Interview avec Bart Wellens, directeur sportif

“I’ve never been bored after my career. Although I did not want to have anything to do with cycling for a while. After all these years I was done with the world of cycling. At that moment I wanted to just enjoy life. Being a professional cyclist is wonderful, but of course there’s plenty of fun things you can’t do. The first summer after my cycling retirement was therefore completely dominated by carefree fun. I visited different music festivals and I can now assure you that Tomorrowland is worth a visit! In no time I gained twenty kilograms. I didn’t cook anymore because I was barely home. Doing fun things with my friends was what I loved to do most at the time. As fun as that summer was, as quick it passed by.

Then something started to itch again. I know myself, Bartje Wellens is not made to sit still for a long time. After all those years at the top level, I had of course collected some nice savings, but it’s not like could sit on my lazy ass for the rest of my life. I’ve never been averse to work, but I must admit I panicked a bit. Because what were my talents besides riding a cyclocross bike? In the end I didn’t really see myself doing something outside the cycling world, so that’s why I started working for a bicycle constructor for a while. From sales representative to tinkering with bikes myself, I did it all. But something was gnawing. Not illogical: I had always been used to doing my own thing. That was no longer the case and I struggled with that for a while.

In life, some things happen to you, totally unplanned, but at the perfect moment. Just when I realized that I was starting to miss cyclocross a bit, I got a proposal to become a sports director in a cyclocross team. So I returned to my most beloved sport . About a year ago I received a phone call from Jan Tormans, whom I have known well for many years. It sounded like I didn’t feel like joining his team. Quinten Hermans and Corné Van Kessel used to be teammates of mine, so I didn’t have to think too long about Jan’s proposal. I really liked my work for Tormans CX Team, but when the question from road team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux came,my happiness was complete. At this moment I work for both teams, a case of ‘the best of both worlds’, let’s say.

I have the drive and enthusiasm of a young man. Doing only half the work is not how I roll. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I really want to do this right. Working at WorldTour level is really quite something, isn’t it? Last week I was in the Alps for Critérium du Dauphiné. In the team car I conquered some legendary cols. Cormet de Roselend, Joux Plane, you name it. The funny thing is that I’ve never cycled here even during my own career. And no, I’m not planning to do that right now either! In those high cols I felt like a small shrimp at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I am curious and try to pick up everything quickly.

A bad preparation will never be the problem though. Weeks in advance I already started studying the stages one by one. We leave nothing to chance. That’s typical for modern cycling, it comes down to those last percentages. I have seen every meter of every course in order to be able to pass on all the necessary information to the riders during the race. I have already learned a lot from my dear colleagues Aike Visbeek and Hilaire Van der Schueren. When I see Aike guiding the riders and doing the briefings, I sometimes stand open-mouthed. Hilaire knows literally every person who has ever had anything to do with cycling and he is loved wherever he comes.

The best thing about the job is the riders’ gratitude. When they come to me after the race and say: “Thank you Bart, you did well again”, they make my day and then I forget all the hard work at a glance. I love all those guys. From leader to domestique, they are all worth the same to me. When you are a professional cyclist, everything is always done for you. But as a sports director you do everything for the riders. I have to admit that as a rider I took it for granted that my bike was always clean and in perfect order, that my entourage was there for me 24/7. Not that I was ungrateful, but I wasn’t always aware of how spoiled I was. Now I think it’s great, together with the rest of our staff, to spoil the riders in such a way that they only have to focus on what they do best: riding the bike really hard.”

— mseWGG to intermarche-wantygobert.eu