Contemplation Maarten Tjallingii
This Sunday Maarten Tjallingii rides for the last time in Paris-Roubaix, the heroic classic race in which he won the third place in 2011. “I want to show the people once more: this is Maarten Tjallingii.”
Tsjallingie, Challingi, and Tsjallinki are all the possible versions of his surname, which means in Fries ‘son of Tjalling’. Maarten Tjallingii (38) has been a familiar face during the ten years he has been a professional cyclist. His teammates call him just “Tjallo”. In India, the country where his parents lived for a while, it means something like ‘forward, we go’, which fits him well.
“Tjallo” will retire from his career as a professional cyclist this summer. He is regarded as the ultimate servant, a term Tjallingii himself prefers to avoid. It sounds too slavishly. Oscar Freire called Tjallingii, in his dream team, ‘his bodyguard’. Much better, he says. “It still shows a lot more appreciation, compared to a servant.” Recently, he was in the escape in Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem. Both attempts were stranded, but Tjallingii was so long in front of the race that commentators had enough time to talk about his career. He originally was a mountain biker, an adventurer who made the move to the road in 2006. Because of the work of his father (a biologist), he grew up in Mozambique as a vegetarian and the most appealing result was a third place in Paris-Roubaix.
Tjallingii consciously experiences his final months as a rider. Partly for this reason, he was in the escapes. “I want to show the people once more: this is Maarten Tjallingii. Tjallingii calls the ten years as a professional rider “a nice trip.” He won the Tour of Belgium (2006), the World Ports Classic (2013) and drove all the big Tours. In the 2009 Giro d’Italia he spoke with Lance Armstrong. When Tjallingii was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with a kidney tumor. Since then he lives with one kidney. “I rode alongside Armstrong and said, I also had cancer. “He asked, “How’s that been for your parents?” This question kept me a long time because “I had never thought about it.”
PREPARATION, TRAINING AND REST
He himself is from the generation of cyclists who trusts in the preparation, training and rest. Gone is the doping culture as valid under Armstrong, he says. Every time a rider is still caught he thinks, “Poor boy, you can rely on your training and your preparation like I do.” Tjallingii always keeps studying next to cycling and was the first vegetarian in the peloton. “Meat is the end of our food chain, so what do you get on your plate? All kinds of mess. “Since then he has sworn off milk and eggs and he’s almost a vegan. “It still feels healthier.”
Early in his career, he was teased because of his views. Regularly the fact that he is a vegetarian is the focus of jokes. “Then Robert Wagner told me:” Tell Tjallo, bet you eat a nice piece of meat again within two years.” But also in that sense Tjallingii saw a cultural change in cycling. “Riders are becoming more aware of what they eat. This tendency can be seen in the whole society, because cycling is a reflection of it.
“Tjallingii doesn’t win many times, but the rides that he wins, he cherishes, like his participation in the Tour. However, the best memories he keeps are the Paris-Roubaix. This is due to the hedge of people, the famous velodrome, showering in the nostalgic booths and of course his third place in 2011.
Sunday he will be the master servant again, or rather the bodyguard for Sep Vanmarcke. And who knows, if the race situation allows, he can go for his own chances, just like in 2011. Otherwise it’s also fine. It is in professional sports to win, he knows. But because cycling is a team sport, he also wins even if a teammate triumphs. Perhaps, says Maarten Tjallingii, that has been the most important lesson of ten years professional cycling, “The destination is nice, but remember to enjoy the journey.”