Rookie directeur sportif Erik Dekker is enjoying his new occupation. After several months of rehabilitation following his bad crash in the beginning of the Tour de France this year, where he suffered injuries to his face and lost several teeth, the former Rabobank rider is working again - but instead of wearing cycling gear, he manages the riders from the driver's seat of the Rabobank race car.
"I knew this was going to be my last year as a pro ever since 2004, so it doesn't come as a surprise to me," the 36 year-old told Sportwereld. That year, Dekker won Paris-Tours after 2 breakaway of 220 kilometres. "Riders are capable of doing very unusual things," he said, looking back at his feat. But Dekker also honours his possibilities within his new job. "I know that I can be of use in this function in the future: a directeur sportif can contribute to a victory, but he can't ensure it."
The Dutchman admitted that he still very much felt as if he was still racing when he drove the car. "But if something goes wrong, I'm not here to be a dictator," he continued. "To be a team director doesn't mean saying what's good or what's bad. It means to get the greatest possible outcome from the riders. I wrote down a number of ideas of what could be better in the team. But on top of that list there's also the fact that I don't own the truth."
Dekker, who has been with the Rabobank team for ten years, was never actually approached by other squads despite impressive results. "I don't know why," he said. "Maybe I made the impression to be too comfortable in my seat? Financially speaking, I didn't get the most out of my possibilities - but money was never the priority. If I had raced for the money, I'd better done two more years. I would have earned much more than what I do now."
Asked what how he experienced the change from rider to DS, Dekker said, "Mostly, I realize now how strange the life of a pro rider is. As a rider, you live with this constant pressure, which you become so accustomed to that you don't feel anything after a while. Since I stopped, I've never been so relaxed! A few months ago, I was sitting in the bar of a hotel at ten o'clock at night, and I looked at my watch because I should have been in bed by then - now, I'm totally laid back even if it gets a little late," he laughed.