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Toon Aerts | The GCN Cyclocross Podcast Ep.6

Toon Aerts | The GCN Cyclocross Podcast Ep.6


(upbeat electric music) – Welcome back everybody
to the sixth episode of the GCN Cyclocross Podcast. I’m Jeremy Powers and, as always, it is a pleasure to welcome
you all to the show. We’ve got a big one for you this week. I got to catch up with
my friend Marty MacDonald about all the racing that’s
been going down overseas, as we do. We talk about the young
British rider Thomas Mein, who’s an under-23 from the United Kingdom and won his first World
Cup in Tabor two weeks ago. We also talk about Ceylin del
Carmen Alvarado’s first win in Koksijde, and, of course, Mathieu van der Poel’s dominance and the way that he tore it up in Koksijde over the weekend. Then I get to catch up
with Erwin Vervecken. He’s back for the Top
Verdecke, Vervecken segment. We do a mid-season review
of all the big names, the young women who are
smashing it in the elite races, attendance numbers, viewing figures, and a bunch of other fun Erwin-type stuff. Our featured guest on the show today is the current Belgian
national champ, Toon Aerts, and the conversation was awesome. He tells us all about how
he got into the sport, his family, racing with
his brother, Thijs Aerts, working closing with Sven Nys, his favorite way to train,
and lots of other great stuff. This is the sixth episode of the podcast and I feel like we’re
really hitting our stride over here at GCN. It’s been a pleasure
putting these together for all of you with the GCN crew and I thank you all for listening. If you haven’t yet, please
subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen. Get involved with us. Leave us a review. It would mean the world to me if you did. If you’re on social media,
@GCNTweet on Twitter. @GlobalCyclingNetwork on Instagram. Let’s get into this one with
my friend, Marty MacDonald. Hey Marty, how are you today? – I’m good, my friend. How ‘about yourself? – Dude, I’m doing awesome. The sun is shining here in Massachusets and it is a beautiful day. What is going on over in the UK? – Well, last weekend we
had the penultimate round of our National Trophy Series in Pembrey Country Park
in Carmarthenshire. Loads more Dutch and Belgian
riders coming over and racing. In that one, we had a
victory for Arne Vrachten. He’s with the Acrog-Pauwels
Sauzen under-23 team. Great to see so many Belgians
and Dutch riders coming over. There’s more and more. You can see how much the British
cyclocross scene is growing with how many riders are
racing internationally, so I think it’s tempting those riders to just come across the pond. It’s as easy for them to come to the UK as it is for the UK riders to go to Belgium and the Netherlands. So it really sort of gives
me a lot of pride, in a way, to see that the riders from
the hotbed of cyclocross are coming over to the UK and racing. – Yeah, for sure. Sounds like it’s been good racing. You guys have had a ton of success with riders coming out
of the little hotbed and you were telling me
that there’s a little area of the UK that seems to be turning out quite a bit of talent. – Yeah, we’ve got to give a big shout out to the Northeast cyclocross masses, who are always on our chat
forums, on our live coverage. Anna Kay, Thomas Mein,
they’re both from that area and they’re two of the biggest names up and coming at the
moment, so yeah, amazing. – Yeah, we were able to actually catch up with the rider Thomas Mein. And for all of those of you
who don’t know who Thomas is, he’s a young rider from the UK who recently won the Tabor World Cup, was fourth place in
Beringen with the elites, and has been having an absolute tear. So we actually have an interview with him that I got last week, just before he did Koksijde
this weekend but after Tabor, to hear about his win. Let’s hop into that. Thanks so much for coming on the show. We’ve been talking a lot about you over the last couple weeks, especially with that fourth-place ride in Beringen with the pros. Let’s start there, man. How was that, how did that feel? – Special. It was my first mid-result
in an elite race. Never really expected to do that with the amount of
riders that were in that. – Yeah, I was going to say we
were watching the race coverage, we were seeing everything that
was coming back from that, and you were in there with Toon Aerts. There’s a lot of pictures
of you with Toon Aerts. It had to be a little bit of
a shell shock moment for you ’cause you’ve done well, you’ve had a lot of great
results so far this year already, but definitely this felt like,
at least from where we sit, it was a breakthrough ride for you. – Yeah, definitely. Having Toon Aerts on my
wheel and not coming past us, that never normally happens, so obviously the pace was strong enough and to be happy to sit
there for a few laps. And then, obviously,
when Pidcock attacked, he jumped off and he left me,
but it was a good ride for us. – That’s awesome, man. And then we’re on the call now because you tore it up
in Tabor this weekend taking the under-23 World Cup victory. That had to have been a massive moment for you in your very young career. – Yeah, it was pretty special. I’ve always dreamed of
winning a race of that level and never really knew
when it was going to come or if it was going to come and it’s happened now and
I still can’t believe it. The course just suited
me down to the ground and I knew from the early
fall that I’d go well on it and then that was a big
target for us this season, so it’s completed. – Yeah, you’ve definitely
had quite a few top 10s, in the Euro champs, also
in the World Cup in Bern. You won the national trophy
is Derby earlier in the year. What are your goals for the year? – Next one’s probably going to be Zolder, I think the World Cup, and then obviously the
world champs in February. – Excellent, man, excellent. You’re riding for the
Tarteletto-Isorex squad. What’s your setup like? Does your family travel with you? Do you have a team over there? We know, the English speakers, Belgium’s a totally different thing. – Yeah, no I’m based in
Belgium pretty much all winter. Been living with a friend, a Belgian guy. This is the first time this
week I’ve traveled back to the UK just for a bit
of a refresh and a restart before we go into the main
block of the Christmas races and it’s just nice to come
home and see the family. – Right, home, for sure. And what is your next race coming up? – World Cup Koksijde on this Sunday. – All right then, that
won’t be then too far. You’ll take the Euro
Tunnel over, I presume, and right back in it. – Yeah, and then back home again. – I love it, man, I love it. Well, we wish you the best of luck and congratulations on that. It’s such a great thing to see. We love seeing some non-Belgian riders really making the international
side of this sport what it is, so we look forward
to catching up with you again and we thank you so much
for your time on the show. – Thanks for having me, cheers. – Yeah, great interview. It’s nice to start hearing
from these guys, isn’t it, as they start to sort of
make their way in the sport. And he did a great ride
in Koksijde as well. Just missed out on the
podium, came home in fourth, and, yeah, really, really bright future. – Absolutely. It’s always great to be
able to see a non-Belgian or Dutch rider fighting
it out in the front. I tried for this podcast to really focus on riders that are English-speaking. There’s so much content already in Dutch and in Flemish and stuff like that, but to see a rider
that’s speaking English, that’s coming from a place that’s not Belgium or the Netherlands, having success in the
international scene is very unique. We want to be able to give as much credit to these riders and shine
as we absolutely can, so it’s fantastic to not
only get to know Thomas, but to be able to follow his season, which is just the beginning of a very, what I presume to be, successful career. So let’s talk about Koksijde, Marty. That was a heck of a race. You got to call it for GCN and GCN Racing. – It was one of those days where I kind of came out
of the commentary box and had to have a lie down afterwards and go and sit in a dark room. It was just absolutely
phenomenal day’s racing. If you look at the courses,
Koppenberg, Koksijde probably up there as my two favorites. And the women’s race, again, was so close and I’m a huge fan of Lucinda
Brown, always have been, and it was just that front group that was just swapping
backwards and forwards, Inge Vanderheyde and Yara Kastelijn, Annemarie Worst, Ceylin
del Carmen Alvarado. And that lead between Alvarado and Brown was just swapping backwards and forwards. The women’s race just came
to the minutest of details in the end. Alvarado managing to ride a sand section, Lucinda Brown didn’t, Alvarado opened a little gap, Brown went down on the next corner, and it was just absolutely phenomenal. And great to see Ceylin
del Carmen Alvarado get that first World Cup victory. – Yeah, man, I can’t imagine the emotion, the elation that goes into that. It was a very special post-race quote and I’m going to read that to you, Marty. It was, “my passion to win
was bigger than my tiredness.” And she said it very flowery and fun. That tells us everything, doesn’t it? – It’s such a good quote, isn’t it? You got to look at it and you
think if you can win like that and the legs and the
tiredness is not quite there, then respect for that. And we love commentating when
we see riders coming through and I remember commentating
on Sanne Cant’s first World Cup victory and saying at the
beginning of that season, “this rider’s going to get a
breakthrough victory very soon.” And we’ve seen it this year and I think we’re in such
a privileged position, you and I, getting to call these races. Yara Kastelijn, Annemarie Worst,
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, it’s really, really special. – Yeah, we’ve had so many
different World Cup winners. Maghalie Rochette, Katerina
Nash, Annemarie Worst, and now Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado. The racing’s just been
so compelling and fun to be able to watch. It was like you said in the women’s race, it just came down to
the absolute last wire and then Lucinda Brown had one mistake and then another mistake. You could just tell
everyone was on the limit and it was a fantastic race to watch. There was no way I was
moving from my seat. I loved being able to
be a fan at that one. And then there was van
der Poel and Tim Merlier and all of the drama that
happened in the men’s race there. – I think that’s one of those moments when you just look at that and you’re like we are not worthy. It was that first corner,
Cleppe and Merlier going down. Merlier looked like he properly
whapped himself as well and van der Poel was delayed. And you look at that and
you look at the course and he was back in the 30s. It was like 37th, 38th
place, something like that. And you’re like we might
maybe give him three laps, four laps maybe to get to the front. He gets to the end of the first
lap and he’s on the front. Just watching the technique in the sand, and you know what it’s like
riding in that course there. The running, the leg speed on the running, it was just so complete. It was just an absolute joy to watch. It was an absolute masterclass for him to come through
and take that victory. And then ride of the day, you’ve got to say as well, Tim Merlier. He was, from quotes, 35 seconds
down off the back rider. He needed a new bike,
he picked himself up, and he powered and he finished ninth. He was in a great battle
with Tom Pidcock as well. And, for me, that was one
of the rides of the day, was Tim Merlier. – For sure, both of them had
fantastic days out there. There’s no excuse for
a bad start position. There were quite a few
pieces on the internet, people talking about these rides, and I think that for me, looking
at this ride this weekend from van der Poel in particular, his skills on the bike are
at such a different level. We’re not just talking about power. We’re not just talking about
cardiovascular strength. We’re talking about finesse,
technique, maturity, patience, so many things that make a great rider. His ability to come
back from that adversity and not freak out and also
just show how strong he is, I think these types of tracks really put that on full display and for me, I just realized
that you are absolutely watching someone that’s in so many
ways in the top of their game. It’s hard to believe
that things came together for this person to be created that can do this type of thing on a bike. It sounds very oh man, we’re just going with
the superlatives here, but it’s such a feat. The entertainment of that race happened in the first 20 minutes and it was his ability to do that show. And he did an encore for 40 minutes, but the race was truly over
after 20 or 30 minutes. – Yeah, totally. And we do come in for a bit
of criticism from some people that go on about the Mathieu
van der Poel super fans, but you know what? It’s so well deserved
and I’ll hold my hand up and say I don’t care. I love the guy. I think he’s awesome. – I will wrap it there today, Marty. I want to say thank you
so much for your time. It was an excellent week of racing. What do we have coming up this week? – Well, we love a new course in cyclocross and your good friend Erwin Vervecken knows how to put a new course together. So we’ve got what they’re calling the Urban Cross in Kortrijk. So we’ve got that live on GCN Racing and that’s DVV Trophy,
so that’s live worldwide, just excluding Belgium
and the Netherlands, so make sure you join us. We go live at 12:30 UK
time, which is 1:30 CT. And then we have both races live. Bit of halftime entertainment, usually featuring
yourself and some how-tos. So make sure everyone’s
subscribed to GCN Racing. Make sure you get on-board with that one. It does help us as well. – Yeah, if you haven’t yet,
it’s youtube.com/GCNRacing and we would love it if you’d
subscribe to that as well. One of the things that we’ve
been talking about at GCN, we want to get those subscriptions up so that we can get more live
racing going for you all. Cool, Marty, I’m looking
forward to chatting with you on the weekend and
commentating in Kortrijk. And thank you so much
again for your time today. – Thanks for having me. – Now I would like to welcome my friend, Erwin Ver(rolling
tongue)vecken to the show. Erwin, how are you today? – I’m fine, I’m fine. Well, I’ve been a bit sick this past week, but I’m fully recovered
and I’m back in business because it’s a very busy period and we have a total of 23
cyclocross races, UCI events, in the winter and so it
wasn’t a good time to be sick. – (laughing) I can imagine, I can imagine. It always stinks to be sick. So I want to catch up with you ’cause I know you’ve got a
very tight schedule today. But I want to get a check-in with you on how you see things going. Right now, there’s a
lot of action happening on the men’s and women’s side. We’re fully, properly in the
middle of the cross season. I wanted to pick your
brain on a couple things. But let’s just really quickly check in on your thoughts on the men’s side. We’ve seen van der Poel coming in but being challenged by Iserbyt. It’s been really challenging for him, I think, to win these races. Obviously, he’s had a lot
going on with his family and so on, but I’d love
to have your opinion of what’s going on there and what your opinion is so far. – Well, indeed we have
seen Mathieu coming back in Ruddervoorde with the win and in the meantime he won all his races. But it wasn’t so easy as I
thought it would have been. Okay for the first event because all the rest is already racing for more than a month, so he jumps in in the
middle of the season. But then European’s the week
afterwards wasn’t an easy win and then also this past
weekend, of course, with the death of his grandfather. It must have had a huge impact on him. But still we see that
Iserbyt is very good, also a couple of others
are really going well, so I don’t know if
Mathieu doesn’t reach yet the level of last year. I presume he will be better
in the next few weeks. We also saw in Hamme on Sunday if he has the good legs that
he can win with a minute ahead. Mathieu stays Mathieu. Even maybe in a not super condition, he can still win every race he races. – (laughing) Right, right. How ‘about Iserbyt? He’s coming on so strong and he’s been really
challenging van der Poel. Do you think that Iserbyt
will continue to go in an upward trajectory? And was the European championships maybe a sign of things to come? – Well, he’s super strong this season. He’s very motivated. If you see his interviews before and after the different races, he feels confident to be able to beat Mathieu. Where we saw last year Toon
Aerts and Wout van Aert in their different interviews, you never heard them speaking about okay, next week we’ll beat Mathieu. Iserbyt is very confident
that he can win one day and he’s super strong. He’s a real cross racer. He’s technically very good. Maybe one day he can
beat Mathieu this season. – That’s awesome. Yeah, we don’t understand
the Dutch interviews, so that’s fantastic to
hear that he’s saying that. I had no idea. Okay, and how about on the women’s side? The Dutch are obviously
continuing domination right now, but the thoughts on Sanne Cant? I have a feeling that she’s playing this
year almost perfectly. Obviously coming in, but the races that would need to focus on, the national championships,
the world championships, she’s just getting into form and she’s starting to
show herself at the front. She’s probably still involved
in all of the classifications, so what is your opinion there? – Well, Sanne had also a
difficult start last season. It’s not the first time
that she’s struggling to get a good shape early in the season. But still she won the
national’s last year, she won the world championships last year, and she still won most of the big races in the second half of the season. This year, the ladies from 777, so Annemarie Worst and Yara Kastelijn, seem to be very strong. They are both very young,
especially Kastelijn. She’s just coming so it’s hard to say if she can keep that level
for the rest of the season. And Sanne, she’s slightly coming back. She was second on Sunday, also on Saturday with the start from, I think, third or fourth row. Her season is for sure not lost. It’s not her best season yet, but also last year, she had
struggled to get in good shape She’s getting towards her thirties, so she’s almost 30 and she’s already there for probably 10, 12 seasons. What we usually see is that
riders who are getting older have more trouble getting in good shape early in the season but
once they are in good shape and the important period’s to come, December and especially January, that’s still the most
important period of the season, so nothing has been lost for her. – So I want to also ask you
about the attendance numbers because I’ve been hearing
that the viewing figures and the attendance numbers for cyclocross have continued to grow this season, which is exciting for everybody. – Well, especially in
the women’s categories, we saw in Niel on the 11th of November for the first time in
Belgian television history that there were more viewers
watching the women’s race compared to the men’s
race, so that’s good. They have been growing steadily and the women, four, five years ago, when there was for the first
time live women on television, we saw these numbers
were probably 60%, 70% of the men’s live numbers of viewers. And they have been growing and growing and at this moment, it’s
probably an average of 90%. But in Niel we saw for the first time more people watching the women’s
race than the men’s race. So it’s a good evolution. It means that also women’s
races are attractive and also the stars are born there. So five years ago,
people didn’t recognize, didn’t know all the women
riding in front of the race. Nowadays, they have become famous and people watch both races. – All right Erwin, I’m going
to leave it there for today. I want to thank you again
for your time so much and all of your insight. – Okay, thanks a lot. – It’s always great to be
able to catch up with Erwin. I enjoy his insights, his
passion, and perspective on what’s happening in
the world of cyclocross. Which brings us to today’s featured guest, that is Toon Aerts. Now if you’re not familiar with his name, Toon is Belgian, he’s 26 years old, and he’s the leader of Sven
Nys’s Telenet-Baloise team. Toons has consistently
been battling for the wins week in and week out over
the last couple seasons, last year famously winning the
first World Cup of his career at Trek Headquarters, his
sponsor, in Waterloo, Wisconsin. It’s a pleasure to be able to
welcome Toon to the podcast. I’m here with Toon Aerts. – Hey Jeremy, how are you? – I’m good, thanks man. It’s a pleasure to be chatting with you. This is an interview that
I’ve really wanted to do because you have been
tearing it up on the circuit. In 2016, you were the
European champion in France. Last year, you famously won
the Belgian championships against Wout van Aert. And last year, you also were
the overall World Cup winner. You must be feeling like
you’re on top of the world at 26 years old. – Yes, indeed it was last year
every time a little better. Every season was going better and better and up and up in the rankings. It’s like we have the UCI ranking, so for me it was nice
to see a few weeks ago that Wout wasn’t number
one in the UCI ranking. Together with the jersey from
the World Cup last season, the Belgian championships,
and the European’s from 2016, I think I have a nice
list on my career so far. – So I would like to back up because I think a lot of
people that are listening have never had a chance to listen to something with you in English, so I want to make sure that I back up and I want to hear from you a little bit about how you got into the
sport of cycling in general. Obviously being Belgian, I know it’s very much in the
newspapers and everything, but you and your brother are pro riders, you guys have had a lot of success, so I’d love to hear
about how you got into it and your history in the sport so far. – Yeah, it’s not that I was competitive already when I was a young guy. I started doing cyclocross, or cycling, as a competition sport only at my age of, I think, 15, 16 years old. A lot of Belgian and Flemish guys start doing cyclocross
when they’re around 12. But since I was a young child, I was already riding my
BMX and mountain bike in our garden at our home. We had sort of a BMX
track also with some mud and also with some dirt
jumps and things like that and I was all the time playing
with my brother on the bike when we had holidays
and when we are at home and don’t have school. But when I got older, I wanted to do races and to show not only to
my friends and family that I was good on the bike, but also to the rest of Flanders and to the rest of the people. But my parents were not
that happy with that. They wanted to be not every
week again on the race somewhere in Flanders or in Europe. So they said yeah, you can race in Holland not far from our home every week. It was a competition, the West Brabantse Veldrit
Competitie it was called. It was a competition for 12 weeks and they say if you can win one race, then you can start racing in Belgium in the category newling. It’s just under the juniors. So I started at the 12-week
competition and I won one race but it was also in that competition that I was meeting Mathieu van
der Poel for the first time, so I directly know that
he was a big talent and a big, strong guy. But I could start racing in Belgium, so I was happy with that. – That’s amazing. Yeah, you didn’t even know it but you knew that van
der Poel was something when you saw him for the
first time, that’s wild. And you guys have been
racing against each other for a while. Because when I looked back at your results before we got on the line and I noticed that you didn’t travel much. Outside of Belgium,
almost all of your races were within, I would say, a
couple hours definitely driving, and it looks like the first time you came to the United States wasn’t
until there was a World Cup and you were a pro rider. Is that right? – Yeah, it’s true. It’s also one reason because
I wasn’t the biggest talent and didn’t win many races
in the youth categories. I didn’t win one UCI cyclocross
race before I became pro, so that’s one of the reasons that I always raced in my neighborhood and in Flanders and a
little bit in Holland, but not that much. And also because I am just
living in the area of cyclocross. Around the Christmas period, you have the races from Loenhout, which is only 10 K away from my home. And at the end of the season, we have also Oostmalle,
Lille, and Rouwmoer, which is also close to where I stay. And that’s maybe the biggest reason why I didn’t race that much outside of Belgium, only
with the World Cups. – We talk a lot about it
here in the United States, about the amount of travel that the younger riders have to do. They have to go all over the country to be able to race
head-to-head against each other and that’s something that
Belgium really has above us. Really, you guys are just able to drive potentially an hour or less to be able to race against
the best riders in the world week in and week out. It’s something to actually commend. It’s really cool that you guys are able to have so much
competition so close. – Yeah, it’s true and also as young guys, we are always able to
race on the same track as the pros, the big guns from that time. I remember the races close to home, when we didn’t need a far trip
back to home after the race, then we keep looking
and watching to the pros and to the women to see how they do it and that’s also something
that a lot of young riders can learn a lot from. – Yeah, for sure. Is there a rider in particular
that you looked up to? Because you’re in Belgium,
you’re in the capital. I have to imagine that you
grew up, just like I did, watching Sven Nys, although you’re much closer
to him in age than I am, and Bart Wellens and Erwin Vervecken, all of these superstars of cyclocross. Was that something that you saw on TV as a young kid growing up? – Yes, indeed. We looked every race on the television and after the race, we
tried to imitate them also in our home garden. And I remember my brother often played, or he was doing that he was Sven Nys and I was in that Tom Vannoppen and we raced against each other. And we also had to let
each other win sometimes and if Tom Vannoppen was before Sven, then I must be before Thijs. And we played that way, it was just a game and not a real race that we were doing. – (laughing) That’s awesome. Let’s talk about Thijs a little bit because when we ran into
each other at the Trek Cup. For any that doesn’t know,
before the World Cup, there’s a category-two race
that happens on Trek’s ground. It’s the warmup race, but
it’s still a really big race ’cause there’s a lot of riders there from all over the world
racing and taking a shot. We were chatting a little
bit about the sun shining. It was a nice day. It was really pretty out. But the thing that I thought was cool was that you were out there
cheering your brother on. – Yeah, indeed, he was racing
also the category race, the category-two race in Iowa and I was there also
as a supporter for him and I was giving him some
good advice during the race. And also in Waterloo
when we saw each other and for me it’s also special
when I’m not racing and he is that I can help him and also
that I can see what he’s doing. We train a lot together often. Also today, we played a little
bit in the sand together. So we are helping each
other with a lot of things but we also need each other to train also. We’re always there for each other. – Yeah and I know that your family comes to the races with you. Someone told me that your
dad is one of the mechanics that helps you week in and week out. Is that true? – Yeah, indeed. My dad is the head of the
mechanics, I would say, and then we have some uncles,
the brothers of my dad and the brother of my mother. They’re also always in the
pit zone doing great work and every Sunday and every weekend is sort of a family trip for us. – Something that Sven Nys
told me earlier in the summer that I’ve mentioned on several podcasts is just how much of a family sport that cyclocross actually is. And I have been in it for a long time and I knew always that there
were a lot of family involved but I don’t think I realized the depth just about every rider
has with their family being involved in the sport. It’s almost a prerequisite. – Yeah and it starts
at a young age already. The first years we raced as juniors, only my mother and dad
went with us to the races but then when me and
Thijs were racing together in the under-23 category
with only one guy, you’re nothing when you
have two riders in a race. And then another uncle also
wanted to be on the team and that way we had now almost
the whole family helping us to gain some good results. – You last year won both of the World Cups in Iowa and at Trek. How was that and how did that feel to win in front of your sponsors at Trek? That had to be have been
one of the greatest moments of your career. Obviously a lot of accolades in there, but that had to have
been super, super cool. – Yeah, for sure, the
first World Cup, it was. This year, we had first
Iowa and then Waterloo but last year we had first
in Waterloo the World Cup. It was really nice to do it in that way and it’s maybe one of the
biggest victories of my career, after the European’s and the Belgian’s. – After the Trek races, I was just curious to know how hard it is. Because I did a lot of this
where you go to Belgium, you do a race like Koksijde
or Namur or Zolder, they’re some of the
hardest races of the year and the season for us,
you finish up on Sunday, and then on Monday
it’s, boom, in the plane and you’re flying back
across the Atlantic Ocean. You had said something along the lines of (chuckling) every bone in my
body is sore from this race. And I just would love to know about what that felt like for you. I think it’s never easy, but
it’s definitely not the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, thinking about how painful that is. – For us, it’s not a
normal trip that we do. I think you guys have some good planning and some strategies to use
when you do such a trip from US to Europe. But for us, it is only in
September that we do it and for the rest of the year,
we just go to the races. That is definitely hard and I really understand
that for the US guys, it’s a very hard trip to do that. Also in winter time, coming
such a long trip to Europe to race the World Cups. – I feel like my personal
opinion is that I flip-flopped. Originally, I think the
internationalization of the sport was very important and I still
think it’s very important, but realistically and logistically with the amount that we race as riders, or I used to race and that
you are currently racing, it’s really, really hard to be able to go from even this weekend, for example, you guys raced in Tabor and then you had to shoot
back to race in Hamme. That seems like it’s an
overextension, to be honest. What do you think? – It’s also a very hard trip we raced and we tried to go as
fast as possible again on the road with the camper. We slept for a few hours
and at seven o’clock, we started our engine again
to be on time in Hamme and you don’t recover well and you have to race in
Hamme again on a high level and that’s really hard. – I want to switch gears a little bit and ask you what it’s like
working with Sven Nys. I noticed that you have
signed with Telenet for a couple more years with the Lions. When does your contract officially end? I know you just did an extension. – Yes, the extension
goes in from now January and then it’s for three years. So I was very happy with the
team at the end of last season. I had some good results,
so we talked to each other and we can find a
solution and an agreement against the team and myself to go with each other
for three more years. It’s very nice for me to
stay in the environment since I was an under-23 rider and to grow with the same people which I know very well in the time. It’s nice for me to stay in that team. – Seems like it’s just a
perfect fit for you guys. I think you and Sven probably
hit it off really well. – Yes, indeed. The thing is that I was racing as a junior and I didn’t get some very good results, I only raced a few World
Cups and that was it, but then I came to the team
when Sven was still riding, to Sven’s team,
Landbouwkrediet-Caridel it was called. Sven was on one of his
best years at the moment. It was the year, I think, when he was riding Louisville
World Championships. For me that was very nice, when you’re a guy of 17, 18 years old and you can race on the
same team as Sven Nys. I learned a lot. But then that team stopped
with the under-23 category and I went to Telenet-Fidea. In that time, it was
with Hans Van Kasteren and Danny De Bie and Kris Wouters. But then after a few years, when Sven was on his retirement, he sold the team at Telenet-Fidea and we were together not
as teammates anymore, but now as a manager and
team director and rider and that is another
way of working together but also a nice way to do it with Sven. – What is it like working with Sven? I think he’s very involved in probably giving you advice, critique, saying hey, we need to think about this, or potentially adding this
into your training program. Does Sven Nys train you? Do you have your own trainer? I’d just be curious about how
intense is that relationship and how much do you work with Sven to improve your overall
cyclocross program and technique? All of those things, I’m curious about. – I have two types of things that I learn and use from Sven. I think as a young rider
in the under-23 category, Sven was really somebody who
taught me a lot about training, also about technique, how to ride ascents and the
descents and things like that. And also the first years when I was a pro, it was a lot of such things
that Sven taught to me, how I have to train the day before a race, what I have to do the day after a race, what I have to do in summer and in the Christmas
period with a lot of races. But since I was the European champion, also the press and the
media came closer to me and they asked me for interviews for things like that, photo
shoots and such stuff. And it’s not always in the right moment that they want to talk to me and that’s also something Sven learned me, how to handle those guys and how to go in a good and positive way with the press and the media. So those two things are the things that I learend from Sven Nys
and it’s nice to share it and that I can use his
experience for years. – Absolutely, yeah. I was in Ball at the
Sven Nys Cycling Center and we were doing a day with him as he taught a bunch of young riders a lot of technique and skills and just brought the Sven
Nys energy to the day. He toured me around his facility and in the museum, there
was a picture of you and he said, “this is my guy.” – Yeah, I saw it on YouTube. (laughing) – What do you think about
when you saw him say that? – For me, it’s nice. Sven Nys is not just a cyclocross racer who is retired and is now leading a team. It’s Sven Nys. I mean, you look back at his palmarès, I think there is nobody with
such a lot of races won. And for me, it’s nice to see that and to have the respect from such a great athlete and person and give me also a good
feeling and some strength. – That’s worth it for any reason. (laughing) I mean, hanging out with Sven seems like that would be
a no-brainer for anybody, but for you to be able to
work with him so close, tip of the hat to you. It’s fantastic. I wanted to talk a little bit about your road season this year. You were fourth overall
at the Tour of Belgium and you won the mountains classification at the Tour of Wallonie. You were also second
overall at the Flèche du Sud and you won the mountains classification. You had a pretty good year on the road. – Yeah, indeed. I always try to be good in July. We have then the national
championships time trial and the normal road
national championships. And that was the plan also this year, but for one reason, we couldn’t find what’s the exact reason. Maybe because I did a
little bit too much in April and in May that the championships were not that good this year. But right before the championships, we have the Baloise Belgium Tour and that was maybe one of
the biggest achievements on the road for me so far that I came in fourth in that race. I was also strong at a
stage in the Ardennes, where we had to climb a lot. The time trial was good, not
super good, but it was good. So for a stage race for five days, being fourth after some big
guns with Victor Campenaerts, Remco Evenepoel, and guys
like that, it’s nice for me. – It was a great result. You were racing against
some of the best riders. It was awesome to see
that and it was live, so we were able to follow it a bit. A lot of riders that you’re racing against have ambitions for the road. I was talking to Quinten Hermans, your teammate at the moment, but that he’s going to be switching over and focusing a little bit
more on road this coming year. Tim Merlier, Wout van
Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, everybody has had a lot
of success on the road. Is it something that you get excited about or are you fully invested in cross? It sounds like I know the answer, but I’d love to hear your opinion. – Sometimes after the season, when we have our off-season
and we start training again in April, that’s the big time. Then it’s the Tour of
Flanders and Paris-Roubaix and all the races, which are very nice and I think for a cyclocross
racer with a good endurance that they are races
that are maybe possible to ride a good result. And then I’m always
thinking maybe one time, I want to do those races
because they’re really nice and important also in
Belgium and Flanders. But when I do again a
few races on the road, we have the pro kermesses
in Belgium a lot, then I’m always hungry again to go in the forest
with my cyclocross bike. It’s not that I hate road cycling, but I just like cyclocross
more than I do the road. – I wanted to talk one
minute about your maturity, the way that you hold yourself, the way that you conduct yourself, the way that your interviews come across and the things that you’re able to do, the patience that you’ve shown to be able to win the classifications, the patience that you show in the race. When I watch you race, one
of the things that we notice is that your last 15 minutes
of your race essentially has been your trademark stamp, at least from what I see (chuckling). And I would like to know about it, if that is something that you find yeah, I’m able to hold a really high level but I have 15 minutes
where I can really dig in and go all-out. – Yeah, I think it’s my
type of racing a little bit. When you see Mathieu van der
Poel doing his first laps, most of the time, his first
two, three laps are so fast that everyone is blowing his engine. But all those guys came
to me after half race and in the fourth quarter,
I can take them back and ride away from them, I think. And it’s because it’s my way of racing but it’s also maybe a way of training. I train a lot of endurance trainings and I think my endurance helps me to have a good last part
of the race every time. – Is that your favorite
way to train, as long? You do more volume than
some of the other riders? – I do a lot of volume. Also in winter time, I plan some weeks. For example, we go to Spain to do a little bit more endurance because it’s not possible with
the cold weather in Belgium. But also in summer, I try
to train a lot of hours but also some more intensity training. But I think for me to be on top in the general classifications, you need to be as good as possible from September til February and then you just need
to have a good baseline and a good endurance base. In that way, I train a lot of hours and not always on the high
speeds or with a lot of watts, but just slowly and going
for hours on the day. And when you have the
ride mixed from endurance and more intensive workouts, I think that’s what a
good cyclocrosser needs. – It’s never one-size-fits-all, is it? (laughing) It’s so much
different for each rider, so it’s cool to hear that
you do a lot of hours. – You see it with my brother also. My brother is more an
explosive type of cyclist. His first quarter is
always better (laughing) than his other laps of the race. But he trains also a lot of endurance, but he’s better when he
needs to do some sprints and more intensive workouts. So a good trainer finds the perfect way for every cyclist to train. – That’s right. A couple quick questions. What are your goals for
the rest of the season? – I started the season within my mind to gain at least one
general classification. I had some problems in heat
on the SuperPrestige event and now also in Hamme, but on the SuperPrestige,
I’m back in first position together with Laurens Sweeck. So I hope to battle against
Laurens and the other guys and to be on top of the SuperPrestige on the last stage in
Middelkerke but we’ll see. I think the World Cup, to win it, it’s going to be very difficult because Eli has some good results with three victories and now
also a second-place in Tabor, but I never give up. There are still five races to go, so we’ll see at the end
of January and in February what the classifications bring. That’s the main goal for me. – What about the Belgian
national championships? Where is the track this year and is it something that suits you and is it something that
you’ll look forward to? – Now this year, it’s in Antwerp. A few years ago, when I
was still a junior rider, we also raced the Belgian
championships in Antwerp and there was Niels Albert, I
think, the Belgian champion. So it’s not a track that suits me perfect. It’s very fast with a lot of sand, but not the most technical sand, but because of the high
speed and the sand, you need to be a specialist in that way, especially because it’s
in the championship and it’s never easy to win a championship. The world championships suits me better than the Belgian championships this year. – So you’ll look forward to the world championships this year? – Yeah, of course. It’s in Switzerland so
it’s always a nice country, the cowbells and things like that, for me, – (chuckling) Your career goals, what are the things that
you absolutely feel like to die happy that you have to complete? – My highest goal, but
I think it’s very high, I don’t even know if I
even can reach it one time, but in cyclocross for the moment, you have six things you can win. You have the Belgian championship, you have the European championship,
the world championship, and then the three classifications. And now in my career, I won
the Belgian championships, the European’s, and the
World Cup classification, so I have three things to do, the SuperPrestige classification, the DVV Trophy classification,
and the world championships. So three of six done, three to go. – Oh man, that’s awesome. Toon, I want to say thank you so much for the chat here today. I think everybody’s going
to really appreciate getting to learn about you,
getting to hear your voice, getting to understand where you come from. It’s a pleasure watching you race, man, and we wish you all a ton of success for the rest of the season. – Okay, thank you. – I hope you guys enjoyed episode six. It was a blast being able
to catch up with Toon Aerts. I feel like every time we put
together an episode right now that I’m learning learning something new about the cyclocross
scene and the community that I didn’t know before. So, please, if you guys
are enjoying the episodes as much as I am, share
this with your friends. It would mean the world to me. Helps us keep the momentum
of the show going strong and getting new people to take a listen that haven’t been able
to listen to it yet. I look forward to the next time and I thank you guys
all again for your time.

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