I started a bit late with cycling, only when I was 18, as before that I did a few other sports, like athletics.
One day I was working in a supermarket and still studying and I was just thinking by myself "what are you doing with your life?", so I quit school and started working. One day I passed near a bicycle store and as I always wanted a mountain bike, I went into the store. There I saw a nice road bike instead of a mountain bike, so I asked the owner what was the price – and I still remember – it was 500€. I bought the road bike instead. At the beginning I used the bike to get to work: 20 kilometers to go and 20 kilometers back.
One day I had a flat tire and I didn't even know how to change it, so I went into another bicycle store and asked them how I could change it because I really wanted to get to work. I had immediately a great connection with the people from the store, I started riding my bike with them and even got a job in the store, so this way I could learn everything about bikes.
The people from the store apparently thought I was good on the bike, so they found me a team where I could start as a cyclist. I did just three months of in the junior ranks and went straight to the U23 category. After two years I had the opportunity to become a pro cyclist. That was really on fast forward: from being 18 and knowing nothing of bike to riding in U23 races just two years later. Of course, this also came with some disadvantages, because you don't have the skills of a professional rider who has been riding for maybe 10 to 15 years already.
My first team was Caja Rural, where I really had to learn everything by myself, because we didn't have so many experienced riders as we do now in this team. When I got the opportunity to come to Etixx – Quick-Step after being a pro for five years, I really grabbed it with both hands! I'm so fortunate that I have the chance to learn from all these great champions in the team. Tom Boonen helped me a lot, especially on the downhills. I wasn't good on the descents and one day, after a stage in the Giro, he told me "hey man, you can't go on the downhills like you do now, you really have to improve, so tomorrow you follow me, stay in my wheel and I will show you." So we did like that the next day and now I can say that I really improved my skills.
My goals in cycling are to do well at the Grand Tours, I would like to continue my improvement and make to make them my target. Besides these, I'm dreaming of strong performances in week-long stage races, such as Paris-Nice and Criterium du Dauphiné. A special place in my heart goes also to the Ardennes Classics, because I love them a lot, as they are very special races.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele