Welcome to our blog,
We are Eric Lombaerts and Stijn Van Gent, two young professional cyclists, both Belgian.
Since we’ll both be starting our first season at World Tour level this year, we decided to blog about our careers. The reason why we share this blog is because we go way back.
We grew up together in Oudenaarde, a town in the Flemish Ardennes, mostly known for the Ronde passing through yearly.
Our cozy little town of Oudenaarde.
Very soon we started riding our bikes together, at first we dared not going further than the end of the street, but soon we were riding on the Koppenberg, Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Kattenberg, Leberg and many more. Eric moved to Southern France at age 19, to ride for a French cycling team, while Stijn remained in Belgium to ride for a small Belgian team. Now it’s two years later and we’re both moving up to a Pro Tour Team: Lotto-Belisol, a big step for the both of us. We’ll be blogging on the same blog. However, for obvious reasons, we’ll mostly blog individually, so let’s get the introductions starting:
My name’s Eric and this’ll be my personal blog. Let me introduce myself.
Name: Eric Lombaerts Date of Birth: 15/08/1990 Height: 178cm Weight: 65kg Type of Rider/Style: The best way to describe myself is as a climber with good, potentially even great time trial capacities. I like everything that goes uphill, it doesn’t matter how steep or how long. On the flat I’m quite alright, but I perform much better on the flat when on a TT bike. When it comes to time trials, my motto is: the longer, the better. Mostly I need some time to find the right pace. However, I’m constantly working on improving my time trialing, both short and long distance.
Since I grew up in Oudenaarde, I know how to ride (those) cobblestones. The problem is my weight and my constitution. Add the fact that I’m not at all interested in cobbles, and that’s how good I am: good enough to assist someone for a little while and just about good enough to survive them till the end of the race, but don’t expect any results from me there.
When I was a bit younger, I used to be able to do some powerful sprints uphill. Unfortunately, that great quality has decreased since I started training time trialing intensely. I just have enough power left for some (sharp) attacks, but sprinting up a hill isn’t my specialty anymore. However, I haven’t regretted my choice so far, as my time trialing is reaching more than a decent level lately. To let you in on a little secret, I’m dreaming of a national title in time trialing one day, and I believe that to be possible!
When it comes to length, I prefer longer races, and I mean in days, not necessarily in kilometers. I’m definitely not a single-day rider. I mostly get better by the day, so I prefer stage races.
Before now: As mentioned before, I went to race for a French team on a 2-year contract. I chose to do so because of their calendar. In Belgium most teams rode/ride almost nothing but flat races. In France I rode many races in Haut-Var (where the team was mostly active), in the Alpes…
I received an e-mail from Stijn in March last year, in which he told me he was scouted by Lotto-Belisol. Only two weeks later, there was a scout present at a moderately important stage race, where I rode a strong race. That same night I was contacted myself, after a nice talk about a contract, I signed for 3 years.
Tour de France
Vuelta a España
8th (1) + KoM
10th + Young Jersey
Other Notable Results 2012
Tirreno - Adriatico: 10th + Young Jersey
Tour of Pologne: 8th + Young Jersey
Tour of Colorado: 1st + Young Jersey + Stage Win
Tour du Var: KoM Jersey
GP di Toscana: 1st
GP de Québec: 8th
Tour of Oman: Young Jersey
Strade Bianche: 9th
Tirreno - Adriatico: 1st + Young Jersey + Stage Win
Critérium du Dauphiné: KoM Jersey
NC TT: 2nd
Tour de France: wore leader's jersey
GP de Québec: 7th
WC ITT: 11th
WC RR: 21th
De Panne Tour: 4th + Young Jersey
Tour de Romandie: 13th + Young Jersey
Critérium du Dauphiné: 1st + Points Jersey + Young Jersey + Stage Win
Vuelta a España: wore leader's jersey
I’m Stijn Van Gent, let me tell you something about myself.
Name: Stijn Van Gent Date of Birth: 22/02/1990 Height: 185cm Weight: 76kg Type of Rider/Style: Let me put it this way: I’m almost the exact opposite of Eric. First of all, I don’t ride uphill very well. I hardly survive the hills the Ardennes, let alone a mountain in France. The hills in the Flemish Ardennes go a little better for me but that’s because I’ve been climbing them since forever. Fortunately there’s a silver lining: I’ve been getting better at riding uphill in the past months, especially at the shorter ones, so there’s still hope.
To explain to you what type of rider I am, I’ll tell you this: my dad has compared me too many a time to Tom Boonen. So that’s: I can ride cobblestones and I can sprint. I guess those two are my two greatest qualities as a rider. My dad (who’s also my coach, by the way) says those ingredients make for a winner of many, many races. Let’s hope he’s right. At least there are enough sprinting and cobbled races to go my chance.
As a result of my sprinting capacities, I can ride excellent prologues, maybe even a little better than Eric. Though when the kilometers rise, Eric gets much, much better. I guess that’s about the rider I am, powerful and very agile on the cobbles.
Before now: For many years I’ve raced for a small Belgium team, getting many podium places and even some (unimportant) wins. Last year I was scouted by Lotto-Belisol. My happiness only increased when a couple of weeks later I got a mail from Eric saying he’d be joining me at Lotto!
Important Races Palmares
K - B - K
G - W
P - R
Tour de France
Vuelta a España
Other Notable Results 2012
Tour of Pologne: Points Jersey + 2 Stage Wins
De Panne Tour: 3rd + Young Jersey + Stage Win
GP Jef-Scherens: 1st
Dwars Door Vlaanderen: 1st
Eneco Tour: 3th + Points Jersey + Young Jersey
Dutch Valley Classic: 1st
Classic Hamburg: 2nd
Tour of Denmark: 1st + Points Jersey + Young Jersey + 3 Stage Wins
World Port Classics: 2nd + Young Jersey + Stage Win
GP Jef-Scherens: 1st
Tour of Britain: 1st + Points Jersey + Young Jersey + 2 Stage Wins
De Panne Tour: 10th
Giro d'Italia: 2 Stage Wins
We are now early January and we’ve met the entire team. Besides us there are a few others new to the team, but we were all welcomed properly. We sense a great atmosphere here, and hopefully it’ll motivate us even more in our work as cyclists.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck
Jurgen is an ever improving climber with a fairly good capacity to ride against time. He’s given the team a top 5 in Tour De France in 2010. His season is all in service for that podium place in Paris. Other races he’ll be riding are Paris-Nice, (helping in) the hilly classics, Tour of Romandie and the Dauphinée. Eric had a small talk with him where he told him he was thinking about riding the Vuelta after the Tour. This, however, is not official yet.
Being the revelation of 2011, Jelle will be given the position of leader in the hilly classics, where he’ll be filling the shoes of Phillipe Gilbert (BMC), his former leader and dear friend. As a preparation he’ll ride the Tour of Basque Country and afterwards he’ll ride Tour De France, helping Jurgen and going for a stage win at the same time. However, he’ll follow a different preparation schedule, riding in Switzerland instead of in the Dauphinée.
Jurgen will be starting his first season as a leader. He’ll have to get results in cobbled races for the team. We’re counting on him for races as Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, but also for Eneco Tour and Tour De France, where he is content with a helping role, modest and easy to work with as he is.
If the team wants to have some victories this year, this’ll be the first man to look at. André, the gorilla as they call him, is an incredibly strong sprinter. Stijn will be able to learn a lot from him.
Other important riders
Gianni Meersman: We have a feeling this’ll be the real breakthrough year of Gianni. He’s a very strong rider who can ride up a hill and still be fresh enough to end it with a sprint to leave you in his dust. Francis De Greef: Francis is a loyal rider who’s incredibly large. Yet his specialty is riding uphill. This year he’ll have to work a little less and he’s even getting his first leading role in Tirreno-Adriatico. Lars Bak: Lars, coming from HTC, is a fast rider. He’s excellent riding against time and he’ll be of great value in the cobbled races. Since it’s kicking off in his home country, he’ll be riding in the Giro d’Italia.
The rest of the team
Gregory Henderson: A fast man, of great value for André. Kenny Dehaes: A decent sprinter. Bart De Clerq: Bart’s getting better every year. Hopefully he’ll perform well in the Giro, possibly with another stage win? Jurgen Van De Walle: Loyal and hardworking. Joost Van Leijen: A helper in the hills. Frederik Willems: Possibly one of Roelandts’ biggest helps. Vicente Reynès: Our Spanish sprinter. Jonas Vangenechten: Another fast man. Olivier Kaisen: The king of breakaways, who’s also not afraid of some dirty work. Marcel Sieberg: Another one of André’s entourage. Gaëtan Bille: Young and eager to learn, he’ll prove to be useful in the hills. Dennis Vanendert: Being brother of Jelle, the expectations are somewhat high for him. Mehdi Sohrabi: A more than decent rider. Adam Hansen: He’ll probably have the longest season, starting in the Australian NC and ending in Beijing. However, nothing is confirmed yet. Tosh Van Der Sande: As old as us, we get along fine. He loves the hills. Maarten Neyens: Maarten loves breakaways, so he’ll try to be in as many as possible. Sander Cordeel: Another one for the hills. Brian Bulgac: The second rider from the Netherlands. Gert Dockx: A climber, but still has much to learn. Jens Debusschere: A very friendly guy, we’re eager to see him in action. Frederique Robert: He loves riding in Flanders, so we expect him to participate in cobbled races.
Upon meeting everyone, I got a good vibe from the team. In my opinion, friendship is important in a sport as cycling. I had a great talk with Jurgen Van Den Broeck, where he gave me some tips on how to improve my climbing and time trialing. I can’t wait to see my schedule for the season.
Stijn Van Gent
Like Eric said, it seems to be a great team. Tomorrow it’s my first training with the team, we’ll be riding alongside the Schelde, possibly from Gent to Oudenaarde and back a couple of times. That’d be really great, since it’s so close to home!
My schedule should be finished pretty soon, as the Tour Down Under is coming up at the end of the month. Most of the team have their schedule already, but since Eric and I joined quite late, it isn’t quite finished yet. Only thing I’m sure off is that I’ll be riding a big part of the young-rider-program of Lotto.
We’ll let you know as soon as our schedules are finished!
Finally! My schedule is as good as finished. Of course, it’s difficult to plan a whole year, because expecting everything to go according to plan is quite an optimistic point of view, if you’d ask me. However, I’m very excited about it, as there are many chances for a rider of my type to prove myself worthy. So let’s take a look at the (temporary) schedule:
Nothing on the program for me here. However, we’ll be going on another training camp fairly soon, where I’ll be able to measure myself against the likes of Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert.
My year will kick off mid-February, with the Tour Haut-Var, which suits me perfectly. The second stage of this two-day-tour goes to Mont and ends in Fayence, a city I dined a lot when living in France. This race is part of the young-rider-program so I won’t have to work for anyone!
In early March I’ll be riding Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, not really my cup of tea. This, too, is part of the young-rider-program, but since the profile doesn’t suit me at all, I’ll help Stijn getting a good result.
A couple of days later I’ll ride my first World Tour race: Tirreno-Adriatico. I hope I’ll be in a good enough shape by then to assist Francis De Greef in the mountains, as this’ll be his first big race as a leader.
Two more races that aren’t exactly exciting for me are Dwars door Vlaanderen and De Panne-Koksijde.
Now it starts getting real interesting. As a preparation for Giro d’Italia, I’ll ride Giro del Trentino, four days with some beautiful climbs.
Two more hilly races are GP Indurain and a race in Toscane the next day.
A big, fat exclamation mark on my calendar: Giro d’Italia!
As this is the biggest race of the youth-rider-program, we will all ride for ourselves. However, Bart De Clerq, Dennis Vanendert and I can be of use for each other, as we will probably be the strongest riders uphill there.
The second and final World Tour race of the youth program: Tour of Pologne, followed closely by Tour of Wallonie. My role isn’t clear yet, but I’m not worrying about that yet, as I’m incredibly focused on the Giro.
Starting with a single day in the Netherlands, Dutch Food Valley Classic, we’ll get a flat preparation for a race called the USA ProCycling Race.
My last two races, as a helper (for what I’ll still be worth at the end of my season) I’ll be riding the two World Tour races in Canada. Quebec and Montreal.
Well, that’s my schedule. I’ll leave the rest of the space for Stijn, who’s got an equally exciting program for him!
Stijn Van Gent
Let me tell you about my program, to my satisfaction there are many cobbled and many flat races!
I’ll start in Tour Haut-Var, where there’s not much for me to do.
More interesting for me is the weekend of Omloop het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, where we have more than a good chance with Roelandts and Greipel!
Three days later the chance (hopefully) is mine, atSamyn.
March Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen is a great race for me. What follows is even greater : Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Prijs, Gent-Wevelgem, De Panne-Koksijde, and the management even has decided to let me ride Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, my absolute favorite. But that’s already April.
I start with RvV and P-R, as I already said.
Then I get back on the same program as Eric, so the preparation races for the Giro.
May Giro d’Italia!
July Pologne (where there’s a chance I can sprint for myself, depending on other semi-sprinter’s schedules) and Wallonie.
August the Dutch Food Calley Classic and the USA ProCycling race.
I finish my year with GP Jef Scherens.
So a very exciting schedule, for the both of us. Luckily, we’ll be riding quite some races together. Looking forward to it. The Australian National Championship is coming up, as is the Tour Down Under, so we’ll possibly mention something about that in the next blog. But what you’re probably looking forward to more is our first race, in Haut-Var!
See you soon!
Edited by Ian Butler on 04-08-2012 15:16
Let's start with some great news: André Greipel has won Four stages in the Tour Down Under, one hell of a start for the team! Unfortunately we were in Mallorca training so we couldn't get any shots of his many victories. Despite the collective joy, we couldn't keep thinking: "It's up to us in a couple of days." Those days are now here:
As part of the youth program, we just finished a two-day race in Haut-Var, an area much to my liking.
The profile of the first day looked quite interesting. However, the second day was much more appealing to me, especially since I feel somewhat connected to some of the towns we passed through. Fayence is a city I went to a lot when staying in France and Col de Mons is one of the hills I climbed many a time when racing in Haut-Var. So that's why I decided to save my energy for day 2. This is what happened at the first day:
Stijn and me hanging out in the peloton.
We finished with a big peloton, I was 53th and Stijn 66th. A boring day, you could say, but my bowels told me otherwise, I nearly died of nerves! Luckily I had decided to take it easy on my first day.
Day 2 (aka A day with mixed feelings)
This is a beautiful day in theory, a day for the climbers. Col de Marjorie is a short but steep hill, followed closely by a 16km ascend called Col de Mons. The race finishes in Fayence, a beautiful town build on a hill.
And it's this young cyclist who opens the race! With a quick attack I put some distance between me and the peloton. Unfortunately, no one felt up to an attack, so I was looking up against nearly 200km of road, without breakaway companions. Let the race against fatigue begin!
I picked up all the points for the mountain jersey and I'm nearing the finishing line, maybe I could make it, because behind me, they are hesitating still. It looked like my career was off to an enormous start. However...
I got too excited, leaned too much in the turn, hit my pedal on the ground and fell! Hurts like hell, I tried getting up quickly but without much success. By the time I got back on my bike, the peloton had caught me.
I quickly dropped out of the peloton, finishing the race would be a great achievement, since every fiber in my body was hurting.
The devil tried to cheer me up, but I was in too much pain to be cheered up.
The finish line seemed ages away, but there it finally was. Still unable to smile, I crossed the finish line feeling disappointed. However, my first (and hopefully not last) mountain jersey is a fact. This is still a great start at Lotto - Belisol, but I can't keep wondering what could've been more.
By the time I got up on the podium I'd been stuffed up on pain killers and finally I could start enjoying this beautiful jersey, standing alongside these beautiful women!
Stijn Van Gent
I guess this race was much more important to Eric as it was to me. For me it was a matter of surviving and I think I did okay. The first day I ended with the peloton, which is great. The second day I lost some minutes though. Though I was riding on save-energy for the coming race: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad!
See you back in Belgium, for the Belgian start of the season!
Edited by Ian Butler on 04-08-2012 15:46
Today I had my first real test, and I must say I did well! My true cobblestone-career started with the opening of the Belgian cycling season:
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad
This year's Omloop was one that existed of many, many attacks, just to list a few:
Tom Boonen followed by Juan Antonio Flecha
Eventually a group of about 16 came back together, Roelandts and I were the only ones to represent the colors of our team.
Roelandts was a fantastic leader and made a quick and wise decision to put me in the wheel of Boonen. He himself would get in my wheel.
Unfortunately, I was unable to hold Boonen's wheel once he started to sprint. I tried my best to launch Roelandts as fast as possible, but it was Boonen who came across the line first. Breschel was a close second and Roelandts third.
As for me? I am incredibly satisfied with a 7th place in this beautiful race. I returned home a happy man.
Now I must be off to bed, as tomorrow is an equally important date: Kuurne - Brussel - Kuurne!
We should be able to make that bronze medal gold tomorrow with the likes of Greipel or Roelandts, both proved to be very strong already so early in the season. I hope to score another top-ten place, but I must be a realist above an optimist, so I must put the team's needs above my own and pray for a victory tomorrow!
See you tomorrow.
Edited by Ian Butler on 04-08-2012 19:07
A top 10 place in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will certainly help his career for the better
It was a fun Omloop to race, but also a nervous one, all those attacks Kuurne - Brussel - Kuurne and Samyn will be uploaded tomorrow!