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PCM.daily » PCM Stories & Story Games » PCM 15: Stories
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Life in Obscurity 2: Currently on hiatus
Ollie23
THE INTERVIEW

Part 1:
OLD MEMORIES


It was roughly two years ago that I met Ollie for the first time in a similar café on a similar sunny but cold and crispy day. Before I arrived for my interview that day back in November 2013 I thought I was doing a short interview with the newly appointed Sports Director in charge of building and leading the squad of the new continental team Le Coq Sportif and that I would probably never see the guy again. In fact, because of the language barrier – he had just started to learn french and my english has never been any good – I ended up not using a single quote from that interview but had to use the little I learned from our conversation and the french translation of the following press conference to write my article. It was such an awkward encounter that I was relieved when I finally handed in the article as I assumed my dealings with this team and their sports director was over.

A week later it was announced that Le Coq Sportif’s cycling team would have their base right in my home town, something my editor found very exciting, and I was assigned with following the team closer than our newspaper had followed any cycling team before which involved regular meetings and conversations with the only sports director in France who didn’t speak french.

Merde, I thought to myself.

To my relief December and January was mainly spent reporting on french press releases from the team and evaluating the squad they had been able to assemble. And when I met up with Ollie again in February, his french had improved significantly. He was nowhere near fluent, but his refusal to use any english and willingness to be corrected and learn from journalists and even his own riders was admirable. Now, almost two years later, we meet again, as I’m working on a longer article on the Le Coq Sportif cycling team and their short history and I’m hoping Ollie can provide the answers I need to finally close this chapter of my life.

drinks.seriouseats.com/images/2012/10/101712-coffee-working-cafes-nyc-1.jpg


Ollie promises the coffee here is excellent and I trust him even though I don’t understand the language he uses to place the order. We sit down at a table by the window and like two old friends catching up, we start talking about Le Coq Sportif. We seem to drift effortlessly and without noticing between journalist/subject and old friends but that’s what our relationship evolved to. Ollie seems more relaxed now than when we met a few weeks ago in France. I had been eager to talk about Ollie’s future as it was sort of tied in with my own future, not having any particular desire to go back to reporting on local sports like I had before Le Coq Sportif set up headquarters in our backyard. Having to travel outside of the french borders to meet Ollie today had already given me more answers than I had gotten back then.

Stay tuned for part 2!

------------------
Note to the reader:
This is a (sort of) continuation of my PCM2014 story, Life in Obscurity: The Story of a Small Continental Team but only the sports director and the reporter is carried over from the previous story. If you followed that story you probably noticed that it ended kind of abruptly. Now I'm ready to correct that and hopefully give you an enjoyable story as well.

Note: You don't have to read the first Life in Obscurity story to be able to keep up with this one. I might include a relevant link every now and then but it's not like you'll get lost in the story if you don't read those either.

Edited by Ollie23 on 18-07-2018 20:48
 
Ripley
Finally! Grin Good luck!
 
Ollie23
@Ripley I know, I know Embarassed Spent way too much time planning this... Hopefully it shows! If not, at least the pictures from the game should be of a much better quality as I planned for so long I've now bought a new and much better computer Smile


THE INTERVIEW

Part 2:
THE TEAM OF CONTRASTS



There seems to be an agreement between us that the future can wait while we talk about the memories from our two years knowing each other, an agreement that need not be spoken out loud. We reminisce as we drink our coffee. Ollie was right; the coffee is indeed excellent. He orders some more along with some food as we both expect this to be a long meeting. We work our way through the last two years in chronological order, although neither of us wants to mention our very first and very awkward meeting. Instead we talk about the ups and downs we experienced in the short life of Le Coq Sportif; the disappointing start to the 2014 season and the early pressure put on Ollie; my memorable ride along on the 2nd stage of the 2014 Circuit des Ardennes International; the cursed 2015 spring season. It leads us to the 2015 Tour de Picardie, one of the last races I covered.

«I have thought a lot about that race,» I tell Ollie. Not only have I thought a lot about it; it’s become a central piece in my article about the team.

«That race to me, on the backend of that terrible spring, to me encapsulates what Le Coq Sportif was.»

I pause while Ollie considers my statement.

«You mean the contrast?» he asks. He’s spot on and I feel relieved, like the central piece of my story has been validated.

«Yes!» I say. «That’s exactly my point. Having followed the team closely for almost two years now, that’s what stands out. That stark contrast between struggling through sickness, fatigue and constantly being up against the odds and those few sweet moments of success that made it all worth it.»

«That’s a good point,» Ollie says. Encouraged I continue, not realizing I’m being a terrible journalist, providing the answers instead of asking the questions.

«And that’s why I think the Tour de Picardie is the perfect… metaphor if you like, for what Le Coq Sportif was.»

We sip our coffee in silence for a few moments. A few minutes to reflect on what has been said, recalling the race that’s still fresh in our minds…

Edited by Ollie23 on 30-07-2017 12:17
 
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Shonak
Wow excellent written intro, like both parts a lot. Interesting to continue a story you once started by moving forward in time. Goodluck with your endeavour. Smile
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"It’s a little bit scary when Contador attacks." - Tommy V
 
Ollie23
@Shonak; Thanks a lot! Hope this will turn out alright Smile



THE INTERVIEW

Part 3:
THE 2015 TOUR DE PICARDIE, STAGE 3



May 18th, 2015.

Lucien Chateau is struggling.

The pace is high and the young Le Coq Sportif rider is at his limit just trying to keep up. He can taste blood in his mouth as he fights for each breath. The tarmac underneath rolls by at a slow pace but his legs are screaming at him, begging him to stop whatever self-torture he’s gotten himself into. His teammates are far behind him and it’s up to him to bring the victory home. But in his mind, he sees the win slip away like so many times before. It’s just the way things go this cursed season.

His eyes barely register the 10 kms sign.

Right now 10 kms seems very distant, too distant, and he tries to focus on the next corner or the next 100 meters, but even that seems demotivating. It has been a long road back to racing after a virus wreaked havoc with him and several of this teammates about a month ago and he knows he isn’t a 100% fit yet. This morning he was thinking about how a win today would be his greatest achievement, a great win despite the illness, the lack of race days and fitness. Right now his mind is telling him he’s losing because of those reasons and that it’s ok. His teammates will understand. His Sports Director will understand and probably congratulate him on a great performance anyway. Lucien allows himself to take his foot off the gas. ‘Just for a second,’ he thinks to himself while trying to catch his breath but as soon as he does Ollie is in his ear.

«You’ve got this, Lucien!» he screams and Lucien tries to speed up again, like he was caught slacking off and needs to make up for it. But his legs have nothing more to give.

He looks up and sees the riders in front of him increase their speed as the final sprint is approaching. Lucien is running on empty and has to see the sprint go without him. The cheers from the crowd grows louder as the front group puts on a spectacular high speed show but Lucien can only picture himself at the front from his position far behind. Right now he’s no better than the spectators cheering. There’s no screaming Sports Director in his ear but right now Lucien wants nothing more than to hear Ollie’s voice telling him the final outcome. He looks down on the yellow jersey as to savor his final moments wearing it as he rolls down the final meters and crosses the finish line. All he wants is to get off his bike and lay down for a few minutes – or maybe for a few days – but his trainer is at his side immediately helping him to navigate through the crowd and back to the team bus. His head is spinning, he tries to catch his breath but in the corner of his eye he sees the scoreboard. The yellow jersey on the screen next to the word WINNER and only one name underneath it;

His name.

«Coming in behind the rest but still winning the jersey. The deep valleys and the highest mountain tops. The Team of Contrasts» I say revealing the working title for my article about the team. I stop talking for long enough to take bite of my sandwich. My article is shaping up to be my best piece yet.

«But isn’t that what cycling is all about?» Ollie asks. I stop chewing. I hadn't thought of that. My 'best piece yet' suddenly needs an extensive rewrite.

«Months of struggles and disappointments all forgotten in those few wonderful moments when you get a taste of success?»

«Yes,» I say although my brain is working on how I can include the cycling metaphor into my article. It’s brilliant and I’m a bit annoyed I didn’t think of it.

«And momentary success was yet again followed by disappointments,» I say as an ending to my article starts to form.

«Another valley, only this time there was no way back to the top.»

 
Tamijo
Great stuff !
 
Ollie23
@Tamijo – thanks! Smile



THE INTERVIEW

Part 4:
THE POWERLESS SPORTS DIRECTOR



The win at the Tour de Picardie stands as the final big achievement for Ollie and his riders as the summer would bring yet another twist in this team of contrasts. In an interview I had with Ollie on 1 May, Ollie told me he had canceled the entire autumn race calendar. I was taken aback at this, calling it a drastic move. Ollie agreed but defended his decision by the schedule being too heavy for his young riders, struggling with fatigue and wanting to prioritize training over racing for the remainder of the season. Not being a sports director or professional cyclist I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but as the autumn season rolled on, the absence of Le Coq Sportif was noticed and questioned by many. Was fatigue and prioritizing the real reason for the team's absence?

«So, I have to ask,» I say a bit hesitant, but my curiosity takes over. I know I have to get to the bottom of this for my article. That's why I made the trip.

«You cancelled the entire race calendar for this autumn. You gave a reasonable explanation back in May, but…»

«Was there anything else going on behind the scenes?» Ollie completes my question for me and takes a sip of his coffee as he waits for my confirmation.

«Yes. I haven’t thought about it until recently, but I’m curious,» I say with a smile, almost to excuse my curiosity. I’m relieved that Ollie isn’t offended and seems willing to open up about all the secrecy at his former employer.

«When the race calendar for this autumn was cancelled, that was after a meeting with my coaches where we looked to reduce the number of race days, although at that point we never thought about canceling the entire autumn.»

«So, how did you arrive on that decision?»

Ollie spends a few minutes explaining the inner workings of the team. From the start of the 2015 season the chain of command had changed from 2014; Ollie was still the Sports Director but Le Coq Sportif inserted what they called a manager, although to me he sounds more like a middleman between the team and the Le Coq Sportif executives. The manager was put in place to oversee the squad, help Ollie manage the contracts and race calendar and make sure there was a nice open line of communication between the board of directors and the team. In theory it sounded like a good move that underlined Le Coq Sportif’s investment and interest in their team. In reality it meant that Ollie no longer had the final say in anything other than race day tactics. Every decision had to go through the manager and everything had to be approved by him (or more likely, the executives). In other words it was a way for the Le Coq Sportif executives to gain full control over every aspect of the team. Ollie became a Sports Director without the power of a Sports Director. So, when he and his trainers wanted to reduce the number of race days, he had to send a proposal to the manager who would then have to approve it. When the manager sent Ollie the final approved race calendar, the months of September and October were both empty with a short note explaining that all races beyond August had been cancelled.

«Yes, I knew something was going on behind the scenes," Ollie says and I can see that it bothers him to talk about or even remember.

"But I had a manager in my way hiding whatever it was.»

 
Tamijo
Nice why to like up the two "parts" of the story.
(havent read the 2014)
 
Ollie23

THE INTERVIEW

Part 5 of 5:
A FOOTNOTE IN HISTORY



«So, when did you know they were pulling out?» I ask.

«Early June,» he replies.

Le Coq Sportif had 9 of 12 riders in their squad on expiring contracts and Ollie had before the 2015 season hired two scouts to help plan and put together next year’s squad. As stated in the previously mentioned interview, their top priority was to resign Pierrick Chevillard but July came and went seemingly without any contract talks at all. In my 18 months following the team there had been periods where updates from Ollie were few and far between, but in July they stopped completely and I couldn’t even get a hold of him.

Now it makes sense; there hadn’t been much time to be disappointed or angry with Le Coq Sportif and June and July was spent desperately trying to find a new main sponsor. I knew Ollie the passionate Sports Director, a man with a great love for the sport and his riders, great at motivating and developing young riders but who I always felt had a dislike for anything related to finances, contracts and sponsorships. I’m therefore not surprised when he tells me he was unable to find a new main sponsor.

«That was certainly one of the most difficult periods in my life,» Ollie says thinking back on a chaotic and emotional summer. «You know, that press conference was not the most difficult thing I had to do that summer.»

He takes a bite of his sandwich. The press conference he’s talking about was held in early September where it was announced that Le Coq Sportif was pulling out after the season, the remaining race calendar had been cancelled and all riders and staff released from their contracts. It was a shell of a man I had witnessed that day, a completely different person from the one sitting in front of me today.

«Having to stand before 12 young talented riders and tell them they no longer have a team… Now THAT was difficult.»

I don’t doubt Ollie’s words, but at the same time I wonder if it was his shortcomings on the financial side of things that put him in that position, having to release 12 young riders from their contracts. Not being a qualified Sports Director myself I’m not really in a position to say whether a different Sports Director could’ve secured another sponsor and saved the team but I can’t shake the feeling.

«Do you think the so called manager was a step towards pulling out for Le Coq Sportif?» I ask as the idea strikes me. «They probably knew they would never get you in on those plans.»

«I’ve wondered about that myself without coming up with a good answer,» he says and I realize it’s one of those unanswered questions best left alone.

The last remaining races in August is just a footnote in the short history of Le Coq Sportif cycling team and if it was up to me, the Tour de Picardie should forever go down in the history books as a shining example of who and what Le Coq Sportif was; like the sport of cycling itself, the team suffered through days, weeks, even months of hard work and tired legs just for that occasional sweet taste of success.

We finish our meals and more of the excellent coffee is brought to our table. I understand why Ollie likes this place. With plates cleared and more excellent coffee served I pull out my notepad again. I'm the journalist again, the past has been discussed and it's finally time to for Ollie to satisfy my curiosity:

«So,» I say, «why did you invite me to Antwerp?»

Edited by Ollie23 on 01-08-2017 22:46
 
Tamijo
"Nice way to like up the two "parts" of the story."

Correcting my typo – could be misunderstood
 
Ollie23

THE PRESS CONFERENCE

creativosservices.com/images/noticias/blog.jpg

Part 1:
OLLIE'S NEXT JOB



A few local journalists have turned up, but for bike crazy Belgium I almost expected a packed house. They chat away with each other in a language I don’t understand and I wonder what they’re talking about. I didn’t understand a word of the flemish press release someone handed me as I arrived so I don't know if the news is out already or if the reporters are still playing the guessing game.

A woman in a sharp suit clears her throat and gets everyone’s attention. She says a few words in what I can only assume is flemish but to my relief, the rest of the press conference is held with french translation. It’s either because of media coverage in bilingual Brussels or I now owe Ollie a favor.

The woman goes on to introduce an elderly gentleman with a Belgian name I don’t catch even though the translator makes an effort to make it clear. It seems to contain noises I’ve never had to use in french and I have no idea how to spell them. What I do understand is that the elderly gentleman represents Argenta, a Belgian bank with headquarters right here in Antwerp. He takes the stage and without further ado starts to read from a manuscript. He talks in a monotone voice that seems designed to put people to sleep and goes on for quite some time about the history of Argenta, their vision and what they represent before he spends some time on Antwerp as a growing cycling region. I’m relieved he skipped the history of Antwerp as that would’ve gone on for a while. Instead he says the well-prepared words and the only words that will make it onto television this evening:

«Argenta Bank is proud to announce that as of 2016 Argenta will be the main sponsor of a new professional cycling team based right here in Antwerp.»

The elderly gentleman pauses and looks up from his manuscript to pose for a few photographs (and the cameras) before he continues.

«Argenta Cycling Team will race in UCI’s Continental division as of 2016. We are eager to build a team with strong roots here in Antwerp, the heart of Flanders…»

I can see the journalists look up from their notepads and look at each other like that last statement was a bit of an over exaggeration. The elderly gentleman continues on as if he’s said nothing to cause any reaction.

«…and have committed to a three year deal. With us we’ve brought Telenet, another local business who are already sponsoring Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team and have now signed on to be a minor sponsor for us next year.»

Since the TV stations already has the right soundbites for the evening sports, the elderly gentleman is back to reading a long manuscript in a monotone voice as he lays out the financial details of the deal between Argenta and Telenet. My mind wanders despite the translator being much more entertaining than the actual headliner, but I’m quickly brought back into the conference room as he gives me my soundbite...

 
Tamijo
Great post, Elderly Gentleman is funny and quite cute personality.
 
Ollie23

THE PRESS CONFERENCE

creativosservices.com/images/noticias/blog.jpg

Part 2:
THE IDEAL SPORTS DIRECTOR?!


«We aim to build a team with strong roots in Flanders, a team that wins races and can contribute to the growing cycling community in Antwerp. At the same time we wish to find and develop young local riders who can compete at the highest levels.»

My mind wandered as the elderly gentleman continued his monotone monologue until he gave me my soundbite:

«To help us achieve our ambitions, we’ve brought on-board an ideal Sports Director, someone with lots of experience who we think can help us achieve our local profile but also lead our team to great results!» The elderly gentleman goes on to introduce Ollie, but has already lost me.

’The ideal sports director for a local, flemish team is a French-speaking Norwegian?!’ I think to myself as Ollie takes the stage and poses for the cameras while frozen in a handshake with the elderly gentleman. I struggle to hold back the laughter at that last sentence as it sounds like something from a manuscript they wrote when they were still trying to sign a flemish Sports Director. I make a mental note to remind myself to ask Ollie about it later.

Finally, the elderly gentleman recedes from the podium and let's his 'ideal' sports director take over. The tone and the pace of the press conference changes when Ollie takes the mic. He speaks with great confidence in french which is then translated into flemish, and I can’t help but think back on our very first conversation two years ago when we could barely understand each other. Now he (almost) talks with the fluency of a frenchman and he keeps his message clear and to the point.

«Our focus is to represent our sponsor well in their key markets, especially here in Belgium and in the Netherlands, but we expect to visit other European countries as well. We’ll release more details as soon as we can confirm the race calendar for the first quarter of the 2016 season.»

He only talks for a few minutes but covers all the essentials before moving on to the squad. The reporters who were almost put to sleep by the elderly gentleman are now fully awake and on the edge of their seat taking notes at a breakneck speed trying to get all the details.

«We can’t say too much about the squad yet as we are still in negotiations with several riders,» Ollie continues, «but we will today introduce our first signing, who’s arriving shortly.»

The room buzzes and I can see a cameraman who has just finished packing up his camera equipment let out a sigh as he starts to pull it all out again.

What I can say is that we are looking to build a squad of 10 riders for the 2016 season. As already mentioned, our home base will be here in the heart of Flanders,» Ollie says with a smile and a glimpse in his eye as he repeats the elderly man’s possibly exaggerated statement on Antwerp. The reporters chuckle. The elderly gentleman doesn't seem to be paying attention which seems rude considering we all had to pay attention on his 45 minute lecture on a local bank.

«So, we are primarily looking to build a team of local, flemish riders. Belgium is a great cycling nation with teams in both the World Tour and Pro Continental division, so even though we aim to achieve great results in the Continental division, an important focus of ours will be to find and develop young, talented Flemish riders. Of course, as soon as we overtake Lotto-Soudal and Etixx-Quick Step, that policy might change.»

I find myself fascinated by the man I see in front of me and I join in the laughter from the other reporters. Yes, this is a different man than I met just a few weeks ago. The smile and the glimpse in his eye has returned. He seems content, happy, like the man I met at the start of the 2014 season in France only with more confidence.

«As mentioned we are still in negotiations with several riders, on which I cannot comment at this point,» Ollie says, pointing a finger at the reporters as a warning not to ask questions about it, but still with that glimpse in his eye and a smile on his face, «and we expect to finalize several deals over the next few days.»

Ollie turns to look at the man that has appeared at the side of the stage and says;

«But I do want to introduce to you our first signing which was finalized just hours ago.»


 
Ripley
Delightfully written! Let's hope the first signing is Van Avermaet! Smile
 
Ollie23
Ripley wrote:
Delightfully written! Let's hope the first signing is Van Avermaet! Smile


It is! Van Avermaet couldn't wait to ride for a Continental team for €2,500 a month! Smile

But hopefully the one who actually signed is going to be an exciting rider for us Smile
 
Ollie23

THE PRESS CONFERENCE

creativosservices.com/images/noticias/blog.jpg

Part 3:
ARGENTA'S FIRST SIGNING


The journalists follow Ollie’s eyes and notice the man of which Ollie is speaking. Low mumbling between journalists ensue followed by a short applause; they clearly knows who this rider is and he looks familiar to me even though my brain can’t come up with a name. The rider steps up onto the stage to shake Ollie’s hand. The blitz from several cameras light up the press room as they do. Finally, Ollie puts my curiosity to rest as he introduces his first signing;

«We are delighted to introduce to you all the first signing in the history of the Argenta Cycling Team: Kevin Peeters.»

sporza.be/polopoly_fs/1.1452760!image/3479240518.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape670/3479240518.jpg

More applause from the reporters as the cameras save the historical moment in their memories.

«Kevin was thought to be retiring after the 2015 season, but has signed a 2 year deal to ride with us in 2016 and 2017. We are very excited to bring a local rider like Kevin to our team, a great rider born in Lier, right here in the province of Antwerp. Kevin is an excellent sprinter with long experience at this level and has ambitions of racing at an even higher level. We hope to be an instrumental part in him achieving his goals.»

A reporter asks about if his first signing signals a change in philosophy from his time in France and if so, what he learned in France that made him decide to do so. In Le Coq Sportif Ollie mainly worked with what could've been registered as an U23 team but with Kevin Peeters, a rider in his late 20's and many years of experience, Ollie is adding veteran leadership from day 1.

«Being a key part in the development of young flemish riders is an important goal for our sponsor,» Ollie says, avoiding Le Coq Sportif altogether. «But at the same time we're looking to produce good results right from the start. I also believe Kevin can be
a great mentor and teacher for some of the younger riders we hope to bring in over the next few weeks and months.»

Kevin Peeters takes the stage and says a few words about why he wanted to retire, the restaurant business he has recently started with his girlfriend and how she will keep the business running while he’s on the road.

«I've been promised a race calendar that'll mainly keep me in Belgium,» he says and Ollie nods to confirm. «We still have our little restaurant and that will still be there when I feel like I’m done with cycling. But my years as a cyclist is limited and I still have more I want to achieve,» he says before being asked about what kind of fried foods he’ll be serving at the restaurant when he’s not racing.

Peeters steps down and Ollie answers a few questions about the team that will be built around Kevin Peeters. Even though no other riders have been signed at this point, with a sprinter like Kevin and a race calendar primarily in Belgium, it doesn't take a genius to understand what kind of team Ollie is trying to build for Argenta's debut season. He answers a few questions about his past with Le Coq Sportif – the only portion of the press conference where he seems slightly insecure and uncomfortable – and the future Argenta team before we finally arrive at the final question:

«You spent less than 2 years in France, but you seem fluent in french. When can we expect you to be fluent in flemish?» The question is met with laughter by everyone, including Ollie who clearly understood the question and before the translator has a chance to translate it, Ollie replies, in flemish, to the surprise and laughter of the reporters;

«Ask me again next week.»


 
Tamijo
Nice signing, hope Peeters can get back to the level he had a few years ago, and help with the development of the youngsters.
 
Ollie23

THE PROPOSAL


I leave the laughing press conference room thinking I’m glad I made this trip. I didn’t like how the Le Coq Sportif assignment never got a proper ending and I feel like I can now finally close that chapter of my life. As I head back towards my hotel though, I still feel uneasy. Was this a chapter of my life I wanted to close? I started covering local sports again last summer when communications with Le Coq Sportif was nonexistent and it was fine because I knew that at some point I would be back following Le Coq Sportif around again. My editor sent me around our local area and had me covering lower division football, small amateur cycling races and interviews with people I didn’t know and didn’t care about. My heart wasn’t in it and it was just a way of passing time and earning my paycheck while waiting for word from Le Coq Sportif.

I pack my bag and check out. I throw my bag in the trunk of my car but then decide to take a final walk around Antwerp before making the drive back to France. It’s a beautiful city and I don’t know if I’ll ever be back here so I want to take some pictures and maybe stop by the café from yesterday. Maybe I can buy some of that excellent coffee to take home with me.

My mobile chirps and I see a text message from Ollie. I was hoping to say farewell before leaving and I agree to meet him for lunch. I look at a few buildings in my immediate surroundings and take a couple of pictures but soon realize sightseeing is incredibly dull so I head for the café instead. We meet, eat and talk for about an hour before Ollie reveals his true intentions behind the invitation to come to Antwerp. It wasn’t the press conference after all.

«I want you to continue your job following the team,» he says, straight to the point and yet I’m confused. «Only this time it’ll be in Belgium so you would probably have to move.»

I’m not sure whether he’s joking or not. He’s direct and speaks to me as if I was ever employed by him. It’s not that I haven’t already considered the possibility of going freelance or moving somewhere else to continue writing about cycling. But none of my calculations ever add up to a salary I can live on. Not to mention the difficulty of moving away from family and friends and start over somewhere else. Maybe it would’ve been possible in the french-speaking part of Belgium but not here in Flanders. Sure, I can probably learn to understand flemish, but to write in flemish is a whole other challenge.

«What do you mean exactly?» I ask not really sure where to start my line of questioning.

Ollie seems prepared for my questions and it strikes me how well prepared he’s looked ever since I met him yesterday. Of course, a cycling team should have a well prepared Sports Director, a man with a plan. I just never expected to be part of the plan. Ollie goes on explaining the solution I never could come up with; I would be a free-lance journalist but some wages would be guaranteed by a local newspaper who are apparently very excited about bringing aboard someone Ollie described as «a french cycling expert». So, the job comes with great expectations I’m not sure I can live up to. I will contribute short articles and updates on the world of cycling in general to the newspaper to earn my paycheck but the majority of my time will be spent on the road following the team. Here I’ll have the chance to write longer pieces about the team, more in-depth articles about the riders, the races, the ups and downs of a Continental cycling team. In a way it’s the answer to the prayers I never prayed, the perfect solution that would allow me to not only continue what I’ve enjoyed the most the last two years being on the road, but combines it with my rekindled love for writing more in-depth stories and not just the short updates. It’s almost too perfect.

«And everything you write is yours to sell to whoever’s interested.»

Ok, it is too perfect. Next he’s gonna tell me he’s convinced my family and friends to move to Antwerp too.

«But won’t the reporting be extremely biased from a journalist who’s given an exclusive access to a team for a whole season?» I ask starting to chip away at this perfect painting Ollie has set before me.

«You’ll write whatever you want,» Ollie says and he’s dead serious. «Whether that’s positive or negative, compliments or criticism, that’s entirely up you. I’m not your employer and I have no say in what you write.»

I couldn’t care less about the Belgian newspaper and almost dread having to write short articles updating the local Belgians about the world of cycling, but the chance to write longer, more in-depth articles is very tempting. It’ll give me a chance to do the kind of writing I love. If that doesn’t work out, at least I’ll only be covering cycling and not the annual chicken race or the local Who-Gives-A-Damn Cup of racquet ball.

«What’s in it for you?» I ask, continuing to look for the fine print.

«PR, mainly,» he says and I can tell he’s being completely honest with me. «We’re a brand new Belgian team competing in Belgium. On the plus side, Belgium is crazy about cycling. On the other side, Belgium is crazy about cycling; it’s easy to get lost in a sea of teams, races and riders. We want to stand out. Part of that is finding someone from outside the Belgian world of cycling, someone with an outside perspective and more importantly, someone who’s got experience dealing with me and my team.»

«And what about the language barrier?» I ask. All other obstacles seems to have faded away in a short hour to a point where the language barrier is the only thing stopping me from jumping onboard for a Belgian adventure. Maybe being on the road again, following Ollie and his team – although it only consists of 1 rider at this point – has rekindled that feeling I had when I followed Le Coq Sportif, a feeling of loving my job and being excited about every day. Maybe its the city of Antwerp.

Maybe its the coffee.

«You’ll pick it up,» Ollie says with a confidence on the subject I don’t possess. «If not, there are people at the newspaper who can translate. The only question you need to ask yourself is if this is something you really want to do. There are solutions for everything else.»

I tell him I have to think about it. I at least have to talk to my family and friends if I’m to move countries. Ollie receives a call and speaks in flemish. A waitress brings over another cup of coffee for me. I want to ask her if I can buy some of their coffee to bring with me to France but the language barrier makes me nervous and all I can manage is a smile.

«That’s great news,» Ollie says to whoever’s on the other line and I suddenly realize he’s switched from flemish to french. I can’t help but think it’s for my benefit, a final sales pitch targeting my curious side.

«Set up an appointment. I’m sure I can convince him.» Ollie hangs up and is suddenly in a rush to leave. Is it all an act, a staged call, leaving me with the impression that things are really happening here in Belgium? If it is, it’ll take at least a few weeks before I’m ready to admit that its actually working. Damn my curiosity.

«Oh, I almost forgot to ask,» I say as Ollie puts on his jacket to leave.

«Shoot,» he says.

«Would you say that a french-speaking Norwegian is the ideal sports director for a Flemish cycling team?»

It takes Ollie a few seconds to understand the context but then remembers the elderly gentleman’s words at the press conference and starts to laugh.

«No,» he says as he closes his jacket and opens the door.

«But I will be.»


 
Tamijo
Just love this, it is a lot of dull looking text, but it is truly worth the time spend. Keep it up !
 
Ollie23
Tamijo wrote:
Just love this, it is a lot of dull looking text, but it is truly worth the time spend. Keep it up !


Thank you. I appreciate the kind words! And I promise shorter texts and more pictures in the future! Just didn't have a lot of pictures for this part of the story Smile
 
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