self? 

Harrie:  I don’t know, maybe that BMX is hard, and you have a lot of crashes, so I should have gone first on the track, go earlier.

Christian: Track cycling?

Harrie: Yes. Like in your younger years when you achieve your goals it’s really big for you back then. But when you are a little bit older you know it was just like you have a challenge in BMX. It’s like it’s still big but now everything is way bigger.

Christian: I think it’s important for viewers to know that Harrie had crashed on his shoulder, but that’s also a genetic predisposition as there is more elasticity in his shoulder, in his capsule, which makes him more vulnerable for the shoulder to pop out. So, one is the crashes, plus in that regard, you weren’t genetically gifted with your shoulders, but he is gifted with his legs.

Harrie’s success habits

Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful person?

Harrie: I don’t know. I think I am born with strong legs. My habits, it’s like I think I’m always really motivated, even if I have a small competition I always want to win.

I can say I am motivated, disciplined, also in school. If I go to my training every day I want to do very well and don’t skip a lot of stuff. The things that I believe I want to do very well in them.

I can say I am motivated and disciplined.

Christian: That’s also what I see working with Harrie for five years now, determination and commitment is definitely something that you’re very good at.

I remember I went on holidays and I entered the apartment, put the stuff down and I received a text message from Harrie which said, “I had my operation yesterday, I will leave the hospital tomorrow and I want to start training in two days. I can’t use both of my arms, but can you make a program for me?”

I remember that that’s definitely a sign of commitment and dedication. You are definitely a very, very nice and laid-back guy, but very committed and determined, that’s what I see.

Harrie’s morning routine

Christian: Do you have a morning routine? How do you get going in the morning?

Harrie: That’s not really special I think, but I never snooze, I always get straight out of my bed. And then everything after that is normal – I have breakfast, I have my breakfast every day and coffee, then go to the training, so nothing really special.

I never snooze, I always get straight out of my bed.

How to prepare for important moments

Christian: How do you prepare yourself for important moments?

Harrie: I think a lot about it, I visualize a lot of stuff, definitely for big competitions. And also, I watch a lot of videos, I like to watch old videos of me and also of my opponents. And I study a bit about my race, my upcoming race, I like to see what the track is going to be, I do a lot before I go somewhere. That’s how I prepare for some big moments.

I think a lot about it, I visualize a lot of stuff, I watch a lot of videos of me and of my opponents, and I study my upcoming race. I do a lot before I go somewhere.

Christian: And when does the preparation start? Four weeks out? Two weeks out?

Harrie: Like now we have the European Championships in four weeks, and we started our big training schedule towards it on Monday. I probably think every day about it, the thinking starts early, the real preparation is like two weeks before.

And we train also in groups, so if we train for the team sprint I like to see how it’s going, and then I think about it a lot for how it will be in the competition.

Christian: In the final in Apeldoorn in front of the home crowd what goes through your head when you stand there, and you know now is the big moment?

Harrie: This year we also started really hard, really fast, so I was thinking a lot about, “Don’t lose the wheel, I need to be on this wheel to be fast and do my whole lap.” I wasn’t really thinking about whether it was in my hometown, in Apeldoorn with all the visitors in the stand. That made it a bit more special I think. But I could keep my head cool and still think straight.

Check out how Harrie managed to not loose the wheel (from minute 04:00 – Harrie is the second rider)

I was thinking a lot “Don’t lose the wheel, I need to be on this wheel to be fast and do my whole lap.” But I could keep my head cool and still think straight.

Christian: How did you do that?

Harrie: I think you train a lot for it. And we knew what we needed to do, and I think all the preparation that made it easy to just do what we were supposed to do.

I trained a lot for it, I knew what I needed to do, that made it easy to do what I was supposed to do.

How to overcome setbacks

Christian: How do you overcome setbacks if things don’t go your way?

Harrie: I don’t want to stand still, I want to continue and go through it. It’s like also as you said with that message I sent you after my surgery, I wanted to keep going.

Every time I have had setbacks I just want to keep going and don’t think about it too much, just think about the next thing that’s coming and go for it.

I don’t want to stand still, I want to continue and go through it. Every time I have had setbacks, I just wanted to keep going and don’t think about it too much, just think about the next thing that’s coming and go for it.

Christian: Do you look back at the things that didn’t go well?

Harrie: Not really, not much. But I know every day I need to be careful with the shoulders, so that’s the part of what I’m thinking about, but no, not really. I look more into the future than I look back.

I look more into the future than I look back.

Harrie’s role model

Christian: Who is your role model, and why?

Harrie: I don’t really have a role model, I’ve never had one. When I was a child. I was always looking at people like, “Oh, that’s so good, they are doing so well.” But I’ve never thought of somebody like, “I want to be him.” I think I just want to be my own role model.

I don’t really have a role model, I never had one. I think I just want to be my own role model.

The best advice he ever received

Christian: What is the best advice you have received, and who gave it to you?

Harrie: I think the best advice I got was from René Wolff, my old coach, who is also coaching me now going into Worlds. I think the last time I saw him he told me I need to focus on the moments where I want to be the best and don’t focus too much on the small things.

Christian: What else?

Harrie: I don’t really know. I wasn’t that long with René, not even a year, but I remember the times really good, really good coaching.

Christian: So, it was somewhat small advice.

Harrie: Yes. I still needed to learn a lot back then, so even the small things, they were big things I could learn, so it was probably easy for him to tell me stuff.

Focus on the moments where you want to be the best, and don’t focus too much on the small things.

A typical training day in the life of a Track Cyclist 

Christian: How does a typical training day look?

Harrie: Most of the time I train once a day, sometimes in heavy weeks we train two times a day, but not that often. On normal training days, I come out of my bed without snoozing then take my breakfast, go to the track, and then at the track, we do normal warming up, not that big and then do our training.

Training looks a lot like sitting on a chair waiting, resting, you don’t do that much on the track in this training, so more short, explosive and intense things. I live with Nils [van ‘t Hoenderdaal], so after my training, I spend a lot of time with Nils and we chill in the afternoon, cook by ourselves, that’s what the day looks like. But every day is different, and we always have different training, so it’s gym or track or road, so those are the three main things.

Every day is different, and we always have different trainings.

Where can you find Harrie Lavreysen

Christian: Where can people find you?

Harrie: They can go to my Instagram, just at Harrie Lavreysen, that’s the biggest

one, also Twitter and Facebook (profile & athlete page).

Christian: Harrie, thanks so much for the answers.

Harrie: You are welcome.

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