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May 6, 2013
The last time we heard from Argos-Shimano rider Koen de Kort he was back home in The Netherlands nursing a broken collarbone. A few months on, he’s back on the bike and back competing at the highest level. He’s currently riding in his second Giro d’Italia and his sixth Grand Tour overall. In this instalment of Ask Koen de Kort we find out how the Dutch rider’s recovery went, how he’s feeling about the Giro and more about life as pro cyclist. Enjoy!
So far I have finished every Grand Tour I’ve started and I’m not planning on changing that any time soon. I feel pretty good and confident again after a very good Tour of Turkey where I managed to put the leadout train on track again and lead out Marcel Kittel to three stage wins.
In the Giro d’Italia we’ve started with our other German sprinter, John Degenkolb. We work very well together and we managed to get five stage wins in the Tour of Spain last year. I don’t expect that to happen again in the Giro but we’ll definitely give it a good try!
I haven’t been this confident about myself since I broke my collarbone in the Tour of Qatar a couple of months ago. I returned to racing only 3.5 weeks after my crash, riding in Tirreno-Adriatico. I really struggled through Tirreno after not having been able to train properly for almost a month.
I never had a good feeling during the classics either — I had to go very deep during the races and needed all the time between the races to recover. Slowly my feeling was getting better and finally, during my next stage race — the Tour of Turkey last week — the right feeling was back.
It’s much the same with my confidence in the bunch — at first I was really scared to crash again, so I always braked first and went slowest through the corners; something I have never done in my career. Racing a lot in the rain obviously didn’t help but slowly my confidence came back with each race I didn’t crash and now I am as confident on the bike as I was before the crash.
Unfortunately the classics season was very far from what I expected but I’m happy I’m back on top and ready for the rest of the (still very long) season, starting with the Giro!
Koen helped lead Marcel Kittel out to three wins at the Tour of Turkey.
How do pros prepare for life after cycling? Do teams provide help with the transition to a post-cycling career? Do many of the pros study as well? What are your post-career plans?
Some pros studied before they turned pro but I haven’t ever seen any of my teammates studying during their career. I personally have a BSc in Sports Science and would like to use that after my career.
There are plans to make it easier for cyclists to study during their careers, to prepare for life after cycling, but at the moment it’s still very difficult to study because of the big training load, the number of race days and the travel.
Obviously some riders get a chance to become a director sportif after the finish racing but most other pros have saved a little bit of money to survive while searching for a new job post-career.
What are some of your favorite training rides around Melbourne, where you spend a lot of your off season?
I spend the bulk of my off-season in Melbourne but I frequently go to Adelaide as well for family visits. Around Melbourne my favourite rides are to the Dandenongs and to Kinglake. Obviously I ride on Beach Rd as well as it’s a great flat ride but for some more quality training like strength-endurance or high-intensity training I ride in the hills.
Koen during the 2013 Tour Down Under on adopted-home soil.
Do pro cyclists have female groupies? And what’s the deal with things like the “Cancellara Fan Club” or “Schlecks Fan Club”? Why not the “Argos-Shimano Fan Club”?
I don’t think we have groupies like soccer or footy players have. For one thing it’s a little more difficult because we don’t regularly compete in the same place. A groupie will have to be very committed to travel that much! Obviously there are girls at the races sometimes that you could call groupies but we don’t see the same girls every race.
What’s your take on the “aero road” helmets being used by many riders in the peloton now? Is there an advantage? Or pressure from the sponsors? Which team has the best/worse looking aero helmets?
I use the aero road helmets a lot — as soon as it’s not too hot I prefer to take out the aero helmets as it might be just a marginal gain but it’s a gain nonetheless. I don’t have any exact knowledge about how much power you save with an aero helmet but it makes sense to wear one, especially in the sprints when the speeds (and therefore the amount of drag) are very high.
I have never heard of any pressure from sponsors and it also doesn’t make much sense to me — I don’t think anyone would buy a helmet like that unless you think a marginal gain in a sprint is worth a very hot head. I personally like our aero helmets as they don’t look too different from our normal helmets just without the airholes in it.
Obviously the Giro helmets look pretty bad but I do have to admit that it looks like they are very fast and in the end that’s what you are wearing such a helmet for. I’d wear any aero helmet but I’m happy we’ve got Uvex!
Koen riding the Amstel Gold Race.
Is there a particular bike, past or present, that you’d love to own? If so, why?
I have to say I’m not much of a bike admirer. I love to ride a good, rigid bike but I don’t really have a special connection to any manufacturer. On the other hand I’d love to have a few different types of bikes like a fixie and a cruiser bike to add to my collection of a townbike, monocycle and tandem.
The only thing I’d really like to own still is a set of old-school Spinergy wheels. I always loved those wheels until they got banned [ed. in races, by the UCI] so maybe they will look good on my future fixie.
If I can choose any type of frame for my fixie I think I’d pick an old steel Colnago because they just look very high-class Italian old-school.
Are there times when you are riding (either in training or racing) when it feels like it’s just “a job”? Very few non-pros would have ridden in the conditions you guys raced in at Milan-San Remo – on days like that, is it a case of gritting the teeth and thinking “I’m getting paid for this”?
That absolutely happens. I think it’s fair to say that about once every 10 days I don’t feel like riding that day. Sometimes it’s no problem and I can take a day off or just go out training anyway and think to myself I have to do it because that’s what I’m getting paid for. During races it’s a bit of a different story and you have no choice but to go out and usually give it your best shot as well.
So far I have almost always been able to find some motivation just before or during the race to make something out of it but then I’m always happy when it’s over on those days. Milan-San Remo this year isn’t a good example because it’s one of the most beautiful races of the year and especially because the weather was pretty decent at the start.
But, I have to admit that during the coldest moments of that race I would rather have been shot than do one more kilometre with that feeling. But in the end it was about pure survival as stopping was no option; we had nowhere to go.
Kirsten Wild has won nine races for Argos-Shimano so far this year. Does the men’s team have much interaction with the women’s team? And who would win a sprint – you or Kirsten?
There actually has been quite a lot of interaction between the men’s and women’s teams over the last few months. We were at training camps at the same time and during the classics, when there were men’s and women’s races at the same time, we were always staying at the same hotel.
The next few months we won’t see the women from the team as much except for an occasional training camp. I do keep an eye on the results of the women’s team and we hear a lot about them anyway as some of our soigneurs, mechanics, doctors and directors do races with both teams.
Who would win a sprint between me and Kirsten? That’s a very interesting question and I’m tempted to try it out. If it was one against one from low speed I’m quite sure she’d give me a run for my money as she’s very powerful. Her maximum power output is higher than mine so I’d have to win on top speed or aerodynamics. In a short sprint from low speed I wouldn’t put too much money on myself.
If it was at the end of a race I’d be pretty confident because endurance would play a big part. But I can’t deny I’d be a bit scared to lose if I’d had to sprint her for a victory.
Please send your questions to Ask Koen. This is your opportunity to ask what goes on behind the scenes in the life of a pro and ask the questions you’ve always wondered about.