Chantal Haenen hand cycling with Classified at 2023 World Championships

Powershift in Para-cycling! Meet 2x World Champion Chantal Haenen

Dutch hand cyclist and Paralympian Chantal Haenen is the first para-cyclist to utilise Powershift Technology in her hand cycle. Chantal recently became a World Champion for the second time, in the H5 Individual Time Trial at the 2023 World Championships in Scotland. We caught up with Chantal to discuss he World Championships and how Classified was able to help her to achieve her goals.

Classified: Hi Chantal, Thanks for taking the time to speak to us after your week in Scotland. You’ve had an amazing 2023 World Championships, with a gold and a silver medal in your TT and Road races. Tell us about the week.

Chantal Haenen: The week in Scotland was very successful for the Dutch team. I think we had 5 Individual Time Trial World Champions crowned at the start of the week, which is the most in many years. It was a very good start to the week for us. And there was no rain, which was very lucky.

Talk us through the H5 Individual Time Trial on Wednesday, where you won gold?

I was able to hold to the plan that my trainer set for me. I executed well, but it was not my best TT of the year. It was quite uphill for the first 10km, so I had to ride very hard in the beginning, but I was very pleased to win the gold medal.

You used the Classified hub in both your races. How did the Powershift Technology benefit you in the time trial?

It was a massive benefit. When riding with 2 chainrings and a front derailleur in a handcycle, the shifting on the front is really slow. You have to ease off the power, wait a few seconds, and then really slowly turn the cranks to engage the gear and not drop your chain. So having the Classified hub meant that I could shift instantly without having to think about it. It was such a huge advantage having that security, especially in a race like a time trial, and hilly one like in Scotland. I could just focus on my race and not think about shifting gear.

And you won the silver medal in the H5 Road Race, just narrowly losing the sprint to American Oksana Masters. What were your tactics?

I started really hard, knowing that I had an advantage. In the first 1km and in the uphill parts early on, I was able to shift and push a really high cadence, dropping a lot of my competitors. I knew if I made it very hard at the start then I could create a small group. I don’t think I would have dropped them so fast without Classified.

The Road Race was a thriller - you were pushing hard on the front in an elite group for the whole race. Do you think having the Classified hub gave you a big advantage?

I was able to put in a big effort and make the race hard, and I like it like that. I was able to push on the front for the whole race and I think the system allowed me to do that. I was able to keep the pace high with a good cadence throughout, no matter the terrain. Everyone said I was the strongest in the race, so perhaps I pushed too hard on the front. But I felt really good and I like to race like that. The Classified hub also gives me a lot of added confidence in my bike. My team mate dropped a chain in the race, and a few other riders had mechanicals. I didn't have any and was able to just focus on racing.

You won the TT and Road Race also at the 2021 World Championships. How do these medals compare?

This race was more fun. The best riders in the world were here in Scotland, so it was a great test. The racing was very close, which shows the level of competition and the desire to win off all the racers.

Do you think the level was higher because of next year’s Paralympics?

Yes, definitely. A good race at this year’s World Champs means a lot of points, which basically means qualifiing for Paris 2024 is assured. So I think everyone was in their best shape in Scotland.

You are the first Para-cyclist to use Classified Powershift Technology. Do you think others will adopt?

I really think so. My teammates were all jealous of my new tech, and they all want to adopt the system after I was able to show its benefits in Scotland. They haven’t seen anything like this before. All handcycles have front shifting problems. I know my teammate Mitch Valizea, who won 2x World Championships this year, is calling my mechanic and exploring the details. Also the Norwegian team were in our hotel and they were asking loads of questions. 

Some thought I was riding a single speed, which would be an extreme choice on such a hilly course. Thinking about it, it might have messed with their heads a bit, and given me a psychological advantage before the race. I think some people didn’t know about Classified, so they were a bit confused initially. One of the China team was actually waiting for me at the TT recon to film my bike, so there was so much interest in the system and my bike set up. 

Updating the MTB Lexicon with a new verb:

to Power·shift [Powershifting] {Verb}:
(also: the new benchmark in shifting gears)

1. To shift gears under full load within 150 milliseconds
2. Maintain valuable momentum during climbs and transitions, or before an attack

Classified’s unique 2 speed gear hub allows riders to jump through 46% percent of the gear range, or the equivalent of 2 or 3 rear derailleur shifts, within 150 milliseconds. As such, ‘Powershifting’ is quickly becoming the go to term for maintaining momentum on the trails.

Tests undertaken with pro riders showed a far greater use of the powershift hub gear as opposed to the rear derailleur, leading to an overwhelming increase of momentum through transitions.

“The feedback of professional riders is very promising and brought us even better insights into the enormous potential the product offers. Extending our range further into off-road space with the mountain bike hub confirms Classified’s vision to be a technology that is compatible across all cycling disciplines. We are extremely excited about the possibilities the new product brings and its ability to enhance the existing MTB drivetrain market." says Mathias Plouvier, CEO and co-founder of Classified Cycling.

CTO Roell van Druten adds “we are very proud to bring Powershift technology to mountain biking. With an ultimate gear range of 530%, the Powershift Boost hub combines a high-grade, one-piece compact steel cassette (11-40t) with a larger chainring, improving the overall durability of the drivetrain.”

Van Druten goes further to explain the benefits of the new system: “Using the Classified hub with an 11-40t cassette and a 34t chainring results in the lowest drivetrain ratio of 0.58. To achieve this ratio with a traditional system the user would have to use a 30t chainring. Using a smaller chainring in a traditional system lowers the efficiency and durability of that system due to the higher chain forces. The more compact Classified cassette also allows the use of a shorter derailleur cage, increasing the robustness of the drivetrain alongside the efficiency.”    

The Ringshifter:

The next generation of shifting, this sleek, fully wireless handlebar control provides unrivalled shifting performance with the lightest flick of your thumb. The Ringshifter can perform 10,000 shifts before needing to be easily recharged with the provided magnetic USB cable.

Featuring a unique magnetic spring back mechanism, the Ringshifter delivers unparalleled durability and a smooth, responsive feel. The functionalities of the Ringshifter can be customized to meet the individual needs of every rider.

When did you first hear about Classified?

Last year at the Worlds in Canada I had some issues with shifting. It. was my mechanic, Rob Geysen, who suggested Classified. We looked into it and contacted Classified. I didn’t even know how it worked yet but Rob said it was the answer and I trust him. It was so frustrating, training so hard and going all the way to Canada as the defending champion, and then have a race ending mechanical becasue of the shifting. I knew I needed to do something, and thanks to Rob, we found Classified as the answer.

How long have you been training with the hub? What were your first thoughts?

I’ve only been using it properly for three weeks. I first tried it in the parking lot at Classified, and my first reaction was "this is very cool". It’s so convenient, especially for hand bikes, which have really slow front shifting. 

You must be pretty confident with how the system performs to race with it in your Worlds races?

I just knew it was going to work. I went to Spain with it before the Worlds and trained for two weeks on some pretty big hills, which gave me a lot of confidence.  I never doubted it.

How were the post World Champs celebrations? Did you go out in Glasgow with the team?

We were staying in Dumfries, not Glasgow, but we went out to a karaoke bar and pub and celebrated. I don’t drink, so I didn’t go crazy, but it was nice to celebrate all the hard work paying off with the team.

Your next big goal must be the Paralympics in Paris next year, how are you preparing for that?

Last year we tried some new things. We went to Tignes, in the French Alps, for altitude training and that was good for me. Three weeks just focusing on training, I definitely pushed out more watts in the end. We will do the same next year in preparation for Paris, as well as some other training events 

How do you think Powershift Technology will help with your Paralympic goals?

We will do a full recon of the course in October, but we have already seen the course details and profile. There are 2 climbs, around 4-5% for around a kilometre, so I think it will be a great course for me and for the Powershift hub. I’m very excited. 

But all of your competitors might be racing with Classified by then?

After this Worlds I have already told Classified they are not allowed to give it to anyone else! No but seriously, I expect some of my competitors to start racing with Classified soon. It’s just such an advantage.

Thanks for speaking with us Chantal and congratulations again for such an awesome World Championships. We can’t wait to follow your progress in the run up to the Paralympics in 2024. 

You can follow Chantal on social media to follow her progress, and you can also follow Classified for plenty of Powershift updates.