Promising Classics talent, Yves Lampaert made an impression in his first season at WorldTour level and is aiming to do even better in 2016.
The Etixx-QuickStep rider took overall victory at his home race the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, finished seventh at Paris-Roubaix and second to Jurgen van den Broeck at the Belgian national time trial championships. Lampaert impressed his new employers so much that they selected him for their six-man team time trial squad for the World Championships, who went on to take silver.
"It's been a great experience. It's not so easy to go as a young guy to one of the biggest teams in the world. You don't know what to expect but everything went really smooth, and I'm really happy that I could make the step to Etixx-QuickStep," Lampaert told Cyclingnews.
Born in the municipality of Izegem in West Flanders, a stone's throw from Harelbeke, Lampaert was destined to be a man for the cobbles. Growing up on his parents' farm, his hero was Tom Boonen whose first Flanders-Roubaix double came in 2005 when Lampaert was only 14. When Boonen did his second in 2012, Lampaert himself finished second at the under 23 Paris-Roubaix – behind Bob Jungels.
Lampaert turned professional the following season with the Pro Continental outfit Topsport-Vlaanderen after finishing his education. He continued to show promise in the Classics and was quickly snapped up by Etixx-QuickStep for 2015, a chance Lampaert said he 'grabbed with both hands.' An amateur just two years previously, the move allowed him to race alongside Boonen.
"Tom Boonen is still one of my favourite riders," he smiled. "You look up to a lot of riders when you start cycling. It's awesome to ride next to them in the peloton. Guys like [Chris] Froome and [Joaquim] Rodríguez, [who are riding at the Saitama Criterium where Lampaert is talking to Cyclingnews –ed] you look up to them, and now you can ride with them. Sometimes it's surreal but it's amazing to be able to do it."
The 24-year-old's rise is all the more impressive when you consider that he only took up bike racing at the age of 17. Up until then he had been doing something entirely different: judo. After 11 years of competing in judo, he had achieved everything he wanted to do and decided he wanted something a little different.
"I got my black belt, so I wanted to try something else. I have a cousin who is good at bike riding and I wanted to do that also, so I said to my parents that I wanted to ride my bike and they said it was okay. From then on I started riding. I was 17 in my first year so I was quite late, but it was ok. It wasn't a good season but every year I got better and better. After high school, I was able to turn pro."
Lampaert's success has meant that he is more readily recognised in the streets in Belgium. He has not let it go to his head, far from it, he's kept his ambitions fairly modest. He is a down-to-earth character who enjoys going home to the family farm to relax when he isn't racing. Winning, like with all riders, is a desire of his but to be a reliable teammate is his main ambition.
"To be top would be difficult but to be the right hand of a leader would be good," he explained when Cyclingnews asks him what he dreams of as a professional cyclist. "I want to become a key rider in the peloton."
That ethos is reflected in his goals for the 2016 season, where teamwork is as much of a target as his own success.
"I hope to do the same to get again good results and to work a lot for the team and maybe win a little bit more," he said of his 2016 campaign. "Certainly I want to be in the team when they are winning and to make sure that they are winning; that is very important for me. It doesn't always have to be me that is winning, as a team we always have to be performing well.
"First is the spring Classics and from then on we will see how the condition is and what the goals will be in the mid-season. I want to be especially good in the spring Classics."