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“Last winter I asked myself the question: “How long will I be cycling and what will I do afterwards?”. When the team offered to become sports director in 2015, it didn’t take long to decide."

Photo: Vincent Calu/Photonews




17.10.2014 @ 13:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tomorrow Frederik Willems will bring his long career to a close. One day before his retirement, the Belgian took the time to reflect on his long time as a professional bike rider.


Tomorrow Frederik Willems will ride his last race as a pro in Sint-Jan-in-Eremo. The 35-year-old rider from East-Flanders will become sports director in the Lotto Soudal team next year. In the beginning of August, Willems fell at a training trip and got some severe injuries. He needed surgery of his collarbone. This forced him to rest some weeks. Since three weeks he started training  again. Just a few ribs are still causing some problems.
Frederik Willems was a pro for thirteen seasons. In 2009 he won the GC of the Three Days De Panne-Koksijde. Three years before that win he did the same in the Etoile de Bessèges. He also won four stages in several stage races. Today he reflects about his career and looks forward to what the future will bring.
“I do not regret a single thing in my career, and that is important," he said. "I can divide my career in four milestones. First of all there was my pro debut in 2002 in the Mapei team. Back in the day it was the biggest team of that moment. To sign a contract with such big team was an honour.


"Concerning my victories, 2006 was my best year. I had four wonderful years in the Liquigas team. Those years in the Italian team were important for me because I was raised with that mentality, under supervision of Valerio Piva. There is a familial atmosphere in Italy, the people are really sympathetic to all riders.


"After the Italian adventure I returned to Belgium with the Omega Pharma-Lotto team. And again a nice period had risen. When I returned to Belgium my work of the past years was appreciated.
“One of my favourite races is the Three Days De Panne-Koksijde, because I won in 2009. Also the Flèche Brabançonne was one of my favourites because it has some typical features of Flemish races with some really challenging climbs. In 2008 I was fifth and a year later I was sixth.
“Bad luck never really got to me. The day after a crash or operation I already looked forward. Working towards a certain goal was important. In that way I could enjoy my trainings. When a goal was reached, it obviously created a sense of satisfaction. The appreciation I got from teammates was incredibly pleasing, both with Liquigas and Lotto Belisol. Among those team mates: Pozzato, Sagan, Nibali, Roelandts and Van den Broeck.
“Last winter I asked myself the question: “How long will I be cycling and what will I do afterwards?”. When the team offered to become sports director in 2015, it didn’t take long to decide.


"Becoming sports director was kind of logic in a way, because the team saw me as a road captain. It’s a big honour that the team thought of me and that the news is well received in the team.


"My crash in August ended my season abruptly. The race of Saturday will be a nice goodbye, because we already had a lot of preparations towards the race. I will be able to thank everyone.
“If I had chosen to race my last one in Putte-Kapellen, it would be over when I reached the finish. Now we can make a feast of it. The moment I will get off my bike on Saturday will not be that emotional, I’m already prepared for that. The homage afterwards, with all the people who supported me, will be a different story.


"I want to thank all my supporters and friends. Both people from the beginning of my career and people of my current team. It is the intention to make a big feast of it and involve as many people as possible. In the morning there is a cycling tour for supporters and tourists. Afterwards there is the race and in the evening there is a party. Everyone is welcome.”



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