Jolien D’hoore on life as a DS: ‘I don’t miss racing at all’
The four-time former Belgian champion took over as DS at the AG Insurance-NXTG team, which is backed by Patrick Lefevere, after retiring in 2021.
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HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — There are several new faces at the sport director’s meetings this year, including Jolien D’hoore.
The four-time former Belgian champion retired following Paris-Roubaix last year after over a decade at the front of the peloton and stepped into the team car at AG Insurance-NXTG for 2022.
While her final race didn’t go to plan with several crashes resulting in her completing Paris-Roubaix outside of the time limit, D’hoore has no regrets at all about her choices. Directing the young Belgian squad at races is more than enough for the 32-year-old to get her cycling fix.
Also read: AG Insurance-NXTG Team aims for WorldTour status in 2023
“I think I made a good decision because I don’t miss it at all,” D’hoore told VeloNews. “I just love being in the car right now and in the race. If I had retired and quit cycling forever, I would have missed it but I’m still involved in everything and I’m still there. It’s a good life now. Cycling is part of my genes, I can never get rid of it. I just love it. Also, in the car it’s just like I’m back in the bunch and it’s so much fun.”
D’hoore mixes her time at the team — which recently announced its intentions to apply for WorldTour status in 2023 — with a role at Cycling Vlaanderen.
Before speaking with VeloNews in Bruges ahead of the Brugge-De Panne start, D’hoore was busying around the team cars making sure that everything was in its place before the race rolled out. If anyone had a question, it would be directed toward her.
D’hoore may only be a few months into her new role, but she appears at ease in it and is liking the new experience. While there’s plenty to keep her busy, she finds the staff role much less stressful than the pressurized experience of being a rider.
“I have more challenges now. As a rider you just have to ride you bike and try to have a good performance, but as a DS you have so much more going on organizing things. I feel more like an event manager sometimes, but I’m really enjoying it,” she said. “It’s more relaxing, I would say. I have no pressure anymore. I just try to fix everything for the girls in the best way and it’s very nice.”
D’hoore was not the only former SD Worx rider in a team car at Brugge-De Panne last week. Her former teammate Anna van der Breggen was also there as a sport director for SD Worx.
With her pedigree as a rider — she was a world champion on the track on top of her many wins on the road — it was perhaps a bit of a surprise for some that she chose not to stay in a top team. Instead, she opted to take up a role with a U23 development squad.
D’hoore said her decision to go to a smaller team was about having a bigger impact.
“We have less staff, and they’re also volunteers so they are working full-time in other jobs. That’s a bit hard sometimes to organize everything. You can see it is everyone’s passion here so it’s really cool,” she told VeloNews.
“I think that you can do more as a DS in a smaller team, and in a younger team. The riders are 19 and 20 years old and they still have so much to learn. I feel like I can give my experience to them and it’s so rewarding as well. I think in a bigger team your role as a DS is smaller. Here, I can do so much more and I’m free to do whatever I want.”
Being part of a younger team also allows D’hoore to impart much more of her experience than if with more established riders. With riders that are still finding their feet in the professional world, D’hoore has plenty of questions to answer.
“They’re asking a lot, stuff that to me is so normal they still have questions about, which is good because they still have to learn a lot. They’re more like friends to me, I’m not the DS standing above them, I’m one of them and I think that’s good,” D’hoore said.