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Last week I asked Koen de Kort (Skil-Shimano) if he’d be up for doing an interview. I’d been out riding with Koen a few times over the holidays and had already bombarded him with a thousand questions, therefore I wasn’t quite sure what I’d ask him. It would be kinda awkward sitting down for coffee asking Koen all the same questions as I had the day earlier. I’m sure he already thinks I’m strange enough.
That’s when I handed it over to you guys. I received dozens of excellent questions from all of you in your comments and we sat down and had a casual chat. My apologies if your question wasn’t asked – it was only because we had a race to get to and ran out of time.
CT [asked by Kevinmc]: What’s your favorite Dutch beer?
KdK: I’m actually into the Belgian beers more. Have you heard of a beer called Palm? That’s my favorite. If I had to pick a Dutch beer it would definitely be Grolsch.
CT [asked by Tim]: How do you find the motivation to get out and ride when you’re really hurting, tired or demotivated?
KdK: What works for me is I think about all the pain and where it’s going to lead me. I think about races I’d really like to win and think okay, my legs are hurting but I still have to put in the training to do well at Paris-Roubaix. Sometimes I even dream about it which gives me extra motivation. Sometimes when I really don’t feel like training I’ll take a day off or do an easy ride. Every night I’ll think about if I’m happy with the training I’ve done. If I think it’s been too slack or if I’ve been too lazy then I’ll wake up with new motivation. This means it’ll only take me one day to get back on track. I find if I have no motivation and I go out training I’ll only be half commited. I find that it’s better to take the day off and then start fresh with full motivation again.
CT: What is your motivation? Is the motivation for race results?
KdK: Yeah, most of all it’s the race results I’m after. I can see when I’m going stronger and it’s nice to see improvements by looking at my powermeter. When I’m going up the same climb time and time again and I see my power increase that’s great, but that’s not ultimately what motivates me. What motivates me is the higher power outputs that translates into good results.
CT: Is there personal satisfaction or do you have a competitve streak in you?
KdK: It’s a bit of both, but I’m definitely competitive. I always like to win. I’m not good with defeat, even if it’s a stupid board game. I always want to win. [laughs]
CT [asked by Tim]: Apart from cycling, what do you like to do?
KdK:I spend a lot of time on the internet and also like to play video games. I also like to spend time with Kaitlin when we’re together [CT: good answer Koen…]. I ‘m always away from home so much that when we’re together it’s nice to go for a walk or there’s beautiful beaches where we live in Spain so we like to hang out there.
Koen and Kaitlin in Barcelona
In the stage races when we’re doing our transfers I like to read books. That really relaxes me. I like reading a bit of everything. I’m a fan of John Irving. He’s not too mainstream and they’re books you need to think about. I like a bit more depth in the books I read.
CT [asked by Kieran]: Do you still get excited by cycling? Or does it sometimes overwhelm you as being a job?
KdK: I started cycling because I just liked riding. Then I’d get really excited about the races. I still enjoy it almost every day. There might be 20 days in the year that I don’t really feel like cycling. Those days I get out there and I see it as my job. But every other day I get satisfaction out of it doing the training that I wanted to do. When I get home and I think about the training I’ve done that day and I can be happy, that gives me a good feeling.
I think when it starts to be seen as your job, that’s when it’s going to be hard to keep motivated and keep training. You have to push yourself to the limit nearly every race and when you don’t want to do that anymore then it’s probalby time to stop cycling.
CT: Do you see people in the Pro peloton who have become like that?
KdK: No, you don’t see many like that. They’ll get dropped too early and it’ll be done for them pretty quick.
CT [asked by PommyLee]: What’s been your most memorable race to date?
KdK: For me it’s got to be the Tour de France. It was great. The stage that was most memorable was the Mt Ventoux stage. The amount of people there and the mythical climb that it is made it pretty unreal. We rode up there and there were walls of people screaming their lungs out. Sometimes you’d come up to a part with less people and it was quieter and I’d hear ringing in my ears like you just stepped out of a nightclub. It was an increadible amount of noise. To think thousands and thousands of people would sit up on this climb just to watch us do our jobs.
CT [asked by Huphtur]: Do you think the attention that Kenny got last year during the tour kinda hurt the team? As in, people only remember Skil for Kenny and not for the other efforts?
KdK: Nah…I know Kenny very well and he’s a great guy. It’s really his fighting spirit that he has shown in so many races and last year he was able to show in in the TdF. Everybody picked up on that. I think he deserved a lot of attention because he pushed himself to the limit. However, there were 60 or so others in front of him who pushed themselves to the limit just in front of him and didn’t get as much attention for it though. I think Kenny deserved the recognition he got but sometimes it was just a little over the top [laughs]. Especially when I’m sitting there in a big groupetto and I’m the last one and people are shouting “come on Kenny!”. I’m not Kenny! [laughs] Everyone in the team did well and they all had their moment. He [Kenny] got a good result in one stage in the bunch sprint which was good for the sponsor and good for us. He probably had the toughest tour out of anyone. When I saw him cross the finish line some days – that wasn’t acting [laughs]. In that regard he was probably hurting just as much or more than the first guy on GC.
CT [asked by Huphtur]: Will the Dutch ever have another Grand Tour winner? Maybe you?
KdK: Nah, I don’t think I’ll ever win a Grand Tour. Never say never but I don’t see myself capable of doing that. I think I should focus more on the Classics and the smaller stage races. I think Robert Gesink can do really well and he’s still up and coming but he’s shown great climbing legs and has improved on his time trial remarkably. I think he’ll be one to watch. Also, maybe Lars Boom – he’s really talented as well. I’m not too sure if he’ll be the climber that’s necessary to be a Grand Tour winner but I think he has it in him and he’s shown it. He’ll definitely be up there.
CT [asked by Huphtur and GFCdomestique]: Do you use recovery garments? Do you think they help?
KdK: Yes I do, I use Skins. I like to think they help. I’m quite sure they help while travelling. You can see how inflated your legs get when you’re on the plane but I can notice a difference when I’m wearing the Skins. During the TdF I wore them after almost every stage. I don’t know…maybe it’s something that makes you feel like you’re working on it 100% every minute of the day. I guess it puts your mind at easy that you’ve done everything to make you as good as possible. Whether they really work or not is probably not that important at all [laughs].
CT [asked by James Foran and Only_Me]: What do you aspire to do after Pro Cycling?
KdK: I’ve studied Human Movement Sciences that I have a BSc in. Right now I can be a trainer for a pro team in cycling, soccer or footie. I’ll definitely stay in sports – that’s my life. Maybe one day I’d like to be a director or have my own team. We’ll see…it’s something I’ll defintiely consider as I get further into my career.
CT [asked by Mike Hayward]: The life of a PRO would be tough, I don’t just mean the training, diet control etc, things like living in hotels, being away from friends and family. What aspects of non-PRO life are you envious of?
KdK: When I look at my friends who don’t ride they can go to concerts and festivals. I’ve never been to any music festival because they’re all in my season and I’ve always missed out on that. Sometimes I think it would be nice to be able to do, but you have to be a cyclist 365 days of the year. Also, having to do these whereabouts every time you want to go outside of your house gets a bit…If I just want to go out to a restaurant I have to think about submitting my whereabouts. For the anti-doping control I have to let them know wherever I am at all times of the day. I have to go on the internet and fill out where I’ll be every hour of the day so doping control can find me.
CT: So every single time we’ve gone out for a coffee or a ride this week you’ve had to fill out a form to let anti-doping know about it?
KdK: Yeah, but since it’s quite easy to know where I’ll be over the past few days it hasn’t been too bad. But the times when I’m just sitting at home and someone calls to go out for a drink you gotta go on the internet and fill out a form. If you’ve gone out and you’re too late you can send a text message. But it’s something you always have to thing about.
CT: Even Christmas day you had to do this? There’s no exceptions?
KdK: No, no… I really like being a cyclist but it’s 365 days a year. Sometimes it would be nice not to have to do that. That’s not saying that I feel hard done by though.
CT: Well, it’s basically like being married, so you’re no different than the rest of us ;-)
[laughs hysterically at my brilliant sense of humor]
CT [asked by pmark1bike and mrcyclingworld]: Did you have any idea of things going on in the background at Liberty Serguros or at Astana with Vinokourov?
KdK: Essentially I went to these teams while I was still very young and I didn’t know if the things that I saw were strange or if that’s just how they were. I’d never seen anything wrong and it really surprised me when all the stuff came out. When the teammates of mine would go to the doctor’s room for a half-hour they might have been just going in for a chat. It doesn’t meant that they were doing anything wrong. Looking back you might be able to say they might have beeing doing things they shoudln’t have but it never occured to me . I have a very good relationship with my current doctor and we chat a lot. I can go have a coffee at his place and he’ll come to mine. Those guys could have had the same relationship with their doctors back then. Even though I was part of the team I don’t think I would have been filled in on everything that happened until you might be getting the same treatments. They’re obviously not going to tell me they just put another bag of blood into Vinokourov. Whether it happened or not…they’re not going to tell me these sorts of things.
CT [asked by Ollo]: What would be your advice to amateur riders wanting to take the step up to the Pros?
KdK: I was reading your interview with Simon Gerrans and what he said had a lot of truth to it. You have to focus on what you’re good at. Just choose one thing. I used to want to be a sprinter, a time triallist, a climber. Now, even though I live close to the mountians in Spain I don’t train on the long ones because I’ll never be a climber. As long as I can survive the long ones I’ll keep in the race. I’m better off spending my time in the short climbs where I can win races.
CT: What was a career defining race that you won that moved you from an amateur to a pro?
KdK: Winning Paris-Roubaix U23 was when I got noticed by a Spanish team. The manager there said to me that he wanted to work on a Classics team with young riders to build for the future. He saw me as one of the promising Classics rider and he wanted to develop that. These types of wins defintiely changes a career. Maybe if I had been 3rd, it stil would have been very good but it wouldn’t have opened too many eyes to me. Then after that we won the duo time trial [GP Eddie Merckx the week after] against all the professionals that made a big impression on everyone. That sure made things progress a lot quicker. Winning that sealed the deal really quickly.
CT [asked by Kevinmc]: What are you dong to get back to the ProTour level?
KdK: For me it was a conscious choice to get out of the protour and go to a pro continental team. I rode for a protour team for 4 years in all the big races and worked for others. I figured I wasn’t at a point in my career that I would be able to win protour races myself. So I would either stay in the protour and work for someone else for the rest of my career, or go to a smaller team where I can do all the big races that I wanted and go for my own chances. I was able to go for the breakaways in the TdF for instance. Otherwise I would have been in a team with a GC rider and they wouldn’t have allowed me to go in a break because I needed to save my energy to ride on the front for my team captain. For me it was a conscious choice to go to a smaller team and find my own way. Now it’s a matter of either staying with this team for my own chances after 2010 is over. I think I can do better than what I did last year. Maybe it’ll be a deception and maybe the rest of my career I’m better off working for someone else and maybe go back to a protour team and work for someone else. But maybe if I do really well I’ll go to a Protour team and have others working for me. Every year you review your options and see how much they’re paying me to do what. It’s worked out really well for me with Skil Shimano. I don’t think I would have ridden in the TdF with any other team.
CT: Thanks heaps for sitting down with us Koen. Now let’s go get ready to race!
Koen smashing the field in the Bay Crits an hour after this interview