The Belgian classics star on Vespas, cowboy hats and meeting the Belgian football team


“The best prize I’ve received is a cowboy hat from the Tour of Utah. The cobbleston­e is cool, but the cowboy hat is better”

here’s home?

WDendermon­de in Belgium, where my kids go to school, not far from where I grew up. There are probably better places to ride your bike in the winter, but Belgium has a good tradition and history, and you can always find nice roads.

What’s your favourite race?

The Tour of Flanders. I always have the honour of training on those roads. It is my favourite because of the atmosphere, being close to home and the history. But also being capable of winning is part of it. I think if I was a climber it would not be that race. You always search for things that you are good at.

What’s your favourite climb?

I like the Ardennes. I like La Redoute, for example. There are also some nice unknown climbs in the Flemish Ardennes. Most of the time people ride the famous ones.

Where in the world would you like to get lost on your bike?

I think I would like to go to Italy. It’s a bit warmer, it’s a cool landscape and they have good food. Strade Bianche is one of my favourite races of the year, and it’s also somewhere I would like to ride my bike, but not in a race: gravel, good food and Tuscan wine.

What’s your secret talent?

I don’t have many talents. I have an old Vespa, and I like to ride it. It’s like cycling: you have freedom, but you don’t have to pedal. It’s a cool thing I do to relax and take a breath. I cannot say it’s a talent though. I’m sure everyone can ride a small scooter. do something with, or at least stand out next to a trophy. The cobbleston­e is cool but the cowboy hat is better.

How do you let your hair down?

Having two kids, and spending a lot of time away during the season, it is cool to see the changes in the children when I’m back. It’s nice to play with them and to relax. I’m also very into coffee, making and drinking it. It’s always a good moment to share with your family.

When were you last star struck?

I’m a big football fan and I got an invitation to go and meet the Belgian football team. Normally

I don’t do this kind of thing, and it was strange because I was so nervous. I went and said hi to De Bruyne, Hazard, Vertonghen and Courtois. It was cool to meet them.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Just be patient. It’s not easy if you’re really ambitious when you’re young. My biggest results have come closer to the end of my career than the beginning, so you have to be patient about it. It will all come good.

Toughest day on the bike?

At this year’s Tour de France, the stage to Tignes. I only made the time cut by five seconds. We were left behind by the peloton quite early, and we were alone on the last climbs. It was cold, and we knew we had to get to the finish on time.

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