An interview with Stijn Devolder, April 6, 2009
Some within the sport say that Stijn Devolder is untouchable; others that he's a pure attacker while some go so far to say that he's the strongest man on a bike when it comes to racing Flanders. One year after claiming his first victory in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, "Volderke" managed to pull off another glorious solo ride to Meerbeke.
After last year's win in Flanders, the 29-year-old Belgian had high hopes of claiming a top-ten in the Tour de France, being one of the few riders in the peloton who can combine strength on the pavé and a good pedigree at the Grand Tours. The outcome wasn't quite as good as hoped for and Devolder pulled out before reaching Paris.
Still, Devolder didn't want to change his season's schedule for 2009, and he again aimed to be in top form this April. The quiet Belgian showed that there's no reason to give up his beloved Spring Classics and the result is that he's probably as popular, if not more popular than teammate "Tommeke" Boonen on home soil. He plans to visit the pub in his hometown where his die-hard fans will celebrate their hero's victory.
"In 2008, it [my win] was special with the [Belgian National Champion] jersey and also because it was my first win here. This second time it's just as special though." - Team Quick Step's Stijn Devolder talks about winning Flanders
But the real celebration will follow later, just like last year, when Devolder grabbed frites with mayonnaise together with his wife and kid. More than anything else, that shows what sort of person Stijn Devolder really is: a Flandrien, someone who does his talking with his legs. At the post-race press conference in Meerbeke Devolder did an effort to add some comments to what he said on the bike.
Cyclingnews: Stijn, it seemed like you had doubts over your own chances during the week before Flanders. Then again a few weeks earlier, during the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race you were gaining morale every day. Was that a key moment during your build-up and why did you hesitate?
Stijn Devolder: Tirrenno is very important to me. I started the race without form but I improved every day and in the end, things were looking good for me. During the last week, stress played a huge factor as there are only two chances of winning a Classic for me - this race and Paris-Roubaix.
Cyclingnews: Are you a different rider compared to the Belgian champion who crossed the line last year? And how do you rate this victory compared last year's win?
SD: Last year gave me the confidence. From then on I knew that I could make the difference in tough, long races. In 2008 it was special with the jersey [Devolder was Belgian champion] and also because it was my first win here. This second time it's just as special though.
Cyclingnews: How important was Tom Boonen role in your victory today? Does he take some of the pressure away from the other riders in the team?
SD: We worked perfectly well together, just like we did last year. Everybody in the team was nervous though, and (Filippo) Pozzato was also marking my wheel. Every time I attacked, he was on me like a flash, which was quite frustrating. But Pozzato, Sylvain Chavanel and I were the strongest riders in the race.
Cyclingnews: Was it your initiative to attack or a team order, and what's the key to dominating this event?
A: It was my initiative. I had a flash of inspiration. The fact that it was at the same spot was pure coincidence; it's just an ideal spot deep into the finale of a tough race when everybody is riding on their limits. As far as domination goes, our team management is very experienced in this type of race. Combine that experience with the strongest riders and this is the result. There's not much tactics at the end of a race like this. I wanted to win at any price, to show that last year's victory wasn't coincidence. Why? I guess for myself. I would've had a hard time if I hadn't won today.
Cyclingnews: How do you rate your chances for next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix?
SD: It's a different race and we all start from zero, but we've got a big chance for sure. My desire will always be there to win these races. It has been like that since the start of my career, and when April comes I'm always on the top of my game. I am stressed, but everybody has stress, I think.
Cyclingnews: When crossing the line you pointed towards heaven. Why was that?
SD: A good friend of mine [Frederik Nolf] died [in his sleep] in Qatar. I promised that I would dedicate my first victory to him. It was an emotional moment.
Cyclingnews: Did his death change your view on cycling?
SD: It changed the way I look at life. It can be over in one moment. It changes the way you look at many other things than just cycling.
- George Hincapie: Out for a Ronde van Vlaanderen win
- Flanders: Boonen wants face-off with Pozzato
- Heinrich Haussler: A new name on the favourites list
See Cyclingnews full coverage of the 93rd Ronde van Vlaanderen.