A member of Soudal Quick-Step since 2012, the Belgian has just completed his 12th year with the squad.
“My function in the team is that I am a physio and a manual therapist. From the moment we arrive at the hotel after the race my work really begins. There can be some work before the race, like helping riders to apply kinesis tape, and similar. And during the day, when the race is on, I will go to the feed zone or a bottle point, in the same way as a soigneur, to help with the work that they do. Then once we are back at the hotel and the riders have their massage, we will also see them for treatment for problems with the lower back, neck and shoulders.
The role has many facets, and it means that I have to work closely with the soigneurs, the medical team and the team management. The moment that a rider comes to us to report some kind of pain or injury, the first thing we do is consult the doctor for a diagnosis, and then we make a plan for how we are going to resolve the problem and which treatment will be best. So, we work very closely with them.
I got involved with cycling as a sport over 20 years ago. After I finished my studies, I was working with a physio who worked for a development team in Belgium. One weekend they needed some help, and my colleague asked me if I would be interested in going along, and I was really keen to try working with them. So, I went with them to a race, which I really enjoyed, and two decades later I am still here.
To say what I still enjoy that I do is an understatement.
I am lucky that I can combine my work with the team with my clinic at home and the combination is a nice mix for me. When I am away with the team and I get a change of scenery and a chance to meet people from other countries and cultures, it means a lot to me. We work hard at the races, but it is different to what I do at home in Belgium, and it is a nice mix.
Over my period of time with Soudal Quick-Step, the way that we work with the riders has changed a lot. For example, in the wintertime, the riders will work on their core stability and their neck muscles to help them on the bike. Ten years ago, we really had to convince riders that they needed to do their exercise and they were not always sure it was best for them. But now the attitude has changed a lot and most of the time they come to me to ask for advice. Also now, the riders were always looking for a manual therapist to crack their back to make it feel like they were really being worked. Now they know more about stretching and soft tissue techniques, and they are much more knowledgeable.
Before I came in to cycling, I was the chief physio for rehabilitation department at a hospital, where I was in charge of a department for around 50 people, where my job was to organise the services and make plans, which is an experience that I have tried to bring to Soudal Quick-Step. Sometimes I have tried to take the lead in situations. It’s a fast-moving environment and can be stressful, so somebody needs to take charge – my idea is always that we need to do what is best for the team. Sometimes when things are difficult, the situation can halt so I like to help to find a quick solution that is best for everybody.
I have had some many memorable moments with the team. During the first year with the team, we still had Tom Boonen, who won so many races. A standout are also the times that we won the World Team Time Trial Championships. But there were also many times away from racing with the staff, where we were celebrating, we had some fun and made memories, like teambuilding days. To name them is difficult but there were so many highlights both on and off the bike and it’s why I am happy to have stayed this long with this team.”
Photo credit: ©Wout Beel