Betsema became involved in the thriving Junior cycling scene in Holland and emerged as Dutch champion 
on the mountain bike at age 12.

Betsema, Cant and Del Carmen Alvarado got off the front. 2018 Superprestige Zonhoven. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine 

“It was a bit easier than I expected,” Denise Betsema said about her meteoric rise to the top of women’s international cyclocross.

Then she hastily corrected herself, “Not easier, it came faster than I expected.”

English not being Betsema’s first language, we can forgive her momentary lack of humbleness. Yet, the slip captures Betsema’s seeming struggle to internalize her sudden, surprising success. When trying to explain her breakout performances, Betsema smiles shyly, shrugs and turns her hands palms up on the table. It appears that even in Dutch, Betsema might be at a loss to explain.

After her win at GP Hasselt, I sat down to talk with Betsema in her newly acquired Marlux – Bingoal team RV immediately. During the interview, Betsema sipped a post-race Coke while her young son sat beside her playing on an iPad.

The moment was fitting. Betsema is both a World Championship contender and a mother.