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Kurt Bogaerts: the young man playing an old man's game

Kurt Bogaerts was young for a DS when he began at An Post. He's aged now but his extraordinary care for the riders hasn't diminished.

Kurt Bogaerts
Jordan Gibbons
20 Jan 2016

­­Kurt Bogaerts is no ordinary directeur sportif (DS) because An Post-Chain Reaction is no ordinary cycling team. You see, unlike other teams that do their best to hold onto riders, Bogaerts is trying to get rid of them. An Post-Chain Reaction is a feeder team for the professional ranks and has actually only carried three riders over from its 2015 roster. An Post-Chain Reaction takes young riders and supports them so that any talent is able to flourish and with a bit of luck, they’ll make that leap. However picking the talent isn’t so easy.

‘We [Bogaerts and fellow DS Sean Kelly] first spotted Jack Wilson at the U23 Worlds in Valkenberg, 2013. He rode well and looked strong compared to riders his own age,’ says Bogaerts. ‘Importantly, he was racing for a small Belgian team at the time, so the European racing experience that is hard for Irish riders to get was already done.’

Wilson had a poor season in 2015 and would have thrown in the towel had it not been for a supportive call from Bogaerts – Read more about this here: Jack Wilson interview.

‘For me, this is not a business. It is a family. It’s important that these young guys get the support they need so that they reach their full potential.

An Post rider lost chain

‘Part of the way we do this is by keeping them motivated. We offer them chances to lead at races, be in the breakaway – not chasing it down. Too many young riders join the World Tour too young and spend their careers on the front of the bunch working for others. No one dreams of being a domestique all their lives.’

This approach seems to been paying off: Sam Bennett has gone to Bora-Argon, and Ryan Mullen is with Cannondale. It’s at these sorts of teams that Bogaerts is convinced they will be tested for their GC potential, rather than just siphoned off into a leadout program. 

Bogaerts isn't a total pushover though. When the pace begins to drop he's straight on the horn reminding them who's boss. He's also not afraid to offer a gentle ribbing to the young lad who's shipped a chain at the bottom of the climb.

Testing 1 2 3

The Calpe training camp that we’re a part of is the second for the team, but it’s the first time most of the riders will have ridden together in the team strip. The camp has a few functions, but first and foremost it’s a bonding exercise.

‘It’s essential that the riders get along. Most of them are new; some of them have never ridden with the team before, so we like to see how they interact. If they can’t be friends here, how will they work together during the stress of racing? Just one person not quite fitting in can bring the whole team down.’

An Post-Chain Reaction cycling team

There’s some testing done (one minute intervals, climbing threshold etc.) but it’s not ultra scientific – that’s all done in labs before hand. It’s mostly about getting a feel for what position the riders are in ahead of the racing season.

‘Sometimes we test the guys and they’re a little behind. Sometimes they’re ahead and at risk of falling off by the end of the season. They also do some technical training here too like leadouts and receive descending tuition from Sean.’

Bogaerts has been coming to Calpe for eight years and over that time he’s seen a considerable change. Where once there were one or two teams, now there are ten.

‘It is much busier now. All the teams come here to train, sometimes they never leave. Some of the top tier teams take their riders straight into training camps in October right through until January. It means the riders never get an off-season, but they can manage them. You don’t get Jan Ullrich style weight gain now, because the riders are never left alone.

‘It’s not a Team Sky thing either. Many people seem to think they invented training. They didn’t - they just told the world about it.’

anpostchainreaction.com

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