A strong team

A strong team

September 2023

She is a racing driver, he has ridden for the professional cycling team BORA – hansgrohe since 2021. Stéphane Kox and Danny van Poppel first met in 2019 and have since become one of the Netherlands’ most popular sporting couples. 

Photo credits: 

Sebastian Wolf 
BORA – hansgrohe / Sprintcycling 
BORA – hansgrohe / Anderl Hartmann 

Their relationship breaks clichés. For example when it comes to speed. When Danny’s riding his road bike at over 100 kilometres per hour, he’s pushing things to the limits. Stéphane can but smile at that. For her, top speeds of 300 kilometres per hour in a racing car are a standard occurrence – and barely affect her heart rate. Despite the differences in their professions, it was still sport that brought Danny and Stéphane together. By age 16, the now 30-year-old Dutch professional cyclist had already achieved the title of national champion. Today, he races for BORA – hansgrohe as one of the world’s best lead-out riders and has even enjoyed several podium finishes himself, most recently at the ‘Rund um Köln’. This cycling prowess is clearly in his genes. After all, he is the son of Jean-Paul van Poppel, multi-time stage winner of the Tour de France, and Leontien van der Lienden, who competed in the women’s road race at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. Stéphane has a famous and inspirational father too. Prior to his retirement, Peter Kox was a well-known racing driver. Even at the tender age of nine, his daughter could be found behind the wheel of a go-kart. After briefly getting side-tracked and dabbling with horse riding, she made a career of motorsport. The 29-year-old has racked up points in several racing series, from the GT Endurance Cup to the Asian Le Mans Series. It was inevitable that the two famous Dutch athletes would meet at some point. This came to pass in spring 2019, and a cup of coffee was soon followed by dinner. Long story short, Stéphane and Danny moved in together six months later and have been inseparable ever since.  

Shortly afterwards, the coronavirus pandemic struck and truly put their young relationship to the test. “Before the pandemic, we both had our own lives and travelled a great deal. Suddenly, we were together 24 hours a day”, Stephanie recalls, “but it couldn’t have gone better.” Stéphane also studied for a law degree from home. During this time, Stéphane and Danny started to cook together more too. As competitive athletes, diet had always been important to both of them. After all, healthy eating is a core foundation for both performance and recovery. The couple both need to be extremely fit and healthy as they are each at the top of their game in their respective sports. A conscious and carefully devised diet is even slightly more important for Danny than it is for Stéphane though, as he explains: “Racing drivers have an engine in their car. Cyclists, on the other hand, are the engine. And to perform well, engines always need the best fuel.” For Danny, that means lots of pasta and rice. Plenty of carbohydrates. “I can’t just eat salad, I have to make sure that I’m giving myself enough energy”, he reveals. “Otherwise I’ll be depleting my body. Thankfully, the BORA Cooking Truck optimally caters to all my dietary needs when I’m racing.”  

At home, Danny likes eating Brussels sprouts and asparagus, two types of vegetables that Stéphane really doesn’t enjoy, to put it mildly. She’s not really a big vegetable fan at all. And then there’s coriander, which Stéphane loves but Danny really doesn’t like. They therefore dish up his meals without coriander before Stéphane seasons her portion with it. But they both have one major thing in common when it comes to their dietary preferences: they eat little meat. Although Danny is gradually closing the gap, there’s no question that Stéphane wins the contest as to which of them is the better cook. Mexican and Thai cuisine are her current favourites. She also likes modifying recipes sometimes and making her own creations – with more carbohydrates. “Fortunately, Danny’s a sprinter, not a climber”, says Stéphane. “That means he doesn’t have to keep a meticulous eye on every gram of body weight.”  

In 2022, their relationship was put to the test once again. This is because Stéphane received an offer she couldn’t refuse. Dutch television wanted to contract her as a Formula 1 broadcaster. “Formula 1 is as big as it gets in motorsport and extremely popular in the Netherlands”, explains Stéphane. She therefore accepted the job without a moment’s hesitation. With great success. And the consequence that she   saw little of Danny for a full year as the couple were almost endlessly on the road. “We sometimes went more than a month without seeing each other”, Stéphane recalls. After this interlude in the world of reporting, however, Stéphane returned to the cockpit.  

The question that arises for this highspeed couple is whether their two sports also have things in common? “Well, we both have to complete a defined route as quickly as possible, find the best cornering lines and make full use of our experience”, says Danny. “Our sports are also very similar from a mental perspective. You get completely in the zone.” Although he loves to race, Danny loves training even more. “It’s something you can do anywhere. You see all sorts of different things, enjoy the great outdoors and feel close to real life. You can also stop for a coffee whenever you discover a particularly beautiful spot”, he says.  

When her schedule permits it, Stéphane goes to watch Danny in cycling races in the region, such as the Spring Classics or Paris–Nice. The couple also sometimes tour the south of France on their road bikes together. “The first time we went cycling together”, says Danny, “Stéphane suddenly stopped half way down a hill and got off her bike. She wanted to let her brakes cool down, something that’s really important in motorsports but isn’t necessary when cycling.” Something else surprising is that when the couple are on car journeys together, you’ll always find Danny at the wheel. This is because Stéphane doesn’t actually like driving on public roads. 2023 is a very special year for Stéphane and Danny: they got married on 26 July, Danny’s 30th birthday. Stéphane has now officially changed her surname to van Poppel-Kox. In the medium term, the married couple plan to focus more on family life and to enjoy more free time. But it may be a while before they’re able to do this. After all, they’re both simply far too good at and too passionate about their sports to think about retiring any time soon.