The Telenet-Fidea rider and double world cyclo-cross champion invited us into his motor home to talk rivalries, reality TV and that karate kick
Cycling is my life, it has been for the last nine years of racing. But I’m almost at the end of my career, so racing is less important now than before. Yes, it’s important as it’s my job, and I love it so much, but I realise that when it goes badly, there are nice things besides cycling — like my two kids and my wife.
In most places I am known for being the rider who karate-kicked a spectator during a race [the Druivencross in 2006 – watch online at tinyurl.com/o8zbn9n]. That guy was throwing beer and mud at me every lap.
When I was in Las Vegas for the Cross-Vegas cyclo-cross race, the first thing they said was, “Hey, karate kick!” It was maybe 10 years ago, but if a fan pushes me, I’ll do it again!
The only advice I would give to riders thinking about riding cross is do it because you like it. There shouldn’t be any pressure. At the moment, the big problem in Belgium is that guys 12 or 13 years old have trainers, they have teams, they have the best bikes, but they can’t ‘grow’ anymore.
At that age you must be happy that you’re a racer and you should go training if you have time. If some friends from school ask you to go to the field to play football or tennis, then you need to say yes! Some guys are signing contracts and being given money before anybody knows how good they’ll be!
Training should be nice. When I was a young guy, I trained a lot off-road because I found the road boring. But as I got older, I knew I needed three to four hours on the road to help your speed. Fields are good for endurance.
I had my own reality TV programme in Belgium called Wellens en Wee. The broadcaster followed us for three years, and it was nice for people to see how we trained and how we had fun. Everybody saw everything — the good things, the bad things, the emotional moments. It was good for my career.
I have a special rivalry with 2005 and 2013 world champion Sven Nys. I first raced against him in the under-23 category. He took a longer time to develop as an athlete, which is why he’s such an amazing rider now. We can both be especially proud that cyclo-cross in Belgium grew with us.