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Kévin Van Melsen: « Proud example of the team’s progression »

Kévin Van Melsen: « Proud example of the team’s progression »

On ‘Maundy Thursday’ Kévin Melsen celebrates his 34th birthday. Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert-Gobert Matériaux is proud that the rider from Lontzen has been a loyal knight of the team since 2009. This first of April is the ideal moment to highlight his path from the U23 category to the WorldTour structure we have now.

Kévin Van Melsen:
« Children dream of becoming a professional rider to tame the cobblestones of Carrefour de l’Arbre and to race the Champs-Elysées at the Tour de France. When I was in my ninth year as a pro, in 2019, I managed to finish the Tour, just as I finished in Paris-Roubaix in 2015. Those performances felt like huge achievements. Everything fell in its place, doing all this in the colors of the team where I started my career. Those races were incredibly tough but the atmosphere there is extraordinary and even hard to put into words. »

« I am proud to be an example of the progression the team’s structure has made. When I joined the continental Willems Veranda’s in 2009, nobody even had a salary. But nevertheless we competed in important Belgian races like Tour of Belgium, but also in France. There we started in the French Road Cycling Cup and the Étoile de Bessèges. In 2014 I was on my way to a podium place, battling for the victory in Paris-Tours with Jelle Wallays and Thomas Voeckler. Until my chain broke with only 6 kilometers to go. Without this case of bad luck my career might have been different. But thanks to the evolution of the team and my own progression I can now, after 12 years here, proudly say that I participated in the biggest race in the world. And besides that, I’m a part of the highest division in cycling. »

« During my career there have been different opportunities to switch teams, but I always kept in mind that there is more to life than just the numbers on a contract. For example, after my knee surgeries in 2013 and 2015 the team gave me all the confidence and time that I needed, without putting pressure on me. Every autumn the team leaders gave me a new contract to thank me for my efforts. Always on time. This appreciation is the most important thing for me and that’s why I’ve been loyal to the team for already thirteen seasons! »

« In these seasons I have worked for many strong riders such as Leif Hoste and Staf Scheirlinckx. Nowadays the good relationship I have with Loïc Vliegen really motivates me. I know he is ready for the coming weeks. He’ll be in great shape so I demand the same from myself. Although we know races like Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège by heart, we still went to reckon them already in February. Loïc is really meticulous in his preparation for his goals and he knows exactly where he wants me to lead him to the front. I am convinced that my work will result in Loïc really showing himself. Even when I am suffering and my legs feel sore, I will do everything that is in my power to help him. This is a big source of confidence and motivation for myself! »

« I haven’t only learned from Loïc but also from Yoann Offredo. Two days before the start of the Tour I was checking the roadbook in bed at our hotel in Brussels. Yoann immediately told met to put this big book away and to talk about other things. To not always think about racing. The big mountains frightened me. It feels like it was only yesterday. Yoann helped me a lot and guided me through that Tour, despite of all my insecurities. »

« My rather anxious character was strengthened by the loss of two fantastic teammates. I was in Livigno when I heard Rob Goris had passed away. He was a big guy and a friend, someone who could always create a great atmosphere in the team. I wasn’t able to understand that a super healthy professional athlete like him could die of a cardiac arrest. This question worried me a lot, until I eventually realised this could happen to anyone. »

« Also the death of Antoine Demoitié left its marks. The evening before E3 Harelbeke we were talking about the race. At our hotel room I promised him that I would help him to get into the race’s breakaway. I advised him about the narrow road before the Paddestraat and after the race he told everyone with pride about his great effort in his first WorldTour race. While I told Hilaire I didn’t feel like starting in Ghent-Wevelgem was a good idea, Antoine was extremely motivated. During the race, but after the accident sports director Jean-Marc asked me for the phone number of Astrid, Antoine’s wife. I immediately understood the situation was bad... once again I lost not only a teammate, but a real friend. »

« At these moments it feels like all the clocks stop ticking during a career that normally runs like a train. That’s why I try to make the most of every day and to not look too far into the future. For the moment I look forward to the Ardennes classics, where I want to play my role for Loïc. But before I can do that, I have to heal from an unfortunate persistent pharyngitis and bronchitis. After these beautiful classics there are other great races waiting for us, like Tour de Wallonie, that will maybe present a stage that has a start near my house. I loved riding the Tour so I hope to make it to the selection of the Giro or the Vuelta once. And then there is my ultimate dream, which I know isn’t very compatible with my role as a helper, to win a professional race one day… »