Part of the team since 2009, Dirk puts all his passion and his whole heart into what he loves most, driving the Wolfpack safely around the world.
Dirk Clarysse was a pro himself for five years, winning eight races and also riding the famous 1988 Giro d’Italia, in the snow.
“After that I was building kitchens for two years, and then I had a pub for 12 years. My wife, who is a teacher, never stopped working, so there were really 12 years working 7 out of 7, which was just hard. I decided to do something else and worked for five years as a bus driver and maintenance man in a school.”
When he turned 40, Dirk started his second cycling career, as his cycling club was going to ride the famous ‘Marmotte’, a very demanding race taking the participants over three climbs before a finish on the mythical Alpe d’Huez. “After having a pub for 12 years, I needed to lose some weight so I started to ride my bike again. I also did the ‘Marmotte’ and was the first one at the finish from all the members of the cycling club.” Dirk continued as an amateur cyclist for another three years and trained a lot with one of his best friends, Jurgen Van de Walle, who was then racing for Quick-Step, and still won 10 races.
Love for Italy
Jurgen told Dirk that Quick-Step was looking for a new bus driver, and knowing already a lot of people from the team like mechanic Dirk Tyteca, sports director Rik van Slycke, or soigneur Rudy Pollet, it immediately felt like coming home.
“My first race was an Italian one, and since then I never stopped doing the Italian races. Each year I spend almost two months in Italy, starting with Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, then the Giro and some other Italian races in the last part of the season. But above all, as a Belgian I still love most Flanders and Roubaix. That’s really something special.”
Making any comparisons with the time Dirk still raced is almost impossible, he acknowledges. “Almost everything has changed. I still raced when there were no buses, then you still had to take cars, or the van. Now everything is being done for the riders, it goes from having an ice bath to mattresses and having cooks with you at the Grand Tours. It’s just totally different. Also, now I think the riders have a lot more pressure with social media.”
Dirk’s time at home is really precious, especially now that he has become grandfather of a beautiful little girl Vé. “I would say I’m almost 200 days abroad, and it only becomes more and more. The time that I’m at home I work in the garden, take a swim in the pool or I go for a walk with my wife. I don’t have a lot of time to bike, as you already need to find 3-4 hours for that. And now of course Vé is my goddess, she is one and a half years old now and it’s a totally different feeling then when you become a dad yourself. Now you really get to experience it.”
Becoming World TTT Champion
“My most beautiful memories in all these years? For sure becoming World Champion in the TTT, it’s just super unique as the whole team lives and works for that single moment. I experienced three of our titles. Also getting on the Giro podium with Rigoberto Uran was really nice. This Giro was different as there was also the Covid-19 situation, which makes it more stressful. Last year in the Tour de France I tested false positive, and I can guarantee it’s not a nice feeling. But it can happen to anyone”, Dirk looks back. “Having no public makes it a lot easier of course, but it isn’t healthy. At the time trial in the Tour de Suisse you already saw the changes with people being around the bus, it’s just something we will need to get used to again.”
Dirk also helped design the bus, and is now busy with a new project. “You always have to improve and learn from your mistakes, otherwise you don’t progress. For this bus, in the winter I went almost every month to Italy to check how everything was going, as the whole process took almost six months. I gave my input also when we involved Quick-Step for the floors. Now we are starting all over again and hopefully we will see a new beautiful bus in the peloton soon.”
Dirk keeps being busy, but he wouldn’t want it any other way. “In three years normally, I can stop working and retire, but it’s not something on my mind. This team is so special, as the group is just one big family. I want to go on a bit longer, if the team will also go on hopefully a bit longer. This job starts with a passion, otherwise you can’t do it. You spend a lot of time with your colleagues on the road, more than with your own wife and family, so you really have to love the sport.”
Photo credit: ©Wout Beel