Former cyclist Eric Van Lancker (49) recently made his return to the cycling scene as director sportif for the Garmin-Cervélo team. The Belgian debuted in the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, which is the classical build-up towards the Ardennes races. It allowed Van Lancker to get to know the riders who will contest the three hilly races in the Ardennes, with Ryder Hesjedal as team leader.
“It's good to be back in the car. Up until 2007 I was active as a sports director, first with Lotto and then with the Navigators but when they stopped sponsoring I had to find another job. I've been working in the Flemish cycling school since then,” he told Cyclingnews.
The arrival of Van Lancker comes a few months after the termination of Matthew White's contract at Garmin-Cervélo, and shortly after the spell of Peter Van Petegem as short-term advisor for the pavé-classics. Having a former winner in the team car might have helped as Johan Van Summeren's win in Paris-Roubaix showed. Van Lancker isn't considered a short-term advisor for the Ardennes classics nor is he taking the place from White. The team don't consider him as a replacement for White. After the Ardennes he'll be looking after the younger guys in the team.
At the directors meeting in Maastricht the new Garmin-Cervélo director sportif said he has been asked to get back in the car for a while but wanted to keep his job at the Flemish cycling school. “It's been two months since they asked me for the first time. Just like Marc Wauters I'll be combining the work in the cycling school with the work as DS.” Van Lancker said.
Now that Garmin-Cervélo has the Belgian in its ranks he'll be used to the maximum right away. With the experienced Danish director
Weltz heading home to Spain after Amstel Gold Race it'll be up to Van Lancker to lead the team in the two remaining Ardennes classics, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Having won two of those three races in his career as rider it's clear Garmin-Cervélo once again has brought in a lot of experience to the team. Back in 1989 the Belgian won the Amstel Gold Race as rider of the famous Panasonic team of Peter Post. In 1990 he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, once again arriving alone at the finish.
“With Matt White no longer in the team it enforced us to look at things differently. We came up with the idea of bringing in people with real specialist knowledge and who've won these races. Like with PvP for the cobbles, Eric knows everything about the Ardennes. We're combining his skills with other members of staff who know the riders really well. He's already worked with the guys at Pais Vasco and I'm sure they'll trust him because he's won these races in the past. That's the experience that I, Matt White or any DS on the team ever had,” Vaughters clarified the choice to get Van Lancker in the Garmin-Cervélo team to Cyclingnews.