A young woman has pedaled her way to become Vietnam’s first cyclist to compete in Europe after she accepted an offer to join a Belgium-based professional team next year.
Vietnam’s cycling star Nguyen Thi That, 25, has agreed to play for Lotto – Soudal Ladies, which competes in elite road bicycle racing and track cycling events such as the UCI (International Cycling Union) Women's Road World Cup, starting from 2019.
At the 2018 Asian Track Cycling Championship in Myanmar in February, she claimed the women’s individual road race, the first gold medal won by a Vietnamese female cyclist in an Asian tour.
The Vietnamese cyclist caught the eye of Lotto – Soudal Ladies scouts when she was training in Switzerland to prepare for the 2018 Asian Games (Asiad).
During her time in Switzerland, That also rode for Centre Mondial du Cyclisme and won the 2018 Dwars door de Westhoek, the opener of the 2018 UCI Women’s worldtour, on June 3.
This championship enabled her to jump two places in the union’s ranking to 34th – the highest world position ever achieved by an Asian cyclist.
Her amazing performance prompted the Belgian cycling team to reach out to That right before the 2018 Asiad in Indonesia.
But all the cyclist cared about at that time was how to strike gold for Vietnam at the continental competition.
“At that time, I told the Belgian scouts to wait until the Asiad is over to get my final answer, thinking that I might be wasting a rare opportunity in my life,” That told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“But after the Asiad, they did contact me again, and I had no reason to procrastinate anymore.”
The female cylist also shared that her decision received absolute approval from her current management club - Hat Ngoc Troi An Giang, based in the southern province of An Giang.
According to the year-long contract That signed with Lotto – Soudal Ladies, she will earn a salary of €2,500 (US$2,850) a month and more bonuses depending on her performance.
The Belgian cycling team will also cover her accommodations, airfares, and travel expenses when That attends tournaments.
In addition, That is allowed to return to An Giang to compete for her Vietnamese team in a number of major tourneys.
She also said that her biggest target in this overseas journey is to win a ticket to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where she hopes to compete with world-class racers.
Like many other Vietnamese athletes, That still has difficulty in speaking foreign languages.
She told Tuoi Tre she can hear and understand what her foreign coaches and teammates say, but she is very afraid to talk about life and daily activities.
She thus expects this trip will be an opportunity for her to improve her language command.